Еarly Russian Мap Мaking

The first documented use of a map in Russia was recorded in a property suit ca.1483 in the principality of the northern town of Pskov. The map was drawn on a piece of a birch bark and didn't survive. From the 15th century onwards the Russian land began to be gradually mapped — by foreigners at first, because native cartography didn't exist until the 16th century, and secular literature was full of stories about monsters and monstrous races borrowed from the legends of the expeditions of Alexander the Great. Later came descriptions of Europe, Asia, and Africa, with great admixture of myth and fantastic tales of ancient travelers. One can see traces of these stories in literature of the 16 century. The Kronika wzystkyego swyata (A Chronicle of the Whole World) by Martin Bielsky appeared in 1584) in translation from Polish. In 1637 Bogdan Lykov, of the Foreign Office, translated the Cosmography by Gerard Mercator. The first intelligence of the discovery of America by Columbus reached Moscow through St Maxim the Greek, a monk invited from a Mt. Athos monastery to correct translations of old Church books.

The first significant Russian map was produced at the time of Tsar Boris Godunov. It was apparently a manuscript known as "A Great Sketch". It might have been drafted by Crown Prince Theodore, Boris' son.

This map was lost, but a later version was published in 1613 in Amsterdam by the well-known Dutch cartographer Hessel Herrits as Tabula Russiae ex autographo, quod delineandum curavit Feodor filius Tzaris Boris desumta.

We can glean some information about old Russian maps and cartographic sketches from the map of Siberia, compiled in 1667 on the order of General-Governor Peter Godunov, and from the atlas of Siberia published ca. 1698 by Semeon Remezov. From 1698 to 1705 the map publishing business was led by Adrian Schoonebeeck, a Dutchman invited to Russia by the tsar.

The first civil printing house was established in Moscow by cartographer Vasily Kiprianov in 1705; it published a variety of maps of Russia and the world. But it was only during the reign of Peter I that regular scientific cartography began to flourish in Russia. In 1701 a Mathematico-Navigational School opened in Moscow, for training professional surveyors-geodesists, and in 1716 a geodetic class was set up at the naval Academy in St. Petersburg, issuing cartographic charts, sketches, etc. Peter I ordered a comprehensive survey of the country and put in charge Ivan Kirilov, Secretary of the State Chancellery. A group of Russian officers and French cartographers, brothers Delisle, travelled all over Russia, gathering geographical data and compiling maps with the assistance of the famous Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler and the no less eminent Danish explorer Vitus Bering. Eventually The Atlas Russicus was published by the Academy of Sciences.