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Dictionary Project, Volume X: Russia

The Dictionary Project is a post-a-day exploration of The Century Dictionary and Cylopedia, a twelve-volume set printed in New York in 1901. The Project runs from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, and matches volume numbers to calendar months. Volume X is The Atlas, and today is Day 17.

There’s a ton of crunchy goodness on today’s map of Russia in Europe, with Poland and Finland. The first map gives an overview of the whole of Russia, and the second is a closer look at the southern and western portions, which were presumably the most populous at the time. Look how small Russia is, compared to today! Siberia looks to be a separate country, which probably accounts for part of that. But my favourite is the names (of course).

Map of Russia in Europe, 1897 Map of Russia, West, 1897

Starting at the top left, we’ve got Helsingfors as the principal city of Finland. When did that change to Helsinki? It’s hard to tell if Finland is its own country here, or a province/state of Russia, but since both RUSSIA and FINLAND are printed in the same gorgeous engraved, shadowed font, I’m going for “separate country”, even though the same brown shaded border encloses them both. (But wait; so is CAUCASUS, which is clearly not a separate country… okay now I’m confused, Mr. Mapmaker!)

There are many more states in 1897 Russia than I was aware of. I’ve heard of Astrakhan before, though mostly in reference to carpets, and Samara and Kazan, but who knew there was one called Archangel? Or that there was not only one called Great Russia, but also West Russia, Little Russia and South Russia? Likewise, I had no idea that the Caucasus region was so broken-up at this time that Russia governed only North Caucasia and Trans-Caucasia.

There have been a lot of border changes since this time, even in my lifetime. Prussia is gone, Poland is bigger, and we have Latvia and Lithuania along the Baltic now, Belarus in what used to be West Russia, Ukraine where Little Russia and South Russia used to be, and Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus. Also, Siberia, as previously mentioned. Big changes between this map, and the USSR that I grew up with, and between that USSR and today’s Russia and surrounding nations.

Last night, I met the couple who donated this dictionary to the silent auction, and got to thank them in person. We geeked out about books for a while, and I had to laugh when they both confessed to me, separately, that they still had a copy of the exact same set. At one point, they had had three copies, but had now pared that down to one. Ah, book people. Gotta love ’em!

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