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XVIII century in Russian Cartography

In relatively significant numbers, Russian «landscape schemes» intended to serve most diversified needs first appeared in the late XVI through XVIII century. They had been necessitated by controlling a centralized state and securing its borders. With this purpose in view, in the late XVI century, the Design Office drew the Major Scheme «of the entire Muscovite State up to its boundaries with all neighboring countries» and other plans of the country. However, the origins and development of Russian scholarly map compiling took place in the following century.

Since the early XVIII century, Russian cartography acquired a qualitatively new development-trends based on gadgetry-assisted surveys. The reforms conducted by Peter I changed virtually all aspects of Russia's economic and cultural life; it was only too natural that there arose a problem of detailed studying the country which implied exact maps. This being done, and as a logical consequence of the Russian geographic discoveries made in the XVII century, there followed large-scale surveys in Siberia, the Far East, Pacific and north-western American shores.

For the first time in Russia, gadgetry-assisted surveys were made in 1696 in connection with Peter I's Azov raids. In 1699, Vice-Admiral Cornelis Cruys surveyed the Don river and used these data to compile the atlas «Diligent description of the river Don alias Tanais...» later printed in Amsterdam. The same materials were used to compile and print in 1701 in Moscow the map of «The eastern part of the Palus Meotis Sea...», which became the first printed naval map made on the basis of Russian sources. Such was the beginning of Russian scholarly cartography.

The economic rise scheduled by Peter I involved the task of geographically studying and mapping the entire country which required domestically trained geodesists and cartographers. Therefore, according to Peter I decree, geodesists had been systematically taught since 1701 at the Moscow Mathematics-and-navigation school, and later in St.Petersburg where a special geodesic class was established at the Naval Academy in 1716.

The first hydrographic works and the activities of the Moscow navigation school were closely related to domestic map printing. The first Russian naval maps had been printed in Moscow since 1698, at the Weapons Chamber where this work had been headed by etcher Adrian Schonebeck. In 1705, Vasily Kiprianov's Civic Printing House was opened in Moscow with the intention to publish teaching helps for the Mathematics-and-navigation school, geographic maps for reference and training purposes (5, 6, 7), and later also the maps displaying the results brought about by the first official survey of the country (8). Since 1721, naval maps had been printed at the Naval Academy; it started being done at the Academy of Sciences and later also by other offices.

Peter I’s plans envisaged large-scale surveying of the entire country which was to result in a General map of the Russian empire. That meant that geodesists had been assigned to various areas since as early as 1715; in 1720, a special decree of the Senate declared the official survey started. The «General Regulation» of 1720 was the charter outlining the order of state control. It also contained a part entitled «On landcarts or His Majesty's Drawings» formulating the mapping purposes in the following way: «...every College should have general and detailed landmaps or drawings, duly updated and describing all boundaries, rivers, towns, settlements, churches, villages, forests, etc.» The survey lasted till 1744 and involved over 200 districts of the 285 distinguished officially.

These works were controlled by the Senate Ober-Secretary I. K. Kirilov, a talented cartographer and geographer who received all the maps drafted by the geodesists. With a view of the soonest possible publishing and using the material, he suggested a 3-volume, 120 pages in each, atlas of the Russian empire. However, he did not manage to prepare more than 37 maps only 32 of which were subsequently printed. Till now, only 3 sets on I. K. Kirilov's maps have lasted, one presented at this exhibition. Besides, I. K. Kirilov drafted and published in 1734 the «General map of the Russian empire», the first geographic overview of the country.

Since the 1740’s through the end of that century, all cartographic works had basically been carried out by the Academy of Sciences. It was in 1726 that the Government ordered that the Academy of Sciences compile the Russian Atlas; however, the first one published at the Academy was the school-oriented «Atlas compiled for the youths’ assistance and use...» printed in 1737, which also appeared to be the first Russian world atlas. Among the earliest cartographic projects of the Academy there was the St.Petersburg map of 1737.

In 1739, the Academy of Sciences received its own Geographic Department which later became the country's main cartographic center. It was there that the famous «Russian Atlas...» of 1745 was compiled, drafted in accordance with gadgetry-assisted surveys and contemporary astronomic observations.

One of the main tasks of the Geographic Department inside the Academy of Sciences was studying and mapping the eastern country regions. The expeditions conducted during 1768—1774 provided possibilities to compile and publish over 30 maps representing separate districts and provinces. The total number of maps drafted at the Geographic Department exceeded 250; among them, there were General maps of the Russian empire of 1776 and 1786.

Since 1763, work had been started on the General land measuring with its results delivered directly to the Senate's Measuring Office. In 1773—1785, in accordance with the new regulations concerning regions, there occurred re-organization of the administrative and territorial division across the entire country. This measuring was conducted on the area basis all over the place. The total duration of the work amounted to 122 years, the maps being later generalized as regional and provincial atlases, most of which have lasted till now as manuscripts. The best sample of the few printed ones was the «Kaluga district atlas».

In the end of the XVIII century, all cartographic works in Russia were mainly conducted at the Geographic Department established in 1786, and subordinated to Her Imperial Majesty’s Cabinet. Its activity was marked by the fundamental «Russian Empire Atlas» published in 1792 under the guidance of A. M. Vilyorecht, a few atlases for training purposes, and several maps.

The major achievement of the Russian cartography was its success with the seas. The aforementioned surveys at the Azov and Black seas were regularly continued in the Baltic in 1710. Their first results were the 3 Russian maps included into the atlas «Measurement book of degree maps of the Ost See alias the Varyag sea...» printed in 1714. Later surveys by Russian sailors led to the «Atlas of the entire Baltic sea» prepared by Captain Nagayev and published in 1752.

The research at the Caspian sea resulted in a map of 1720, the first one displaying the real outline of the sea. Later this and other research brought about the «Caspian sea atlas» printed in 1731; one of its folios is presented at this exhibition.

Outstanding hydrographic and cartographic research was done by Russian sailors during their trips around the world, discoverers of the Antarctic and several Pacific islands. The data provided by these expeditions served as the basis of renowned cartographic studies «The Atlas of Captain Kruzenstern’s trip around the world» (1813), «The Atlas of the Southern Sea» by I. F. Kruzenstern (1824 —1826), «The Atlas of Bellingshauzen's trip to the Southern Icy Ocean and around the world in 1819, 1820, and 1821.

By the late 18th and early XIX century, Russia had become one of the leading countries of the world in regard to the quantity and quality of general cartographic research.