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New Guide to Russian Civil War Pictorial Maps

The following guest post is by Ryan Moore, a cartographic specialist in the Geography and Map Division.

The Geography and Map Division (G&M) is pleased to announce the release of Triumph and Liquidation: An Essay and Guide to a Series of Ten Pictorial Wall Maps Created to Illustrate the Successes of the Red Army in the Russian Civil War of 1917-1922. The maps celebrate the victory of Bolshevism over its enemies. Critical commentary was provided by Senior Reference Specialist Michael Klein.

Cover of Triumph and Liquidation by Michael Klein. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Cover of Triumph and Liquidation by Michael Klein. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Michael Klein, the writer and visionary for the project, spent many hours researching the materials and communicated with experts in Russia. The project was a joint effort that involved Michael Klein, this blog’s author as project leader and editor, G&M catalogers Charlie Peterson and Tammy Wong, G&M Digital Specialist Diane-Schug-O’Neill, Senior European Division Reference Specialist Kennith Nyirady, European Division Chief Grant Harris, and now retired G&M Senior Reference Specialist Tony Mullan.

While the Soviet propaganda maps are stunning to view, Mr. Klein goes well beyond the immediate visual experience and details their historical significance in his introductory essay:

In 1929, the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress acquired a series of ten visually striking Russian pictorial propaganda maps published in 1928 by the Division of Military Literature of the State Publishing House of the Red Proletariat. The maps commemorate the tenth anniversary of the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and the subsequent Bolshevik victory in the Civil War, 1918-21. They are the first set of uniformly drawn and thematically coherent pictorial maps issued by the new Soviet state. Vibrant, dynamic, and blatantly political, they detail myriad episodes and events connected with the period and tell the story of how the Bolsheviks defeated their enemies, both internal and external, to save the communist revolution and bring socialism to Russia.

The October Victory and its Global Significance // October 1917 – February 1918. Map by A. N. de-Lazari, A. N. Lesevitskii, and S. Starov. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Pobeda Oktiabria I ego mirovoe znachenie. Map by A. N. de-Lazari, A. N. Lesevitskii, and S. Starov. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Artistic elements and antecedents of the maps are explored throughout the guide by Mr. Klein. He states that the communist artists who created the posters drew on rich traditions of religious iconography, children’s literature, and folk art. They relied heavily on the color red, which has important significance in the Eastern Orthodox Church, specifically that it signifies martyrdom. Mr. Klein explains that red “was exploited as a revolutionary color by the Soviets, who combined it in the ‘symbolism of blood, triumph, victory, hope, and faith.’ Its meaning was transformed even further by fixing it to the names of state institutions, such as Red Army, Red Star, and Red Flag.”

Each of the ten maps in the collection are investigated and supplemented with photographs and other images from the Library of Congress’ collections. The guide is part of a larger effort by G&M to provide context to materials and collections for readers and researchers. Guides, bibliographies, blogs, and finding aids can be found on the division’s homepage.

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