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The Caucasus: Cartographic Resources in the Library of Congress

Note on Cartographic Materials in the Library of Congress


I. N. Kushnerev', cartographer. Kavkaz'' Prodol'nii Profil' Voenno-Gruzenskoi Dorogi ot' Gorodo Vladikavkaza Cherez' Krestovii Perebal' do Goroda Tiflisa. // Plan' Mestnosti Voenno-Gruzenskoi Dorogi. [19--]. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The Library's Geography and Map Division holds the largest collection of cartographic materials in the world. One would expect that its collection of maps and atlases related to the Caucasus also to be impressive, as well as comprehensive and informative, and indeed it is. On the other hand, the Library's cartographic collections on the Caucasus are not definitive, in that they do not include copies of every map of the region and its component features that have ever been produced. In other words, there are gaps in coverage, while the existing coverage comprises relatively more modern materials that originated in the late nineteenth century and continue until the present day. That range limit may be a consequence of the belated attempts at mapping the region at a large scale by ground-based surveys or remote sensing, more than likely inhibited by the complicated nature of its terrain and its fractious political history.

A cursory reading of the guide reveals that most of the entries describe maps and atlases published by the former Soviet Union during the twentieth century, with many of the maps having been produced for use as instructional materials in middle school class rooms. In spite of their intended audience, Soviet school maps tend to be detailed, informative, up-to-date when published, well-drawn, and visually compelling.

Furthermore, about half of the Library's maps of the Caucasus are not cataloged, and, therefore, can not easily be identified via a search of the Library's online catalog. Hence, this resource guide seeks to fill that shortcoming.

The Library's cartographic coverage of the Caucasus, nevertheless, is broad, and emphasizes the region's physical characteristics, its economic potential, its political and administrative organization, and its ethnolinguistic variety. Also heavily represented are German military maps at various scale from World War II, which suggest an anticipated Nazi invasion and occupation of the region both for its petroleum reserves especially and its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

Cartographic works, including reproductions of historical maps, frequently illustrate textual publications as supplements. Consequently, significant numbers of maps can be found in most parts of the Library's diverse collections. The majority of the Library's cartographic holdings are, however, preserved in the Geography and Map Division, which is the focus of the guide.