MAP OF AN EXPANDING RUSSIAN EMPIRE
“La Russie Blanche ou Moscovie“. Copper engraving published by Pieter Schenk in Amsterdam around 1700. With original hand colouring. Size: 49 x 47,5 cm.
The map shows Russia during the reign of Czar Peter the Great. Peter expanded the Tsardom through successful wars into a much larger empire to become a major European power. He led a cultural revolution based on the Enlightenment that made Russia modern, scientific, and westernised. He copied the latest political models of the time, making Russia into an absolutist state. He also enacted a nine-member Senate, and divided up the empire in provinces and states (as coloured on the map). He ended the Tsardom of Russia and started the Russian Empire.
To make Russia an Empire, Peter went on many military campaigns. Peter’s first military efforts were directed against the Ottoman Turks, who were a constant threat. His attention then turned to the North. Peter still lacked a secure northern seaport (except at Archangel on the White Sea, but the harbour there was frozen for nine months a year). Access to the Baltic was blocked by Sweden, whose territory enclosed it on three sides. Peter’s ambitions for a “window to the sea” led him to make a secret alliance with Saxony in 1699, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Denmark against Sweden, resulting in the Great Northern War. The war resulted in Peter acquiring four Swedish provinces situated south and east of the Gulf of Finland, and the coveted access to the sea was now secured, twenty years after publication of this map.
Petrus (Pieter) Schenk (1661 – 1713) was a Dutch engraver, globe maker, and map publisher active in Amsterdam in the second half of the 17th century. In 1687 he established his own firm in Amsterdam in partnership with Gerard Valk. Initially they published maps and atlases, acquiring the map plates of Jodocus Hondius in 1794. Later, in 1701 they moved into the from Hondius offices where they began producing globes. Valk and Schenk quickly became known for producing the best globes in the Netherlands, a business on which they held a near monopoly for nearly 50 years. Schenk joined the bookseller’s guild in 1711.