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Alexander J. Kent, Martin Davis and John Davies

Abstract

The Soviet military mapping project was the most comprehensive cartographic endeavour of the twentieth century. The resulting maps have been commercially available to the West since at least 1993, when a Latvian business first offered Soviet plans of Western cities for sale at the 16th International Cartographic Conference in Cologne, Germany. Covering the globe at a range of scales, Soviet military maps provide a fascinating – if disconcerting – view of familiar territory with a striking aesthetic. But they also provide a substantial untapped geospatial resource, often with an unparalleled level of topographic detail. This paper gives an overview of the Soviet global military mapping programme and its coverage of Poland, including the 1:25,000-scale city plan of Warsaw (printed in 1981). By illustrating the extensive topographic symbology employed at various scales of mapping, it suggests how these maps may offer scope for regional studies and how their cartographic language can provide some solutions for addressing the ongoing challenges of mapping the globe.