The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Geographical Atlas of the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Poland, and the Grand Duchy of Finland

[Full title: Geographical Atlas of the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Poland, and the Grand Duchy of Finland: arranged according to province on 83 sheets, with designations for towns, settlements, and all notable sites, postal and transit roads, stations and distances between them and other settlements in versts: with a general map and table of distances along the postal roads connecting the most important towns, in two languages]

The Geographical Atlas serves as the foundation of the Imperiia Project. It was the first atlas of its kind - both comprehensive and accurate - depicting an empire that stretched from the Vistula River to the Pacific Ocean. It is credited to Col. Vasilii Petrovich Piadyshev (1768-1835), who served with distinction in the Military-Topographical Depot of His Majesty's General Staff. The sheets were published between 1820 and 1827; the work underwent revision in 1828-1829 and was reprinted in 1834. The atlas is composed of 60 maps, including a general map of the empire.

Despite its quirks (for example, not only the scale but even the projection varies across the series), the atlas offers better insight into the spatial structure of the Russian Empire than any Google Map or NASA satellite image or expert recreation of historical space ever could. Each sheet describes administrative boundaries, rivers, roads, urban and rural settlements, and a variety of other details. Distances are in versts (1 verst = 1.07 kilometer). On each sheet, placenames are rendered in Russian and in French transliteration.

You can access high resolution versions of the full atlas via the World Digital Library or the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. We have embedded the Rumsey Luna browser's view of the table of contents just below. Click "go to source" to access the full set of thumbnails in Rumsey.

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