Map Shows How Communism Threatened 1950s Europe
A tilt in the usual orientation shows Moscow in a much more threatening perspective
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Perspective and the right choice of colours can help to infuse a map with meaning, this one being a very good example. The map is entitled Europe From Moscow, and was featured in the Time Magazine issue of March 10, 1952.
At that time, the world was dominated by the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. Even though the Nazis were defeated less than a decade ago, it seemed Europe – divided between American allies in the west and Soviet satellite states in the east – could become a theatre of war, if the Soviets were to push into Western Europe and ‘finish the job’ they started by virtually annexing the Eastern European countries they conquered in the Second World War.
Those countries are shaded in a lighter tone of red in this map, thus underlining the image of Communism seeping into Europe from Russia, making the ‘uncontaminated’ parts of Europe look threatened.
“The effective psychological strategy demonstrated by this map is an illustration of the powerfully innovative propaganda work achieved by R.M.Chapin, the primary cartographer for political maps in Time,” says the Newberry Library in Chicago about this map.
Strange Maps #103
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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