[UCP Books]: The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World by John Davies and Alexander J. Kent

A treasure trove of secret Soviet spycraft from the height of the Cold War


"When money and technology weren’t an issue—when it was just about brainpower and hard work—the Soviets could compete with anyone. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that their mapmakers, like their athletes, were among the best in the world. Many of the maps in this collection were made to guide Soviet soldiers in potential wars against enemies abroad. But like the best socialist-realist propaganda posters, they transcend their original purpose. Decades after they were created, they are now unique works of art, offering the viewer what can only be called a kind of emotional-cartographic-political experience."

Joseph Weisberg, creator of The Americans



The Red Atlas

How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World
By John Davies and Alexander J. Kent


Publication date: October 17, 2017 $35.00/£26.50
International publication date: November 6, 2017  



Maybe it was while you were at work. Maybe it was while you were watching TV in the living room. Maybe it was while you were sleeping.


When did Soviet spies map your neighborhood? We can’t know, but, as The Red Atlas makes clear, they probably did at some point during the Cold War. A lavishly produced compendium of jaw-dropping documents from the height of the struggle between the Soviet Union and the West, this book presents remarkably detailed maps of cities from all over the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe—maps that, with the technology of the day, could only have been made by spies on the ground. Looking at these maps, and what they emphasize—road widths, bridge capacities, harbors, government buildings—we are instantly carried back to a not-so-distant era when war always loomed, and the fate of the world hung in the balance.


Presented in full color throughout, and matched up with details on what we know about how the maps were made and where they were eventually found, The Red Atlas is a remarkable production, a book that brings history right to our very doorsteps.


John Davies is editor of Sheetlines, the journal of the Charles Close Society for the Study of Ordnance Survey Maps. He lives in London. Alexander J. Kent is a reader in cartography and geographical information science at Canterbury Christ Church University and president of the British Cartographic Society.


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