Soviet General Staff Map (1960-66)

The first version of the Topographic Map of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR was recorded in 1960-1966. Thus, it was created about 50 years after the German Ordnance Survey maps of 1912. Due to the poor availability of the map sheets of this General Staff map series, a land use map was used for the southern part of the Curonian Spit, which was recorded by the University of Kaliningrad in 1962. Thus, the data presented here are a composite of two map series, but from the same period.

When comparing the land use on the 1912 Ordnance Survey maps and the 1960s maps, major differences are noticeable. These differences have the following possible causes: (1.) factual changes in the landscape in the approximately 50 years between the two cartographic surveys; (2.) the use of different methods in mapping in the field (e.g., different assessments or cartographic classifications of certain landscape elements, which result in different attributes on the map); (3.) different representations or classifications in the preparation of the maps. This problem also occurs in the map presented here, where the southern part of the Curonian Spit has a more generalized coverage than the northern part.

The potential reasons for the different representations in the map lead to a high degree of uncertainty in the interpretation. It is unclear which changes in the landscape and land use have actually taken place and which are only the result of the different standards and methods of cartography. This problem cannot be conclusively addressed with the available sources. However, reasonable assumptions can be made about the assessment of individual changes. Thus, the actual changes in the landscape of the Curonian Spit can be assumed primarily in the case of significant changes in the landscape on the map sheet. This applies, for example, to areas that were still marked with the signature for sand in the 1912 Ordnance Survey map, but are now marked with the signature for herbaceous and shrub vegetation in the present map.

The total area of the spit in the 1960-1966 maps is 164.02 km², only slightly smaller than in the previous map (1912: 166.52 km²). The area of landforms dominated by sand has further decreased to a share of 18.07% (from 30.77% in 1912). At the same time, the share of areas of herb/shrub cover (including gray dune) has minimally decreased to 13.43%. The area of grassland (incl. sparse tree population) increased sharply by 18.16 percentage points to 21.22 %. The share of forest land in the total area has decreased from 46.67% in the 1912 map to 42.64%.

Looking at these trends in the overall picture of the 1960-66 map, various changes in cartographic practice can be seen. First, the map makes a greater distinction between sparse tree cover (which forms a category with grassland) and forest. In particular, the forest in the north of the Curonian Spit is referred to as sparse forest, of which only a fringe on the east coast is considered "true" forest. A similar picture can be seen in the forest between Pervalka and Nida where there are larger patches of sparse forest. Only by comparing the map with other sources it is evident that there was no heavy deforestation or reforestation on the Curonian Spit during the approximately 50 years, but that the cartographers of the new map described the tree population only as sparse.

If we look at the relative location of the sandy areas compared to the forest areas and the areas with herb/shrub cover (including the gray dune), we notice that although the large sandy areas on the Curonian Spit are located at approximately the same latitude, they have now migrated to the opposite shore of the Curonian Spit compared to the map of 1912. While the large sandy areas were then located mainly on the Baltic coast, they are now located mainly on the lagoon coast. Moreover, in the 1960-66 survey period, in addition to the beach on the Baltic coast, there are four large areas of sand toward the lagoon that are shielded from the Baltic Sea by vegetation. The pattern of distribution of areas with herb/shrub cover (including gray dune) has also changed. Whereas in 1912 these areas were often interspersed with sandy areas on a small scale, this category of areas is now found mainly adjacent to the edge of the forest.

The only major agricultural area in the 1912 map, which was south of Rossitten (1960: Rybačij/ Russian Рыбачий), has disappeared in the 1960-66 map. This area is now designated as grassland (including sparse tree population). Instead, there is a new agricultural area at the root of the Curonian Spit on the border with Zelenogradsk (Russian Зеленоградск,/German Cranz). The share of agricultural land has almost decreased by half in the 50 years to 0.84% (1.42% in 1912). The share of settled areas and closer surroundings has also decreased to 1.40% (2.01% in 1912).

It is interesting to note the increase of wetlands/marshes/break in the 1960-66 map. These areas increased in total to 2.36 %, and this type of landscape is no longer limited to the extreme south of the Curonian Spit as it was before. In addition to these areas in the south, there are smaller areas scattered over the spit, which are marked as wetlands. Thus, south of Smiltynė (German: Sandkrug) there are isolated wet areas within the forest. In addition, there are more such areas on the eastern shore of the Curonian Spit towards the Curonian Lagoon. A remarkable wet area is found near Rybačij, where a large area of wetlands/mire/break north of the village site is located.

Overall, the appearance of the Curonian Spit has changed noticeably in many places in the 1960-66 map image. Various vegetation patterns have changed and further the sandy areas are somewhat smaller in total in the 1960-66 map, their number is lower and these are delimited from other areas on the Curonian Spit without transition zones. The small-scale vegetation patterns of the 1912 map are no longer found in the 1960-66 map.


Square kilometres





Water area



Herb/shrub cover (incl. grey dune)



Agricultural land



Grassland (incl. sparse tree population)









Settlement area and immediate surroundings







Methodological note: The explanatory map description refers to the derived form of the map, which is shown on the left. For this purpose, the land use type or the ecotope was derived from the signatures of the original map and presented in a summarised map. In this form, the height information was completely omitted, which is why it is only taken into account here in the form of additional information. This information relates in particular to the distribution and form of the dunes that are so characteristic of the spit.