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Anti-imperialism or new imperialism? Examining the production and content of the World Map/Karta Mira 1:2500000 (1956-1989)

Different approaches to territorial questions on the Karta Mira / World Map 1:2500000
Different approaches to territorial questions on the Karta Mira / World Map 1:2500000. Left: Falkland Islands on sheet no. 207 (1966) including the remark “claimed by Arg[entina]”. Right: Berlin on sheet no. 36 (1972) depicted as “Westberlin” and “Berlin/ Hauptstadt der DDR”.

Paper by Christian Lotz and Charlotte Gohr presented at the Royal Geographical Society’s Annual Conference, 28 August – 1 September 2017

Since the late 19th century, the idea of producing a map series that depicts the entire world in a uniform style and at a standardised scale has been a fascinating one. After the Second World War, when the prospects of the International Map of the World at a scale of 1:1,000,000 continued to face severe problems, cartographers from socialist countries in Europe produced the Karta Mira, a world map at a scale of 1:2,500,000. In our work, we examined the content of selected Karta Mira sheets, particularly the depiction of settlements, competing territorial claims, and place names. Avoiding the ongoing debate about so-called ‘map falsification’ in socialist countries, we shifted our methodological approach by conceiving the Karta Mira as a representation of Cold War rivalry in geography and cartography. From that perspective, the production of the Karta Mira appears as an attempt to achieve two opposing aims at once. On the one hand, in fear of nuclear war, cartographers hid strategic and relevant cities and shifted various other Soviet cities to an extent that map reviewers might have criticised the accuracy of the map. On the other, questioning territorial claims of Western colonial powers on Karta Mira sheets, as well as the fact of realising the long-cherished plan of a standardised world map, the Karta Mira challenged Western geographical discourses and, from the perspective of its makers, proved the superiority and technical efficiency of socialist geography.

Das Thema der diesjährigen Jahreskonferenz lautet "Decolonising geographical knowledges: opening geography out to the world". Die Royal Geographical Society rechnet mit etwa 2800 Teilnehmern. Link zum Panel im Programm der RGS: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2017/46

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