Libmonster ID: RU-14962
Author(s) of the publication: T. Ilyushina

By Tatyana ILYUSHINA, Cand. Sc. (Tech.), chief custodian of the funds of the Educational-Geodetic Museum of the Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography

As a geographical concept Siberia was first mentioned in the 1407 annals: "Tokhtamysh (khan of the Golden Horde killed the year earlier. -T. I.) was killed in the Siberian land, near Tyumen". Then it appeared on the world maps of Italian explorers of the early 15th century: Stefano Borgia named "Sebur civitas" territory near the effluents of the east branching of the Volga, Fra Mauro called "Provincia Sibir" a wide area in the upper parts of the Kama and Vyatka rivers.

First of the mentioned maps-an engraving on two iron plates-initially, obviously, was intended for decoration of the walls. In 1794 it was found in an antique shop and acquired by Cardinal Borgia, and after three years his nephew reproduced it on a copper board. This original was subsequently used for copies. Mauro's work (1439), most typical for the Middle Ages, may be viewed as an apotheosis of monastic cartography: it embodied the greatest achievements of the geography of that time when clerical influence was rather significant. As a whole, 15th century maps can be called Homeric, as they were "full of fantasies" about unexplored lands. The foreign authors' drawings of the middle of the following century-currently available to us-made attempts to depict Siberia, but by and large it remained a riddle for a long time.

The fact that a huge country lies beyond the Urals, Russians knew as early as in the 11th century: the 1096 chronicle mentions Gyuriyat Rogovich who sent his men to Yugorsky lands (the Arctic Ocean coast) to procure furs. Active development of the Asian Russia began in the late 16th century, and lots of explorers started moving farther and farther to the East. In 1667, under the decree of the tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, Pyotr Godunov, Tobolsk governor, prepared a drawing "according to the evidence of all ranks of people, who really know small towns, and jails, and stows, and roads and lands, and what are the paths from city to city and from large village to large village, and to which place... how many days and how many versts, and where between large villages of the Tobolsk district to deploy... military people..., and how many dragoon men in which fortress to place, and to which fortress how many days and weeks to go by steppe and waters up to China..." That way the ancient manuscript tells about the first map of Siberia, which for a long time was presumed as irrevocably lost. By the way, its compilers introduced a legend system-"signs to recognize in the drawing a city and a jail, large villages and rivers, lakes and volosts, winter quarters and camping grounds".

Only many years later, in the 19th century, Nils Nordensheld, Swedish researcher of the North (corresponding member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1879) discovered a copy of the legendary drawing in the Stockholm state archives. It evidently got there owing to Klaj Prytz, a Swedish diplomat in Russia in 1668 - 1669. There is an entry in his diary: "I copied the enclosed land map of Siberia and the border countries on January 8, 1669, in Moscow as carefully as I could using the poor original handed over to me by the Prince Ivan Alekseyevich Vorotynsky just for a few hours so that I could look through it-but not for copying."

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Another person who reproduced the unique document (obviously, it was not concealed and was shown to all diplomats) was Fritz Kroneman, Swedish ambassador: "the map of all these countries and Siberia up to China, which was sent recently under the decree of His Majesty by Godunov, Tobolsk governor, was shown to me too, and I copied it having received permission to keep it overnight." The same was done by Erik Palmquist, who arrived from Stockholm in Moscow in 1673, and subsequently he included this picture into the album dedicated to Russian life and published later in the Swedish capital. In addition to the three hand-made maps, there is also a printed copy of Godunov's map made in the same years. It was (with some changes, though) included in the book about our country by Georg Adam Schleising, a German traveller.

In 1627, the Moscow Rating Office compiled the "Book of the Big Drawing"-description of the largest map of the 17th century Russia (unfortunately, it was lost). It included only the Ob river basin from the trans-Ural territories. And when sufficient data accumulated, "A Drawing of the Siberian Land" was issued in 1672.

Finally, in 1699 - 1701, Semyon Remezov, historian and cartographer, prepared "A Drawing Book of Siberia" based on the previous works, geographical manuscripts and interviews with "competent people". It contained general and ethnographic maps of the specified territory, drawings of "northern" and "waterless" lands, plans of 18 districts and Tobolsk, data on distance measurement, etc. -in other words, it contained the most valuable geographical information of that time. It should be noted, that in 1882 this first domestic atlas was

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Travelers. An engraving from the book WONDERS OF NATURE AND THE ARTS, in 10 volumes, SPb, 1784 - 1790, Vol. 8, 1788.

published by the Imperial Archeological Committee. And the story goes, that based on Remizov's works emperor Peter I tested, for fun, some students "not so good in geography".

