Documenting the First Flights Over the North Pole and "The Chief Capitalist States".
This is the only known example of a rare a 1938 Russian-language Council of People's Commissars map of the world in two hemispheres. The map constitutes a contemporary record of the three earliest transpolar flights. The three flights, one which terminated at the North Pole and two others which continued over the Pole and ended on the West Coast of North America, (all by Soviet pilots) were groundbreaking achievements in aviation.
Schmidt's Polar Flight
The first of these was the airborne expedition to the Arctic supervised by Otto Yulyevich Schmidt. It was the first of its kind to land on the ice within thirteen miles of the North Pole. Schmidt established a research station, which became known as 'North Pole-1'. The route is noted as 'Полет экспедиции на северный полюс под начальством о. ю. шмидта в 1937 г', which translates to 'Flight of the expedition to the North Pole under the command of O. U. Schmidt in 1937.' Schmidt was a man of many talents. Over the course of his life, he was a scientist, mathematician, and astronomer, among many other professions. He was declared a Hero of the Soviet Union and awarded three Orders of Lenin, among various other medals.
Chkalov's Polar Flight
The groundbreaking non-stop flight from Moscow to the United States under the command of Valery Chkalov in June 1937 over the North Pole proved that the Polar Route was feasible. Chkalov's flight is noted on the map as 'Полет в америку через северный полюс под начальством чкалова в 1937 г', which translates to 'Flight to America across the North Pole under the command of Chkalov in 1937'. Like Schmidt, Chkalov was declared a Hero of the Soviet Union. In the spirit of Stalin's 'New Soviet Men,' - selfless, dedicated to the Soviet cause, and forever young - Schmidt died at age 34 in a crash while testing the prototype of the Polikarpov I-180.
Gromov's Polar Flight
The third and last of the three flights depicted here was supervised by Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gromov. This flight established a new non-stop flight distance record, completing a record 6,306 miles from Moscow to San Jacinto, California via the North Pole. Gromov's flight is indicated by the text 'Полет в америку через северный полюс под начальством громова в 1937 г', which translates to 'Flight to America across the North Pole under the command of Gromov in 1937'. Following the flight, Gromov became the first director of the Flight Research Institute in Zhukovsky.
Although it could not have been predicted at the time, Arctic airspace would become the primary theater for nuclear bomber flights by both the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War.
Capitalism vs. Communism
On a grander scale, the political duality between communism and capitalism that would lead to the Cold War is brilliantly apparent on this piece, as the Western powers of Britain, the U.S., and France, along with Germany, Italy, and Japan, are labeled as 'The Main Capitalist Powers.' Their overseas possessions, i.e. colonies, are shaded slightly lighter than the metropole or mother country. For example, India is a lighter shade than Great Britain, French West Africa is a lighter shade of purple than France, and the Philippines are a lighter shade of orange than the United States. The interwar period was the beginning of the end for overseas empires, with independence movements sprouting out of President Wilson's post-war rhetoric about 'self-determination', although he didn't necessarily mean for his message to be applied to the colonial world, just Eastern Europe.
This map reveals a world on the brink of war. Manchukuo, a puppet state of the Empire of Japan created in 1932 in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia, is depicted here. Although the Second Sino-Japanese War had been raging for less than a year, hostilities and tension had been high between the two nations since the Mukden Incident allowed Japan the opportunity to establish Manchukuo. Korea is, of course, shaded as an overseas territory of Japan. In Europe, Germany's borders reflect the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, although the annexation of the Sudetenland is not reflected here.
As this map was published before the major communist successes in China and the Western Hemisphere, the map places particular emphasis on the two communist states recognized by the Soviet Union, the Mongolian People's Republic, and the Tuvan People's Republic.
This is the first edition of this map and was created by the Main Directorate of Geodesy and Cartography under the SNK (Council of People's Commissars) of the USSR (Главное управление геодезии и картографии при СНК СССР) in 1938. We have not identified any other known surviving examples.