Wired has a cool piece on the Soviet Military’s detailed maps of western cities. Wish I’d known about this when I we were designed the cover art for Stalin’s Hammer. How cool would it have been to put a Soviet map on the cover of each instalment, which after all, are based on cities. (Almost as cool as it would be if I could get my publishers to sort out their geographic rights differences, so I could actually publish the rest of the series.)
[Image from Wired: A 1980 Soviet map of San Diego naval facilities (left) compared with a US Geological Survey map of the same area, from 1978 (revised from 1967). KENT LEE/EAST VIEW GEOSPATIAL; USGS]
The Sovs weren’t just translating street names, either. They had detailed tactical information right down to street level. Stuff like whether you could drive your tank down that back alley.
They had mapped nearly the entire world at three scales. The most detailed of these three sets of maps, at a scale of 1:200,000, consisted of regional maps. A single sheet might cover the New York metropolitan area, for example.
But they didn’t stop there. The Soviets made far more detailed maps of some parts of the world. They mapped all of Europe, nearly all of Asia, as well as large parts of North America and northern Africa at 1:100,000 and 1:50,000 scales, which show even more features and fine-grained topography. Another series of still more zoomed-in maps, at 1:25,000 scale, covers all of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as hundreds or perhaps thousands of foreign cities. At this scale, city streets and individual buildings are visible.
And even that wasn’t the end of it. The Soviets produced hundreds of remarkably detailed 1:10,000 maps of foreign cities, mostly in Europe, and they may have mapped the entire USSR at this scale, which Watt estimated would take 440,000 sheets.
All in all, Watt estimated that the Soviet military produced more than 1.1 million different maps.