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Russia and its Empire in Eurasia: Cartographic Resources in the Library of Congress

Cartographic Collections

Ortelius, Abraham, publisher. Russiae, Moscoviae, et Tartariae Descriptio. 1570. From Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This research guide identifies, lists, and describes only a selection of maps and atlases in the Geography and Map Division related to Russia and the former Soviet Union. In theory all of the division's atlases can be searched and located on the Library of Congress online catalog. Nevertheless, the division holds atlases with significant research value for Russia with unverified pre-MARC catalog records, which can elude a careful search of the Library's online catalog but deserve further elaboration. On the other hand, only about one-half of the division's maps of Russia and its components are cataloged, in which case a search of the Library's online catalog will not reveal them for the careful researcher. This guide, then, emphasizes the kinds of materials not identified via a standard search of the Library's primary finding aid, or those cataloged materials that warrant further attention. Below we will distinguish between two broad categories of maps of Russia held by the Geography and Map Division: single maps and set maps.


Single maps are those that include all coverage on a single sheet, but may also consist of one map on two or more sheets. Theoretically, coverage can be at any scale. Single maps in the Geography and Map Division are filed as either cataloged and uncataloged.

Among the former member nations of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, only maps of the current Republic of Latvia, including its historical precedents, have been cataloged in their entirety. All maps of Latvia should be listed on the Library of Congress online catalog

When searching for cartographic materials of Russia and the former Soviet Union in the Library of Congress online catalog, there are a few strategies to keep in mind.

  • Recall that national, regional, and city names have changed over the years, and have been represented by various spellings. When in doubt regarding current accepted Library usage, one can always search for the name, title, and subject in the Library of Congress Authority Records.
  • When searching in the Library of Congress online catalog for maps and atlases, search results can be limited to materials held by the Geography and Map Division by using the Advanced Search function and limiting by location in the Library to "Geography & Map."
  • The LC call number is the map's filing location within the Geography and Map Division.

Uncataloged single maps are filed by a system devised in the late nineteenth century with the founding of the Map Division, and has remained in place, even after the implementation of formal cataloging. Consequently, many maps of Russia acquired prior to 1969 are located in the single map file or "Title Collection." Those maps are filed by location and thereunder by date and further thereunder by subject, scale, and creator. As an example, a road map of European Russia from 1950 could be filed as follows: Russia -- European Russia -- Roads -- 1950 -- scale 1:1,000,000 -- Michelin

Because the division's filing system for single maps has more or less changed since inception, maps of nations formerly under Russian rule but now independent continue to be filed with those of Russia.

Researchers wanting to examine both cataloged materials and uncataloged materials from the single map file must request them from reference staff in the reading room. Those cataloged single maps that have been digitized are available for viewing by way of the Library's website.

Set maps, or map series, constitute two or more maps of a specific location. Although differences abound, set maps usually are produced at a uniform scale, within a uniform time frame, in a uniform style, and by the same creator or its successor institutions. Depending on their scale of coverage, they can comprise anywhere from two to several hundred thousand maps. In other words, the large the scale generally equates to a larger set of maps.

Most sets of maps are cataloged, and can be searched via the Library of Congress online catalog, with the search limited by location to "Geography & Map". Because many sets are not cataloged and/or are not described by either graphic indexes or lists, patrons must request assistance from reference staff when attempting to identify and use these materials.

Coverage in many large to medium scale sets of maps is indicated by a graphic paper index, and sometimes a list of sheets, which can be filed either by LC call number in cabinets adjacent to the reading room or with the sets themselves. Many sets do not have graphic indexes or lists, and may require a sheet-by-sheet search to identify a specific location.

With regard to Russia, the division is especially strong in Second World War-era topographic coverage used by Nazi forces in planning strategy in the western part of Russia, and subsequently captured by American forces at War's end. Some of those sets have graphic indexes, while others do not. At this time researchers by and large are dependent upon the experience of reference staff in attempting to use them.


The division's collection of atlases in general and of Russia specifically falls behind, in quantity at least, its collection of maps. Atlases, on the other hand, can be equally informative, especially for thematic information gathered and issued within a limited time frame or on a specific subject. Although the division's atlas collection theoretically is cataloged in its entirety, a few atlases have been overlooked and, therefore, lack a verifiable catalog record. Furthermore, many atlas catalog records are outdated, in which case atlas contents may warrant further elaboration. Finally, those items that appear to be especially informative to this author are included, as well.

Nautical Charts

Another broad but separate category of materials covering Russia's maritime environment is nautical charts. The division holds a substantial collection of Russian nautical charts compiled by the Soviet Union's hydrographic office from about 1925 to about 1990. A few dating prior the Revolution were produced by the Imperial Russian Admiralty. Coverage comprises primarily Russian waters, but includes adjacent regions.

The division's collection of Russian nautical charts is well described and searchable via a Library of Congress catalog record aptly titled Russian Nautical Charts, which includes a comprehensive list of all sheets. Each descriptive entry in the list contains the chart number, the area of coverage and/or title, and the chart's publication date. Consequently, no further mention of them is made in this research guide. The originals are available for examination in the Geography and Map reading room, and are available for digital reproduction through the Library's office of Duplication Services.

The Library also has collections of nautical charts published by Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, the United States, and other nations that likely include coverage of Russia's coastal areas. Patrons are encouraged to contact Geography and Map Division reference staff for information on specific holdings.

Special Collections

The Geography and Map Division holds a special collection of maps of Russia acquired in 1906 from the estate of G. V. Yudin, a wealthy Siberian distiller, bibliographer, and collector who in the nineteenth century assembled one of the finest personal libraries in his hometown of Krasnoyarsk. Yudin's collection encompassed virtually all areas of Russian history and geography, but include many publications on his local Siberia. The Yudin Collection comprised 80,000 volumes of books, illustrated books, law codes, illustrations, drawings, photographs, and, of course, maps. Most of the maps from Yudin's collection were transferred to the custody of the Geography and Map Division, but the precise number remains unknown, for the majority were dispersed into the files of uncataloged single maps where they have remained unlisted and undescribed for over one hundred years. Library staff and other occasionally identify them by their Yudin bookplate. A few, however, have been cataloged and digitized for research on the Library of Congress website, including three 1859 maps depicting riverine gold mining concessions in Eniseikoi Gubernia.

A preliminary bibliographic card file indicates that twenty-three Yudin maps are kept in the division's rare materials vault. Among them are maps of the village of Borodino and its environs (1839), Kiev (1846), Nizhni Novgorod (1845), Odessa (1843), Peterhof Palace and environs (1847), Vilna Province (1836), Orenburg Krai (1861), Moscow Oblast (1851), Novgorod Gubernia (1847), Minsk Gubernia (1846), Crimean Peninsula (1855), Kiev Gubernia (1852), Western Siberia (1843), and operations of the Russian-American Company in the Russian Far East (1860). The slip case of several bear the bookplate of the Yelagin Palace in Saint Petersburg.