WASHINGTON - Before the era of GPS and online maps, glimpses of a super-secret Soviet cartography program are coming to light, and a local historian has uncovered the ties to the District.
Elliot Carter, a D.C.-area history buff, recently found these intricately detailed maps through a British researcher who has been tracking the program for decades. Historians estimate more than a million different maps were created of different areas around the world, down to street level. They denote streets, landmarks and even manufacturing hubs – all in Cyrillic.
“The need for maps of European cities would be a military necessity, but the United States maps are something different. It’s like a Wikipedia built on paper. They did it because they could,” said Carter, who writes the blog ArchitectOfTheCapital.org.
“It portrays a Soviet mindset. Next to the Capitol, they list where all these factories are – asphalt factories, steel manufacturers, railroads, things like that.”
But considering the timing of the maps, drawn up in the 1970s – were there more nefarious purposes? Not according to Carter.
“I don’t think it was an invasion map. If hostilities ignited, there would be nuclear weapons involved and they wouldn’t have been occupying a city,” he said, adding they were likely for general knowledge and topography purposes.