This data is sourced from a set of geographic playing cards produced in the 1850s. There is one playing card for each province of the Russian Empire. They were meant to be a pedagogical tool at the time, but contain lots of useful statistical information. The cards are held and digitized by the Library of Congress. The information from the cards has been extracted and spatialized as part of the Imperiia Project. To learn more about the original playing cards, you can visit the digital exhibition: Administrative boundaries were sourced from the Geographical Atlas of the Russian Empire (GARE) published in the 1820s and adapted to reflect boundary changes made in the decades leading up to 1857. Town locations were also sourced from GARE. The points (towns) and polygons (provinces) are extraordinarily accurate representations of the data depicted on the atlas. GARE is recognized as the most comprehensive and accurate mapping of the empire prior to the middle of the 19th century. That said, the maps that compose the atlas were produced at different scales and in different projections. Together with the fact that the resolution of contemporary geospatial data is uniformly higher, this means that the despite the fact that this is the highest-quality data of its kind, users will find that the historical spatial data defines space slightly differently. Inaccuracy is not uniform across the data: it is more pronounced along the coastlines. (Additional note: The geojson and csv files for "towns" also include modern coordinate locations sourced from the Geonames gazetteer ( with accompanying attestation URLs.) Data in Belle's edits are created in an Equal Area Conic projection for Russia (8568). Data in Kelly's original are created in World Equidistant Conic: We provide the data in csv and geojson formats to make the data accessible to those who would like to work with it in GIS and non-GIS environments. Together, the geojsons (boundaries, towns, and rivers) offer a unique description of the historical space of the Russian Empire. Google Maps does not know where the boundaries of the empire were in 1857: but we do! Each of the three regions is composed of multiple provinces. In the case of the Caucasus, the region contains territory that does not belong to any of the provinces (Chechnya/Dagestan). As a result, there is significant overlap in spatial coverage. In some cases csv files contain the same data contained in the geospatial data, but this is not necessarily always the case. Please consult the "file-notes" documentation for specifics. There is a card for each province of the empire. There are also cards for the Russian America Company territories in Alaska (the Alaska Purchase would occur in 1867), the Kingdom of Poland, and the Grand Duchy of Finland. The card for the Caucasus region mentions the “territories of the mountaineers” (i.e., Chechnya/Dagestan) – territories that were not yet conquered or incorporated in an administrative sense (in contrast to the trans-Caucasian provinces for which there are cards. There is no card for the “Kirgiz” (Kazakh) steppe – an area which often shows up on maps of the empire at this time despite not yet being under Russian control. To make sense of column headings, consult documentation "codebook". To cite, use the automatically-generated citation from the Imperiia Project Dataverse. To contact, & @Imperiia on Twitter.
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