This extremely rare and fascinating map shows the state of the railway system in European Russia as it stood on the eve of World War I, executed in an arrestingly Modernist style some years ahead of its time. The map was designed by the architect Ivan Fedorovich Zauer, who was evidently a pioneer in the application of Modernism to cartography.
The geography and the various rail lines (expressed in vivid colours, over a subdued background) are intentionally abstracted and simplified, with the lines artificially straightened and spaced, with all labelling likewise carefully positioned. While the overall sense of direction and distance presented on the map broadly accords with reality, the stylization creates an image of clarity, economy of expression and visual harmony. These elements are all signatures of the Modernist ethic, but this an early manifestation, as the style which had its heyday during the first decades of the Soviet Era, in the 1920s and ’30s.
The map embraces all of European Russia, which then included Finland, and much of Poland, in addition to what was later Soviet territory. Additionally, parts of Asiatic Russia in the south, including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are also represented. The distances between major cities are noted along the lines in black numbers. Extraordinarily for a map of its kind, this composition features literally dozens of insets, detailing the track systems as they entering major nodes, as well a key junctions that connect the system together.
Impressively, the map employs numbers, explained in the key in the lower left, to identify 59 named railways lines, categorized as to whether they are state or privately owned. Below, another key identifies numerous specifications of the rail system, including double- and single-track lines; broad-gauge and narrow-gauge tracks; and the nauture of stations (passenger, freight, intermediate, etc.).
In 1914, the Russian Empire had the second largest railway network in the World (next to the Unites States. While the country was in the process of building the world’s longest line, the Trans-Siberian Railway, a 9,289 km (5,772 miles) long route from Moscow to Vladivostok (it would be completed in 1916), the great majority of Russia’s track was still located in the European part of the country. In 1914, the entire Russian Railway system had 71,000 km of track, and handled 265 million passengers, while carrying 13.820 billion pood of cargo (a pood is an old Russian measurement equal to 16.38 kilograms).
Ivan Fedorovich Zauer: Pioneer of Modernism in Railway Cartography
Ivan Fedorovich Zauer [Иван Федорович Зауэра] (active 1880 to 1914) was a professional architect specializing in large industrial buildings and is perhaps best known as the designer of the main edifice of the St. Petersburg Electric Lighting Company (completed 1898). He was also involved in planning aspects of railway stations in the Russian capital and this is likely how he became interested in railway cartography. He formed a relationship with the leading private Russian map publisher, the A. Ilyin Cartographic Establishment (founded 1859), in the late 1880s, whereupon he began to design railway maps of Russia.
Importantly, Zauer seems to have been a pioneer in applying the incipient artistic movement of Modernism to map design, drafting railway maps in such a style at least as early as 1893. We are not aware of anyone else in any country embracing this style in cartography so early. Sauer produced several regularly updated railway maps right up to the Revolution. While his maps were highly regarded during their time, he seems to have been the only cartographer applying the Modernist style to railways maps in Russia prior to the early 1930s, when the style was taken up by the state cartography firm Fabrika im. V.V. Dunaeva (Moscow).
A Note on Rarity
The present map is extremely rare, we can trace only a single other example, held by the David Rumsey Map Collection (Stanford University).
References: David Rumsey Map Collection (Stanford University): 13026.000