University of Helsinki: Banned map returns home

Geographer, post-doc researcher Age Poom was amazed to see the national treasure, a map of Estonia printed in 1934, on Kumpula campus. The map was hanging above the leather couch in the geographers’ break room. The map has made the Estonian-born researcher happy during the years of her stay, and she was taken by surprise when the geographers presented her with it as a going-away present.

–I’m immensely grateful for this, and I’m still wondering where to hang it, but rest assured that it will end up in a worthy place at the Department of Geography in the University of Tartu, says Age Poom, who is transferring to Tartu. The map is beautiful and unique, and an important milestone in Estonian cartography.

There are only a few original copies left of the map, designed by the Estonian cartographer Professor August Tammekann. Tammekann worked as professor of geography at the University of Tartu in 1934-1940 and at the University of Helsinki in 1953-1959.

Originally, 2,000 copies were printed of the map, and before the second world war it hung on the walls of many schools and government offices in Estonia. The map was used for teaching geography in schools and universities, until it was declared to be forbidden material in the 1960s.

Many of the maps had been destroyed during the war, but there were attempts at destroying the rest, as well, since they could no longer be used publicly. In the 1970s, a small reprint was issued in Sweden, where some Estonians had fled. There were only a few colour copies in bad condition and one or two black-and-white copies left at the Department of Geography in Tartu. In 2012, a digital copy was made of the map in the best condition at the university. It is on sale in their online shop.

When August Tammekann’s centennial was celebrated in 1994, his daughter, Eva-Maija Tammekann dug out one sketch of the map from her home archive and donated it to the Department of Geography at Tartu. August Tammekann had transported copies and sketches of the map to Finland.

One of these maps had survived in the map archive at his workplace at the University of Helsinki, and the present-day geographers who had been admiring it had no idea how valuable it was. Now it is back in Estonia.

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