September 14, 2017

Soviet kids’ atlas

This is a Soviet children’s atlas that my mother got for me when I was 5 years old.1

World and Man: A Geographic Atlas
World and Man: A Geographic Atlas2

(click illustrations to see full-size version)

I remember being enthralled by it. You can see, in the well-worn pages, the time I spent leafing through this thing.

Looking through it again, after all these years, what amazes me most, I think, is how comprehensive this thin soft-cover book is.

We’ve got astronomy…

The Starry Sky
The Starry Sky
The Solar System / The Sun and the Planets
The Solar System / The Sun and the Planets

Space exploration…

Exploring the Cosmos
Exploring the Cosmos

Ok, that’s to be expected. But then we get more: meteorology…

The Earth—The Planet On Which We Live
The Earth—The Planet On Which We Live

map-reading skills…

Studying Our Native Land
Studying Our Native Land

geography…

The Globe. Physical Map of the Hemispheres
The Globe. Physical Map of the Hemispheres

geology…

Physical Map of the USSR
Physical Map of the USSR

zoology…

Plants and Animals of the Far North and the Tundra
Plants and Animals of the Far North and the Tundra

hydrology…

The Surface Landforms
Surface Landforms

ecology…

Biomes of the USSR
Biomes of the USSR

conservationism…

Man’s Guardianship of Nature
Man’s Guardianship of Nature

woodcraft…

Studying Our Native Land
Studying Our Native Land

anthropology…

Europe
Europe

history…

Great Geographical Discoveries
Great Geographical Discoveries

Calling this a “science class packed into a book” would be an understatement; this is more like “every science class, packed into one book”. I think that there’s more here, in these 70 pages, than what many American schoolkids learn in—and what most American schoolkids remember from—their entire K-12 education.

The illustrations, too, are quite something. The cartoonishly drawn nameless boy and girl—the reader stand-ins—are an interesting juxtaposition with the fully accurate and comprehensive maps and the gorgeous drawings of the world’s plants and animals. The way the kids are drawn, inserted into every scene—in mountain-climbing gear:

The Surface Landforms
Surface Landforms

… with a compass and backpack:

Studying Our Native Land
Studying Our Native Land

… in space suits:

This Wondrous World
This Wondrous World

… not to mention this illustration of the girl piloting a helicopter while the boy clings to a rope ladder dangling out of the ’copter’s door:

Our Motherland on the Globe and on the Map
Our Motherland on the Globe and on the Map

… really conveys a sense of “our world is amazing and full of wonder; and you, every one of you kids reading this at home, can go out and explore it!”

I wanted to do that. I opened this atlas, and I read it, and I wanted to go out and explore the world. I’m not going to credit my interest in science entirely to this book, but I’ve no doubt that it contributed.

Head over to the wiki and check out the complete gallery.

 

1 It cost 1 ruble, 46 kopecks, according to the frontmatter. I guess that’s about $50 in 2017 dollars? Wow!

2 This is an idiomatic translation; “World and Person” or “World and Human” would be more accurate, as the Russian word человек implies no gender. The intended meaning, in any case, is something like “The World and Humanity”.

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