The mystery and strange beauty of Russian maps of the UK

The Soviet military spent more than 50 years on a secret project creating maps of practically everywhere in the world during the Cold War.

John Davies, who runs Soviet Maps, explains that because of the secrecy surrounding the project, as yet no one knows why they made the maps. But the Ordnance Survey (OS) told i100 they believe they are "almost certainly" an adaptation of their existing work. A spokesperson said: "Technical examinations of examples of this mapping leave us in no doubt that it substantially reproduces some OS mapping scales. The Russian mapping does contain small amounts of additional material but it is almost entirely an adaptation of OS crown copyright material."

You can view the Soviet Maps at the British Library. Berkeley has also published a guide to their topographic symbols here. Whatever the reason behind them, they have a strange and familiar beauty.

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