Using GIS and historical digitized aerial imagery and maps to analyze information on Cold War Soviet military maps of Denmark

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikel


During the Cold War, the General Staff of the Soviet Union secretly mapped foreign countries for military purposes. As the material was unavailable to scholars before the fall of the Soviet Union, research into the cartographic heritage of this global mapping enterprise has only emerged in recent years. The geographical information contained in the maps was based on a wide range of sources, among them remote sensing, existing topographical maps and even information collected by intelligence officers in the field (Davies and Kent 2017). Davies and Kent have carried out pioneering work on the Soviet practice of mapping, but mostly based on material from the United States and the United Kingdom. Following the research agenda set by them, this paper presents an initial analysis of the Soviet military mapping of Denmark based on the collection of Soviet maps held by the Royal Danish Library. We focus on identifying information sources used in production, as well as assessing the general cartographic quality of the maps. Our approach is a GIS-based investigation of the origin of the topographical information on Soviet military maps, utilizing an extensive collection of more than one million geolocated historical aerial photographs along with a collection of digitized topographical maps covering all of Denmark throughout the period of study. The method consists of the following steps: (1) Scanning and geo-referencing of the Soviet military maps, (2) guided selection of areas/map sheets to be included in the analysis, (3) examination of the geometric, positional and thematic accuracy of Soviet map objects, and (4) an assessment of the quality of information in the Soviet maps based on contemporary aerial imagery and possible identification of the source of information used in the maps
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)85-96
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - 2019
Udgivet eksterntJa


  • Topographic maps
  • Warsaw Pact
  • NATO
  • Geospatial Intelligence

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