Mid-19th-Century State Cartography and the Idea of Progress in Russian Empirecraft

in Mapping Europe's Borderlands

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780226744254
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226744278 | DOI:
Mid-19th-Century State Cartography and the Idea of Progress in Russian Empirecraft

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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The charter of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society (Imperatorskoe Russkoe Geograficheskoe Obshchestvo, or IRGO), signed on 7 August 1845, sought to cultivate the geography of Russia, and was established in St. Petersburg by an edict of Tsar Nicholas I, via the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). This chapter examines how three means of borderland mapping—military-topographic, educational-pedagogical, and ethnographic—became professionalized as empirical sciences by the empire's civil servants and scientific experts in European Russia, across the tsars' advisory ministries. The IRGO was the connecting institution, established to improve the knowledge and administration of territories from core to peripheries. Producing maps and cartographic knowledge, its effort in knowing the borderlands was far from a simple scholarly endeavor—its procedures in gathering and generating such knowledge were linked closely to the state's internal ministries—above all, the MVD.

Keywords: Russian Geographical Society; Russia; geography; borderland mapping; maps

Chapter.  9386 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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