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The Russians Are(n’t) Coming to С-Ф

June 27, 2012

Via the esteemed @footage, behold this Cold War era Soviet military map of San Francisco Bay Area:


Сан-Франциско, 1980 style. (Just don’t call it Фриско.)

This is by far the highest resolution version of this map I’ve ever seen — it was on an old UC Berkeley website, as well as various map resellers, but this one takes the cake.

The Soviets (good god, that sounds weird now) went to town mapping the world for their Cold War needs. This particular SF map is 200000:1, but they detailed some cities to 25000:1, and others down to 10000:1, highlighting tank-friendly roads and important buildings.

I’d love to find a Soviet map with 10000 or 25000:1 detail for С-Ф, though I’m not entirely sure it exists. It does seem the Soviets made maps for the whole world at 200000:1. Other resolutions seem to be for targets of interest. Most of the maps that made it to the public eye are of the former USSR and what would have been the Cold War hot spots: Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia. (One interesting note is that the maps of Africa are still some of the best around.)

From what I understand, as the Soviet state collapsed in 1991, huge quantities of these maps were abandoned as the Soviet Army fell apart. Some officers were running around trying to get them back, but this proved troublesome in the Baltics, and map dealers had a field day.

Some of the better map-based lookup indexes include and

The easiest site to download them from, presuming you have a map number (and that the map was scanned) is There are five indexes, ranging from 1000000:1 down to 50000:1. Unfortunately there is little to nothing for North America on the 100000 and 50000:1 resolution maps.

For reference, our 200000:1 San Francisco map is J-10-XXII (or sometimes J-10-22).

The coordinate system is pretty simple – A is at the equator, U near the North Pole (the letter bumps up every 4 degrees, and the number every 6 degrees to the east, from the Internationaln Date Line.

Each map is subdivided, so XXII is one of 36 grids within J-10. This image should help:


Via afanas.rutranslated.

A roman numeral 200000:1 map can be subdivided into four 100000:1 maps, so our Bay Area map would also be J-10-079/080/091/092, if I’m reading it right.

J-10-079 can be further subdivided into four 50000:1 maps (А,Б,В,Г) , and those into four 25000:1 maps (1,2,3,4), so an SF neighborhood level map would be J-10-079-Б-3.

I tell you this so if you find yourself in a map store in Vilnius and have opportunity to find a map of the Mission, you will be ready to buy it and run before the former Soviet Army intelligence agents see you and catch you.

Lots more commentary on the maps in these well-written PDFs:

“Uncle Joe knew where you lived”: part 1, part 2

A legend to the map symbols can be found here and much more here. Half circles are natural gas tanks, and I think crosses are churches (Brotherhood Way seems to be the big one ). One interesting note: no sign of Sutro!

Let us know in the comments if you find anything interesting. ПРЕВЕД МЕДВЕД!

18 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2012 2:04 pm

    И вам привет ;) Мы наблюдаем за вами.

  2. June 30, 2012 7:47 pm


  3. July 1, 2012 1:37 pm

    I love all the transliterations! Especially how they just sound out “South San Francisco” instead of using the actual Russian word for “south.”

  4. July 2, 2012 5:35 pm

    I dumped this on the office plotter and my Cyrillic-reading comrades pored over this artifact. It could be a 1980 map that is just horribly out of date, but the presence of Key System rail in the East Bay, and the lack of CA 85 dates this map to the 1960s. Though, I wonder at the criteria for “urban” blocks because as I understand it much of the South Bay was still orchards at that time . . . could it be a poorly-maintained 1980s map?


    • July 2, 2012 6:19 pm

      Also no BART, and they still have the old SPRR line going up to Colma. And 280 doesn’t look like it’s finished. So I think your 1960s premise has merit.

      You should take a look at the two “Uncle Joe” PDFs. Pretty fascinating analysis by guys in the UK trying to figure out where the map data came from. Some was obviously from existing maps dating back to the 1920s. But other things were not on any existing maps at all — secret facilities, stuff from aerial photography, etc.

      Man would I love nothing more than to get my hands on a 1:25000 scale map of SF.

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable permalink
      July 12, 2012 12:35 pm

      Well, not to mention the fact that it shows Crissy Field as an active airfield (it closed in the 30s), and same with Hamilton Field (it closed in early 70s). So I have the feeling it it more like a Sanborn map, where it was updated over time, with new things being added, but not necessarily with the most accuracy.

    • July 12, 2012 1:40 pm

      Agree on the general patchwork premise. But Chrissy Field was actually an active airfield through the 70s and was used by helicopters into the 80s.

  5. Chris permalink
    July 3, 2012 12:12 pm

    Any idea where/how to get professional quality prints of this?

  6. August 2, 2012 4:18 am

    I wonder if the black squares on Angel Island merely represent the existing bunkers or, if this is an (early) 1960s map, they knew about the Nike missile site. The cartography of Angel Island is rather poor and does not have the south-eastern spur where the site is located. Can anyone describe a key for this? Like what is the seemingly overturned ship off of Point Lobos/Sutro Baths?

    • Peter V permalink
      February 21, 2014 11:02 pm

      I believe there is actually a sunken ship around there, if not several. It may be a warning that if you try and land on the beach you might get run into it.

  7. Vasya permalink
    February 12, 2014 7:28 am

    It looks like 1:500000 map for pilots. 1 cm=1 km. Black blocks on Angel island is “detached building”. What time – you would better know from condition of the areas.

  8. October 16, 2017 5:12 am

    See for soviet maps of two dozen US/Canada/UK cities. Scales are 1:25k, sometimes even 1:10k! S-F included.

  9. vdgv permalink
    March 5, 2019 9:11 pm

    rnxqzi Northwood Asset Management


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