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Maps and Atlases from the Era of Peter the Great

The basis for modern Russian cartography was born from the era of Peter the First. It was Peter the Great who gave rise to map-printing in Russia. During his reign six publishing houses, which produced secular publications including maps of Russia and the world, was founded in Russia. The systematic topographic surveys for needs of the navy and for compiling of a general map of Russia were organized, too, on the initiative of Peter I.
A number of remarkable monuments of the history of Russian cartography dating from this era are hold in collections of the National Library of Russia.

Prime mention should be made of the first printed Russian-language atlas A Studious Description of the River Don or Tanais…, published in Amsterdam in 1703-04. This atlas was produced on the basis of hydrographic surveys undertaken on the initiative of Peter I, in which the Tsar himself participated.

The surveys were carried out during Peter the Great's campaigns of 1695-1696 against the Turkish fortress of Azov which had been blocking Russia's access to the Azov Sea and the Black Sea. During Azov campaigns, it was especially important to make decisions concerning routes for transporting troops and weaponry. The surveying was directed by Cornelius Cruys (1657-1727), the Dutch Vice Admiral in the service of Peter the Great. Russian navy officers took part in the work. The atlas contains a general map and several particular maps of the River Don, including one featuring the first project for a Volga-Don Canal, maps of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Map of the Eastern Part of the Gulf of Finland. 1703
Map of the Eastern Part
of the Gulf of Finland. 1703
The engraving workshop of the Moscow State Armoury was the first Russia's enterprise which produced mapes. It published a number of sea charts, among them is one of the earliest Russian charts Scaled map of the entry to the Baltic from Brocklom up to Strelna, East Finnish, and from Parna up to Schlotburg printed in 1703. This map of the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland is the first chart in Russia to show Saint Petersburg. The chart was engraved by Pieter Pickaerdt at the mobile engraving workshop established by the order of Peter I for producing prints and maps during the Great Northern War.

By Peter's decree, too, Vasily Kiprianov's Civil Publishing House, the first private enterprise in the country to specialize in text books, manuals and maps, was established in Moscow in the early eighteenth century. Some of Kiprianov's maps are now in the Cartography Department. Among them are the world map Tables of All the Globe and the first map of the night sky to be published in Russia the Depiction of the Celestial Globe.

The department has the notable Map of the Battle of Poltava engraved in 1709 in Pieter Pickaerdt's workshop. The engraving was made by design of Peter the Great. As is well-known, the decisive victory of Russians under Peter the Great over Swedish army in the Great Northern War was the famous Poltava Battle of 1709. Peter I, who attached much importance to the depiction of his victories in maps and engravings, made the drawing of the battle by his own hand. The drawing served as a plan from which the map of the battle was created.

Map of Russian-Swedish Borders. 1721
Map of Russian-Swedish Borders. 1721
The stocks also include the first printed atlas of Russia. This publication was based on the results of the first state survey begun by order of Peter the Great in 1720. The need to create such an atlas was dictated by the requirements of Peter the Great's reforms of the administrative structure and economy of Russia. The survey work was carried out under the direct supervision of the Senate which also gathered existing material from the provinces and districts. The project was managed by Chief Secretary of the Senate Ivan Kirilov (died 1737), a noted geographer and cartographer. He planned a tremendous atlas of the Russian Empire with 360 maps, but only a small part of this concept became a reality. One small volume was issued containing maps of a number of regions, printed in the Civil Printshop under Vasily Kiprianov and partly also in the printshop of the Academy of Sciences. At the present time there are three known copies of Ivan Kirilov's Atlas of the Russian Empire, each slightly different. One of them is in the National Library of Russia. It contains ten maps of individual regions of the country, including one of Ingermanland.

Each of the tree surviving copies of the atlas begins with the Map of Russian-Swedish Borders established by the Peace Treaty of Nystad which ended the Great Northern War in 1721. This map was compiled in 1722 and published in 1724.

Work on compiling a general map of Russia was completed soon after Piter I's death. The first geographical map of Russian Empire was published in 1734. When compiling it, Ivan Kirilov used material from the systematic instrumental topographical surveys of Russia, which were carried out in Russia since 1721, and all achievements of Russian cartography known to him at that time. The materials of Vitus Bering's first voyage to Kamchatka were also included in the map. Kirilov presented this map to Peter II soon after his accession.

Petrine reforms gave a strong impulse to the development of Russian cartography and shortly allowed Russia to match countries playing a leading role in mapping.

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