Erivan Province

This card is one of a souvenir set of 82 illustrated cards–one for each province of the Russian Empire as it existed in 1856. Each card presents an overview of a particular province’s culture, history, economy, and geography. The front of the card depicts such distinguishing features as rivers, mountains, major cities, and chief industries. The back of each card contains a map of the province, the provincial seal, information about the population, and a picture of the local costume of the inhabitants. Erivan Province depicted on this card corresponds to part of present-day Armenia, Nakhchivan in present-day Azerbaijan, and a small part of present-day Turkey.

Ethnographic Map of the Balkan Peninsula

The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I transformed the political organization of the Balkans. The war had started in the Balkans with the assassination of the Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a militant Bosnian Serb seeking independence for his country from the dual empire. Jovan Cvijić, the author of this “ethnographic map” of the Balkans, published in 1918 by the American Geographical Society of New York, was a professor of geography at the University of Belgrade. Cvijić completed his doctorate at the University of Vienna in the 1890s on geological formations and physical geomorphology, but his interests later shifted to “anthropogeographical” research analyzing the geographical influences on ethnic and cultural dynamics in the Balkan Peninsula. Cvijić’s map is a testament to the ethnic, religious, and national diversity of the Balkans, but it provides little sense of the demographic damage that the war wreaked on the peninsula, where an estimated one-quarter of the prewar populations of Serbia and Montenegro were killed, one of the highest casualty rates of any combatant country.

General Map Showing the Explorations and Surveys of the Expedition, 1907-09

The British Antarctica Expedition of 1907-09, led by Ernest H. Shackleton, left Port Lyttelton, New Zealand, in the ship Nimrod on January 1, 1908. On February 3, the Nimrod deposited Shackelton and a party of 14 men at Cape Royds. The men divided into three groups. One would try to reach the South Pole, a second went north to reach the South Magnetic Pole, while a third was to explore the mountains west of McMurdo Sound. Shackleton, three companions, and four ponies set out for the South Pole on October 29. Enduring great hardship, on January 9, 1909, they attained a latitude of 88°23’ S., further south than any previous expedition. There they were forced to turn back by fierce blizzards and low supplies. This map, from a 1909 article by Shackelton, traces the route of the three exploring parties and of the Nimrod, on which the men returned safely to New Zealand. The expedition made important scientific discoveries in geology, biology, and other fields. Some three years later, on December 14, 1911, the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and four companions finally reached the pole.

General Map of Asiatic Russia: Showing an Up-to-Date Division into Provinces and Regions, Maritime Administration of the Maritime Region, and the Routes of Russian Seafarers

This Russian map of Siberia shows the borders of regions and districts, population centers, roads, fortresses, redoubts, outposts, guard posts, factories, mines, and ruins. It also indicates the territories of the various nationalities of Siberia and shows in fine detail the routes taken by the major Russian explorers--Bering, Billings, Kruzenshtern, Golovin, Sarychev, Gall--on their expeditions to the North Pacific and Alaska. The map was produced by the Corps of Military Topographers which, under a government regulation of 1822, was attached to the General Staff and the Military Topographical Depot “to the end that they might the more successfully carry out state surveys in peacetime and reconnaissance of localities in the rear of the Army in time of war.” In Russia as in other European countries (and the United States), in the 19th century responsibility for mapping national territory often was assigned to the military.

Great Trading Routes of the Sahara

This 1889 map of trans-Saharan trading routes by French explorer Edouard Blanc reflects the growing priority that Europeans gave to land-based trade during the late 19th-century imperial “scramble for Africa.” In articles about his work, Blanc stressed the importance of identifying “natural” geographic routes that would connect French colonial possessions in west Africa, such as Senegal, to Algeria in north Africa, and link the Mediterranean coast to Sudan and central Africa. Blanc based his maps not only on his own travels but also on nearly a century of reports from European travelers dating back to the Englishman W. G. Browne’s 1793 voyage to Darfur. Features identified on the map include dunes, rivers, and dry valleys as well as Arab caravan routes, colonial railways, and roads. The routes of several European explorers also are documented, including Gustav Nachtigal’s 1869 expedition to Sudan, Oskar Lenz’s travels from Morocco to Timbuktu in 1880, the 1880 voyage to Sudan by the Italians Matteucci and Massari, and several French expeditions from the Algerian coast, including that of Colonieu in 1860 from Oran and of Flatters from Constantine in 1880-81.

