KGB trumped Ordnance Survey on UK mapping





Detailed maps of the UK created by the KGB between 1950 and 1990 have gone on sale in digital format for the first time.

The maps show 16,000 square kilometres and 103 UK town and cities in more detail than Ordnance Survey maps. The Russians used satellite images and spies on the ground to create the maps, which include army camps and warehouses that don't appear on other maps.

The maps include other information likely to be useful for an invading army, such as the height of bridges and depths and contours of river beds. Strategically important buildings like telephone exchanges, government buildings, and power stations were all colour-coded and identified with a numbered key.

It wasn't just the UK that was treated to such detailed attention -- most of the rest of the world was put under similar scrutiny, albeit not to such an indepth scale. For many countries in Africa and Asia the maps remain the most reliable and accessible source of geographic information.

Little is known of the how the USSR acheived such a mammoth task. The military cartography department was created in 1919 and the first map of the UK dates from 1938. The project accelerated from the mid-50s as the Cold War intensified. All place names on the maps are transcribed into Cyrillic script phonetically.

Related Links

  • Russian Military & KGB Maps (with link to sample map of London)


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