Drawings of the Asian part of Russia were published by Nicolaas Vitsen, Dutch geographer and cartographer (1687 and 1704), our compatriot, the engraver Kipriyanov (1713), etc. And from 1719 to 1727, Daniil Messerschmit, Russian naturalist of a German origin, worked there "in search for any curiosities and pharmaceutical stuffs: grasses, flowers, roots and seeds". His assistant Phillip Tabbert, captured Swedish officer (who was subsequently ennobled and received the name- Stralenberg) compiled a map of Siberia, however, in 1715 it was burnt up (or stolen) in a fire in Tobolsk. The author reproduced his work, but the fate of the second version also appeared unenviable: in 1718 it was forbidden by the Siberian governor prince Gagarin. After the death of the grandee, Stralenberg produced the third version, on returning home finished it and on August 30, 1721, upon conclusion of the Nystad piece (the end of Northern war between Russia and Sweden), he personally presented the map to the emperor Peter I. It was published in 1730.

The new stage of development in domestic cartography set in with the introduction of vocational training. In 1701, the School of Mathematical and Navigational Sciences was founded in Moscow for training of navigators and landmap surveyors, and in 1715, a special class of geodesists* at the Marine Academy (St. Petersburg) was established. Henry Fargwarson, for instance, professor of mathematics and geodesy at the University of Aberdeed (Scotland), who did a lot for perfection of training of future specialists, taught at both educational institutions. Two of his students, Ivan Yevreinov and Fyodor Luzhin, in 1719 launched an expedition to find out whether Asia is connected with America. They crossed Siberia having defined latitudes of some geodetic points by means of a quadrant (ancient astronomical goniometer), established five more points in Kamchatka, passed along the Kuriles by sea and visited some of them. Activities of the researchers resulted in the first relatively reliable map of this easternmost region of our country.

Since the 1720s, the trans-Ural territory was explored by Ivan Kirilov, chief secretary of the Senate, Vitus Bering**, captain-commander of the Russian fleet, astronomer Joseph Delille (foreign honorary member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1747) and many others. New expeditions produced drawings of the Irtysh, borders between Russia and China, coordinates of geodetic points, etc. a "coin box" for drawing up the atlas of Russia was replenishing. At last, in 1731 the general map was completed (drawn to scale 285 versts in 1 inch), and in three years 14 more points, made in a conic projection***, were added to it. It should be noted that the drawings of the Far East were based on the data of the above-mentioned works of Stralenberg and Bering, though the Academy of Sciences doubted their reliability, in particular, the existence of Chukot Peninsula and location of Japan.

* See: V. Glushkov, "The Ancestry of Russian Cartography". Science in Russia, No. 5, 2003. -Ed.

** See: A. Shumilov, "On the Way to the Pacific". Science in Russia, No. 3, 1995.- Ed.

*** Cartographic projections, parallels of which are arcs of concentric circles, and meridians-their radii. They are used for maps of territories, stretched along parallels. - Ed.

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Fragment of the 1745 Atlas of the Russian Empire.

In 1745, the Atlas of Russia consisting of 19 special maps representing the All-Russia Empire with border lands was issued. Six sheets of it were assigned to Siberia and the Far East-the Pechora, Ob, Yenisei and Irtysh basins; to the part of the "Ice Sea" with the Lena River estuary and the Yakutsk district; to the Irkutsk province and "Baikal Sea"; to the Amur River estuary and a greater part of Kamchatka with islands. Publication of this fundamental work placed Russia in a leading position in Europe in the field of geographical knowledge (only France could boast of something like that). Empress Yelizaveta Petrovna appreciated the work of the geodesists and cartographiers and in 1752 granted hereditary noble titles to them.

Twenty years later, "the Russian Atlas consisting of 44 maps and dividing the Empire into 42 vicegerencies", based on materials of military and marine departments and on the General land surveying data (mass delimitation of lands of landowners, communities of state peasants, etc. performed from 1766). Academician Gerard Miller, who had been collecting historical, geographical and ethnographic information about Siberia during 10 years, greatly contributed to this atlas*. In 1797, Emperor Paul I, continuing the cause of Peter I, established "His majesty's business of maps"-a prototype of the Military-Topographical Service of the armed forces. Painstaking long-term work on a map of the European part of our country began, and simultaneously the materials on the Asian part were accumulating.

