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Brief history of the General Staff Maps

In the Russian Empire Day of creation of the General Staff is considered to be February 20, 1702, when Peter I created the post of quartermaster-general in the European manner.

After a decade of Quartermaster, was established General Quartermaster, on the basis of which only in 1763 Catherine II has allocated special institution - the General Staff. The General Staff has always reported directly to a senior management of the Military Collegium (Ministry of War).

In Russia, the Quartermaster-General, and, consequently, the entire General Staff, were what we would now call "supply agents" in the broadest sense of the word. The functions and responsibilities of the General Staff were:

  • infrastructure Organization (military camps, hospitals, movement)
  • coordination of buildings and structures (fortifications, logistical support, construction of bridges)
  • study and evaluation of the area (training card, study areas)
  • intelligence service
  • documenting of the progress of wars and battles.

Objectively, on the shoulders of the General Staff during the war (and in peacetime, too) were all these functions, except participation in the battle.

In the history of the General Staff were all: drama, ups and downs. Yet this institution is famous for its high level of the education, because such an amount of work and non-trivial task could not be done by a regular soldier.


Pavlovsky DEPOT

But we, of course, primarily are interested not in the General Staff, but in the state of the mapping service in its body. In the early years of the creation of the institution staff map makers worked in accordance with the needs of the military forces- all the power concentrated in the zones of war operations. In peacetime the map makers were sent to plot the western territories (Finland, Lithuania). However, Paul, who succeeded in power Catherine, was not satisfied with the state of cartography - good maps could be counted on the fingers of one hand. And in 1796 was founded His Majesty's Own Maps Depot maps. All maps available at the General Staff, were transferred to the Depot. This new body was endowed with all the powers: publishing, recording, archiving maps for military and government intentions. So thanks to Paul I in Russia first appeared centralized body at the state level, which are ordered randomly scattered in various departments and ministries the process of creating maps and atlases of the Empire.

The first thing that was done under the direction of Depot – published one-hundred map – consisting of 114 sheets that covered the territory from the Polish border to the Ob River. 

In 1812 Map Depot was renamed in the Military Topographic Depot (abolished in 1866) under the Military Ministry.

In the best years the number of map makers reached 1,000. Thanks to Nicholas I, and after the foundation of the Pulkovo Observatory, Russian surveyors and land surveyors have made great work, trying to compete with Western counterparts. During the First World War, for the first time in the world was used aerial photography for mapping, and Russians were not an exception, it was an important step in the military topography.

General Staff of the 20th century

In November 1917, as you know, the old army was demobilized. In May 1918 was created Russian general staff, and in February 10, 1921 it was combined with field headquarters and renamed in Red Army (RKKA). Of course, the need for a topography has not disappeared, so the Corps continued to exist, but within the Red Army. The rich past, experience, skills, tools, archives - the Bolsheviks did not make a mistake and kept the imperial cartographic heritage. 

For 20 years (from 1918 to 1941) the Corps were renamed 6 times, but the essence remained the same. Up till 1991, the composition of the General Staff of the USSR included the Military Topographic Service. After the formation of the Russian Federation General Staff of the USSR it was transformed into the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

Today "maps of the General Staff" users name maps published after the war.

Digital cartography and GPS navigation 27-08-2016