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History and Descriptions

I have been researching the history of the Soviet global mapping project and, in particular, the large scale plans of American, British and Irish towns and cities produced from 1950s to 1990. These are of astonishing accuracy and contain an amazing level of detail, especially considering they were compiled under great secrecy during the Cold War.

The British Isles stories were published in Sheetlines, the journal of The Charles Close Society and you can download them below.

The USA study is more recent and has not yet appeared in print. However, the material that I presented to a meeting in Columbia SC in January 2014 can be downloaded here.

Uncle Joe Knew Where You Lived (part one) was published in Sheetlines 72 (April 2005) This provides a brief overview of the history and scope Soviet global mapping, a description of the seven scales of maps of UK and Ireland and an explanation of the print codes. (‘Uncle Joe’ was the nickname given to Joseph Stalin by Western propaganda during World War 2)

Uncle Joe Knew Where You Lived (part two) was published in Sheetlines 73 (August 2005) This tells the story of the discovery of the Soviet maps in Latvia in 1993 and describes the actions of KGB spies in Sweden. There is a detailed examination of the large scale town plans to try to establish how they were created and whether the Ordnance Survey were justified in claiming that they contravene Crown Copyright.

Soviet military city plans of British Isles was published in Sheetlines 89 (December 2010). This is an updated version of the list of city plans given in Uncle Joe part one. There are now known to be at least 91 maps, comprising 164 sheets, published betweeen 1950 and 1997.

Soviet Military Mapping published in Sheetlines 74, December 2005. This is an edited transcript of a paper presented by David Watt at the Study Day. Here he describes the history of the Russian Military Topographic Directorate (VTU) from 1812 to the present day and provides some astonishing statistics of the volume of world mapping they have produced.

Study Day Report published in Sheetlines 74, December 2005. This contains an assessment by military intelligence expert Henry Dodds of the strategic importance of the maps during the Cold War era and speculation about how events could have evolved at that time. There is also more evidence on the source of the content of the UK town plans and an examination of the question of copyright, concluding that it is unlikely that the town plans do infringe Crown Copyright.

Recent Discoveries published in Sheetlines 77, December 2006. Contains some updated and additional information

Ordnance Survey Copyright Statement dated September 1997.

For more, see The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World by John Davies and Alex Kent

John Davies, revised January 2015