Mapping Europe’s Borderlands: Russian Cartography in the Age of Empire

In This Review

Mapping Europe's Borderlands: Russian Cartography in the Age of Empire
by Steven Seegel
University Of Chicago Press, 2012
384 pp. $55.00

Maps are not merely distilled representations of geographic realities. Over time, they come to represent an organic bundling of history: reconstructed, imagined, and manipulated. Historically, they have been the tools with which expanding empires have legitimized their conquests, imposed identities, and created administrative order, and with which victims have constructed alternative narratives and salvaged their own national memories. Never was this truer than in the period in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when a burgeoning Romanov empire joined Austria and Prussia in wiping Poland-Lithuania from the map and absorbing it into their swelling realms. Seegel intricately analyzes the cartography of imperial Russia and Poland-Lithuania as the science evolved and historical demands were placed on it. This is a rich and fascinating angle on history enhanced by a bounty of beautiful reproductions. Rare is a book this aesthetically pleasing and intellectually original. Seegel should be congratulated for creating it, and the University of Chicago Press, for producing it.