The Lower Sorbian Testament of Miklawuš Jakubica, 1548

This 669-page manuscript contains the complete translation of the New Testament into Lower Sorbian by Pastor Miklawus Jakubica. It is one of the most important cultural documents relating to the Sorbian people of eastern Germany and an important source for the study of the West Slavic languages. Completed in 1548, Jakubica’s translation, which includes many colorful illustrations of flowers, trees, and animals, has never been printed. As the groundwork for his translation, Jakubica used Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, as well as the Latin Vulgate and Czech templates. The work is in fact the very first translation of Luther’s Bible into another language. Jakubica used the dialect of Sorau, a town south of Brandenburg, and drew upon words in Czech and Upper Sorbian in his attempt to create a common church written language for all Sorbs. Lower Sorbian and Upper Sorbian are West Slavic languages, related to Polish and Czech, which are spoken by the Sorbs, a recognized minority people of Germany.

Drying Wash at the Edge of the Sukhona River, Tot'ma, Russia

This photograph of washing day on the Sukhona River at Tot'ma was taken in 1998 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. The Sukhona links the south central part of Vologda Oblast with the northeast and was for centuries part of an important trading network that led northward to the White Sea. The Sukhona flows by the historic towns of Tot'ma and Velikii Ustiug, both of which are known for 17th- and 18th-century brick churches sponsored by local merchants. Although the interiors of Tot'ma's churches were severely damaged during the Soviet era, the structures still stand and form one of the brightest pages of northern Russian culture. The prosperity of these northern river towns was based on their location along a major trading route and on their close ties with Russia's major cities, Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Indeed, Tot'ma's range extended all the way to the New World, via Alaska. Among Tot'ma's notable citizen's was Ivan Kuskov, the first commandant of Fort Ross, in California. Although Sukhona has long since lost its significance as a major transportation artery, it still plays an essential role in the eternal rhythms of this small town with a glorious past.

Egypt and Arabia Petraea

This illustrated chart of Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula is a Tallis map, identifiable by the scrolling on the borders and the finely drawn scenes inscribed on the map. John Tallis and Co. was a British mapmaking firm that operated from roughly 1835 to 1860. Egypt and Arabia Petraea was part of their large-scale project, the Illustrated Atlas and Modern History of the World, Geographical, Political, Commercial & Statistical, published in 1851. Arabia Petraea was a name dating from the Roman Empire, consisting of land that is now Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, modern Jordan, Palestine, Israel, southern Syria, and western Saudi Arabia. The maps were drawn and engraved by cartographer John Rapkin, while other illustrators engraved the vignettes. Tallis maps were well known for the accurate designs, numerous place names, geographical details and information, as well as shaded areas to indicate topographical features. The clean crafting and detailed information give the maps a modern look in comparison to older cartographic techniques. These productions are often described as the last of the decorative map tradition.

Ekaterinoslav Province

This card is one of a souvenir set of 82 illustrated cards–one for each province of the Russian Empire as it existed in 1856. Each card presents an overview of a particular province’s culture, history, economy, and geography. The front of the card depicts such distinguishing features as rivers, mountains, major cities, and chief industries. The back of each card contains a map of the province, the provincial seal, information about the population, and a picture of the local costume of the inhabitants. Ekaterinoslav Province depicted on this card is in present-day Ukraine.

Economic Map of Yakutsk Oblast

This Soviet-era economic map of the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic is from an atlas, Yakutia ASSR: Atlas, Socialist Yakutia. It shows six different economic regions in this vast region of Siberia. Depicted on the map are centers for the production of machinery, electricity, and foodstuffs, and for extractive industries producing coal, natural gas, gold, mica, salt, building materials, and diamonds. The development of the mining industry in Yakutia, which started in the 1960s, brought an influx of migrants from European Russia and the other Slavic republics of the Soviet Union, and a change in the ethnic composition of the population. The proportion of Yakuts in the overall population of the republic dropped from 90 percent in 1920 to 43 percent in 1970, 36.6 percent in 1979, and 33.4 percent in 1989. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, however, the republic experienced a strong outward migration of Slavs and a reversal of these trends. In 1990, Yakutia changed its name to the Republic of Sakha.