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Dosvidaniya, Bolton…

Ever fancied laying waste to Bolton? And who among us can put hand on heart and say that the thought has never crossed our mind.

Now, thanks to a new library acquisition, the task has never been easier. We have just obtained three Soviet Military maps of Bolton and the rest of Greater Manchester. Produced during the 1970s in the middle of the Cold War, the maps form part of a huge Russian cartographic exercise, with over 90 large-scale maps of UK cities and towns spread over a hundred and sixty sheets. Based on British Ordnance Survey maps, and augmented by photographs obtained by high-altitude Soviet spy planes, the maps provided everything a Russian soldier needed to know should he find himself needing to park his tank in an emergency.

It is perhaps fairly understandable why a map of Bolton was produced: Bolton, Stockport, and Oldham were at least close to Manchester. What’s slightly more baffling is why the Russian mapmakers invested time and effort coming up with a map of Burnley and Padiham, hardly examples of Western capitalism or hotbeds of NATO aggression.

For more information about the maps, see a fascinating website by collector and historian, John Davies http://www.sovietmaps.com/. Keen historians of the North West will recall that the Soviets did not actually invade Bolton in the 1970s. There is however no truth in the rumour that they abandoned plans once they saw that the route to Bolton took in Farnworth and Little Hulton, the residents of which, at that time*, would have made even the Afghan Mujahideen consider their options.

* Ed: the Chetham’s Librarian was one of them.