Imperiia: a spatial history of the Russian EmpireMain MenuAboutDashboardsData CatalogMapStoriesGalleriesGamesWho said history was boring?Map ShelfTeach Our ContentCiting the ProjectKelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f5The Imperiia Project // Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University
12020-08-16T23:07:21-04:00Kelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f595Item in the set of geographic playing cards produced in Russia in 1856. These were elaborately illustrated, beautifully-produced playing cards laden with pedagogical and ideological value. There is one card for each province of the Russian Empire.plain2020-09-11T11:06:09-04:001856LoC_RussianGeogCards15.jpgKelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f5
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12020-09-03T23:18:21-04:00Kelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f5note on climate (here: "moderate")Kelly O'Neill4plain2021-02-09T11:50:34-05:00Kelly O'Neilldc20b45f1d74122ba0d654d19961d826c5a557f5
In 1856, a hot new item hit the shelves in Russia: a set of playing cards. Created by Konstantin Matveevich Gribanov, the set had an impressive title:
Album of Geographical Playing Cards of Russia, arranged on 80 cards according to maritime basin (A wonderful and instructive child's game of patience)
As you can imagine, these were not ordinary playing cards. They were elaborately illustrated, beautifully-produced, and laden with pedagogical and ideological value. If you had money to spare and fancied yourself an educated, elite, or prestige-hungry subject of the tsar, you no doubt found a way to get your hands on a set.
Playing cards of this kind were popular teaching tools in the nineteenth century. Imagine standing in your parlor (if you had the money to purchase the playing cards, you most likely had a parlor), thumbing through the set of texts and images describing the culture, history, economy, and geography of the provinces. It was like holding the empire in the palm of your hand.
Despite the fact that you are (most likely) not a wealthy inhabitant of the Russian Empire, you too can play cards. You can look through the gallery, explore one of the "card sorts" (each of which has a thematic focus), do some filtering of your own on a series of interactive visualizations, play a game, or sit back and enjoy a quick flipbook.
This project teaches you loads about the history of the Russian Empire, but it rests solely on the information contained in a deck of cards. We have resisted the relentless urge to expand and explain and expound at every turn. Instead, we hope you will feel compelled to do that work. Our job is to fire up your sense of curiosity... and provide a bit of entertainment.
Note: The cards were digitized as the "Geographic Card Set of the Russian Empire" by the Meeting of Frontiers project: a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the Russian National Library. They are available for noncommercial educational use.
We have translated the entire contents of each card into English and placed (most of) it on the individual playing card pages. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to see the tags: that is where you will find out which ethnic groups, economic activities, geographical features, and "particularities" are attested on the card. Click any tag to explore connections between provinces!
Trick #2: Know the anatomy of the card.
We have patched the two sides of each card together so that you can see them at the same time. Click or rest your cursor on any area of the Yaroslav Province card shown below to see what kind of information is contained in that area. Not every card follows this precise layout, but the majority do.
Provincial town: Yaroslavl' Area (sq miles): 14,051 Population: 1,008,100 Population density: 71.7 people per square mile Towns: 10 Trade note: Trade is conducted rather actively. Climate note: temperate
Rybinskaia and Yaroslavskaia piers
Yaroslavl' was founded by the Grand Prince Yaroslav I.