Surveys of peasant plots in the course of their marking off from the property of the treasury on the area of over 40 mln desyatins are considered the most reliable cartographical works of the 19th century in Siberia. The fact is that in the early 1890s Russia experienced an economic upheaval, and it was confidently winning positions in the markets of the Far and Middle East. However, the government was unable to balance out industrial and agricultural needs. To solve these problems the agrarian reform focused on the development of private property, establishment of the peasant bank, migration of countrymen to outskirts, cooperative movement and agricultural measures. Its principal provisions were developed by Sergei Vitte**, prime-minister in 1905 - 1906, and his successor, Pyotr Stolypin, subsequently implemented this reform.

Thus, under the decree of 1906, all interested people had the right to move to new places-little-inhabited trans-Ural territories. Large amounts were spent on their settlement, healthcare, social needs, and the road construction. The primary goal was a planned scientific study of soil and climatic conditions in the areas to be occupied, revealing of lands suitable for agriculture, and then creating there migrant plots, performing road construction and land reclamation works if necessary. All in all, 2,792.8 thous. people moved to the trans-Ural territoriers in 1906 - 1913.

Actually, the Atlas of the Asian Part of Russia issued in 1914 was based on the land reform materials. Of course, certain maps of the eastern areas and provinces were kept in the state archives and institutions featuring the results of surveying and cadastral works (structured data on natural, economic and legal status of the lands). However, a comprehensive thematic work was needed

* See: O. Bazanova, "True to History, Impartial, Modest". Science in Russia, No. 3. 2006. -Ed.

** See: S. Pshirkov, "Dedicated Patriot and Reformer". Science in Russia, No. l, 2000. -Ed.

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Vegetation map. The 1914 Atlas of the Asian Part of Russia.

Baikal Lake with environs. The 1914 Atlas of the Asian Part of Russia.

for development and improvement of management in the territories. It was based on the data collected by gold prospecting parties of the Geological Committee and soil-botanical expeditions of the Migrant Department, which visited even the most remote areas. Besides, the Central Administrative Board of Apanages, the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty, Central Administrative Board of Post Offices and Telegraphs, the Forestry Department, the Department of Land Improvements, etc. participated in compiling the Atlas.

Regions and provinces of Siberia and the Far East are represented in this compilation of maps in the most widespread scale-80 versts in 1 inch (1/3 360 000)-in conic projections, as the most suitable for the countries located to the north of the fiftieth parallel. The pattern of parallels and meridians allows to define geographical coordinates of the required point with an accuracy of 10".

The urban maps are resolved to scale from 1 verst up to 200 sajenes (1 sajene=2.134 m) in 1 inch. It should be noted that surveying of the largest of them to scales from 1/5000 and smaller were conducted in Russia starting from 1882. Corresponding graphs were filled with geodetic points, borders of cities and their environs, blocks, streets, parks, reservoirs, reference points (churches, bell-towers, pipes).

In connection with the migrant measures in the Asian Russia starting from 1894 there were performed cadastral works, and all this information is in detail reflected in the corresponding maps of the Atlas. For example, the map represent the Kirghiz-Chedyrtinsk volost of the Ural district (Scale 1:252,000) shows the territorial layout prepared for migration: steppes of three categories, arable land, fallow land, salines, stony areas, ravines, rivers, farms of four types-Kirghiz, quitrent, migrant

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The Far East. The 1914 Atlas of the Asian Part of Russia.

Plans of Tobolsk and Tomsk. The 1914 Atlas of the Asian Part of Russia.

and aul community ones. And, let us say, the map of land tenure in Yepanchina village, Tyukalinsk district, Tobolsk province (Scale 1:84,000) contains even more detailed information: its borders, quarters, areas allocated for migrants, various holdings and so forth.

Summing up the aforesaid, we should emphasize the significance of the 1914 Atlas of the Asian Russia. This unprecedented cartographical work could be called a "small Siberian encyclopedia". It contains the unique versatile information on history, politics, demography, industry, agriculture and other aspects of life in this huge trans-Ural region. Thus, this document features the results of the first general population census in our country performed in 1897. At that time it amounted to (excluding Finland and vassal princedoms of Central Asia) nearly 126 mln people, including strictly Russia (66.4 mln), and Siberia (6.4 mln). By the way, during the years of migrant policy, the number of inhabitants of the latter increased by 153 percent, and areas under crops there increased by 80 percent. The general result of the agrarian reform, reflected in the Atlas, is a cardinal rise of agricultural production, which transformed our state into the largest exporter of bread, flax and some products of animal husbandry.


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T. Ilyushina, HISTORY OF CARTOGRAPHY OF THE ASIAN PART OF RUSSIA // Moscow: Russian Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.RU). Updated: 27.09.2018. URL: (date of access: 09.08.2022).

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