18. The Two-Headed Eagle

Iulian Simashko (1821–1893)
Uchebnyi atlas vseobshchei geografii / Educational Atlas of General Geography
Berlin: Ia. Isakov, 1865

This beautiful atlas shows the Russian Empire’s breadth in the mid-nineteenth century. From St Petersburg and Moscow, regarded as European Russia, it extends westwards towards modern-day Poland and eastwards through Siberia and Central Asia. The precise cartographic detail included for European Russia, in contrast to the sparse attention given to eastern Russia later in the volume, reflects well the geographical and cultural divide within the Empire.

This cartographic disparity has especial relevance to Crime and Punishment. The novel is set largely in St Petersburg, with evocative descriptions provided of the winding streets of the ‘Window to the West’. However, Raskolnikov’s Siberian exile offers scant detail; the only description given is that the prison ‘lies on the broad banks of a solitary river’, in ‘one of the administrative centres of Russia’. Despite sprawling 5.1 million square miles, Siberia is portrayed as a nondescript punishment locale.

The atlas was created by Iulian Ivanovich Simashko, a noted Russian cartographer, founding member of the Russian Entomological Society, and author of a number of educational studies, including works on entomology and zoology. Originally published in 1857, this atlas was updated and corrected in 1864 by Heinrich Kiepert, head of the Weimar Geographical Institute.

Barnabas Kirk

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