National Atlas of the Arctic: All maps in one book
© Yevgeny Yeryomkin

National Atlas of the Arctic: All maps in one book

In October, Roscartography used the Frankfurt Book Fair as an opportunity to present the National Atlas of the Arctic, which the company compiled in record time -- one year. talked to Roscartography General Director Dmitry Krasnikov and Press Secretary Olga Bokhan to find more about the efforts and the story behind the project and what makes it stand out.

The idea to make a national atlas of the Arctic emerged in 2008 almost immediately after the release of the National Atlas of Russia. Still, a lack of funding and ongoing reshaping of the geodesic and cartographic industry meant that the project had to be shelved.

In 2013, Vice-President of the Russian Geographical Society Nikolai Kasimov suggested in a meeting with the Russian Government that the sketchy data about the Russian Arctic should be put together into a single atlas.  The proposal received the green light from President Putin who in June 2014 signed an executive order to compile the atlas.

Initially, the atlas was to have a multimedia, printed and digital edition. For several reasons, however, the multimedia version was later discarded in favor of an extended digital presentation with over 300 extra maps that are not included in the printed edition.


"A National Atlas of the Arctic has been created for the first time in the Russian history. It includes maps, texts, spatial imagery, photos, illustrations, and diagrams. We paid particular attention to highlighting natural and human activity-related risks, and issues of pollution," Dmitry Krasnikov said. The atlas provides up-to-date comprehensive information on physical geography and socioeconomic phenomena, sites and facilities, as well as how they might be developed in the future, he says.

No effort of a similar magnitude has been attempted since the last volume of the National Atlas of Russia came out in 2008. It ordinarily takes at least five to seven years to produce a compilation on such a scale. The National Atlas of the Arctic, however, took only a little over a year.

"The first preparatory stage was, perhaps, the most difficult because such fundamental research had not been done for many years. We had to put together a team of experts and bring all the data up to date," Krasnikov says.

Tight schedule, a colossal amount of work

Researchers and academics, each of whom is a leading expert in their area, have joined forces with Roscartography specialists to produce the atlas. The effort brought together 200 leading Russian experts from 27 research centers, universities and companies, the Russian Academy of Science, the Russian Geographical Society, 12 ministries and agencies.

В работе над изданием принимало активное участие около 200 ведущих российских специалистов из 27 организаций.
© RIA Novosti. The effort brought together 200 leading Russian experts from 27 research centers, universities and companies.

"Our cartographers worked non-stop, with lots of overtime, working late nights and into the weekends and putting off vacations. The schedule was tight, the amount of work colossal. I can say firmly that the compilation of the atlas brought together the very best of the Russian geographical studies: RAS academician, First Vice-President of the Russian Geographical Society Nikolai Kasimov is editor-in-chief, RAS academician and Honorary President of the Russian Geographical Society Vladimir Kotlyakov is the project's chief academic advisor, while other scientists of international renown have taken part," Bokhan says.

Talent is everything

It turned out after the work began that several cartographer professions had nearly died out. The organizers managed to find regular cartographers but very few polygraphic cartographers. "The trades of polygraphic cartographers and map makers are nearly extinct. We lacked experts in these fields for our project," Krasnikov says.

"We addressed the issue by recruiting young graduates from the Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography, which prepares its graduates specifically for our field. We were especially glad to see the young and the old work together. We welcomed very gifted and motivated young people who received a kind of on-the-job training from their more experienced colleagues," he says.

Each section of the atlas went through several stages, from the selection of materials, to the polygraphic makeup and editing, and finally to scientific editing and process control. Each stage was supervised by the editorial council and the editorial board, which was comprised of leading researchers and officials from Russian ministries and agencies.

"We assume responsibility for every image and every map.  Members of the editorial council and the editorial board looked through the content and the compilation, and approved the final product. The atlas was examined by experts at the Rosreestr's Centre of Geodesy, Cartography and Spatial Data Infrastructure, and was praised by leading researchers, Krasnikov says.

Financial side

Funding was relatively limited. Actual expenses had to be cut in half compared to initial assessments — this is one reason why the multimedia edition had to be cancelled. The total cost of the polygraphic version is around 50 million roubles. It includes the costs of developing a design concept, paying salaries to authors and compilers, and the printing of the first 1,000 copies.

Изначально атлас планировалось создать в полиграфической, электронной и мультимедийной версиях.
© RIA Novosti. Initially, the atlas was to have a multimedia, printed and digital edition.

The atlas has been released in  A3 format as an embossed hardcopy with 496 pages. It was printed by the Omsk Cartographic Factory. The digital edition is currently being prepared for release. As per the terms of the state contract, the digital edition will also be released in 1,000 copies.

High praise internationally as well as in Russia

The presentation of the atlas' polygraphic edition took place on June 29 at the Moscow headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society. "I believe that the data in the atlas can help plan and forecast activities in the Arctic region. It meets our political, social and simply human needs," Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Alexander Bedritsky said at the event.

Deservedly, the atlas attracted interest internationally, Bokhan says. In October, it was presented to international experts and the public at the Frankfurt Book Fair as part of the Russian national stand. "It drew attention due to the quality of the work and its unique nature, and also due the fact that Russian cartographic editions had not been put on display at the Frankfurt fair for seven years prior," Krasnikov said.

Big plans

Roscartography is capable of taking on additional challenges as big as the atlas. "The company has all it needs, including experts, methods, technology and experience," says Olga Bokhan. "I believe that Roscartography is the only company that has the necessary potential to fulfill projects of the same scale as the National Atlas of the Arctic. We have proven that we can make regional and national atlases. From our work on the National Atlas of the Arctic we have obtained invaluable experience, and are ready to take another such project," Bokhan said.

Not for sale. Yet

The Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography (Rosreestr) has exclusive rights on the distribution of the atlas, which is slated to go on sale in 2018. Before that it will be supplied to executive bodies, public organizations, universities and libraries.