First National Atlas for Estonia’s 100th Anniversary

No national atlas has ever been published in Estonia. The University of Tartu Department of Geography has set out to fill the gap in honour of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, UT as the Estonian-language university, and the department itself. The anniversary festivities will be held in 2018–2019.

The atlas is targeted at all who are interested in Estonian culture, history, and nature. Historical maps along with beautifully designed contemporary maps will portray the country’s development throughout the century in a unique visual way.

Get a glimpse of Estonian history and the future national atlas by viewing these five maps below.

Zones of influence in Estonia in the 1930s

Influence zones in Estonia in 1930-iesSimilarly to the current situation, administrative reform was a hot topic in Estonia in 1930s. This map, compiled by geography professor and future University of Tartu Rector Edgar Kant in 1936, shows zones of influence for the two main cities – Tallinn and Tartu – as well as those of smaller towns.

Places of birth for Estonia’s elite

Places of birth for Estonia's eliteThe map shows the birthplaces of Estonia’s elite – writers, scientists, composers, cultural workers, artists, politicians, performers, social elite, and the military. Compiled by August Miks, the map appeared in the Estonian Literary Magazine in 1938. As you can see, most of the elite of the time who also took part in the birth of the Estonian Republic in 1918–1920 came from South Estonia. This might be connected to the better fertility of the southern soils and an earlier buy-out of farms in the 19th century, which made people wealthier and improved their access to education.

Railway network in 1923

Railway network in Estonia in 1923Interestingly, in addition to the existing routes, the map also included planned railways (shown in red). The most important of the new routes would have connected Tartu and Pärnu. Nowadays, the construction of this route would be impossible due to environmental restrictions, as the route passes through several nature reserves, such as Soomaa National Park. The plan also remained unaccomplished back in the 1920s.

Plains and ‘mountains’ in Estonia

Physical map of Estonia from 1930-iesThis physical map of Estonia is the first and only one from the planned national atlas, initiated by geography professor August Tammekann in the 1930s. The map uses the traditional colour palette from green to brown for depicting height ratios, often fooling foreigners into believing that South Estonia has mountains. In reality, the country’s highest point is just 317 m above sea level.

Deportation plan for 20,000 Estonians to Siberia in 1949

Deportation plan of 20,000 Estonians to Siberia in 1949In March 1949, 20,000 Estonians were deported to Siberia, mainly by railway. The map (in Russian) shows how the operation was planned. The map comes from the National Archives of Estonia.

Taavi Pae is a research fellow in human geography at the University of Tartu and one of the authors of the forthcoming national atlas.

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