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The Fantasy Political Maps of DeviantART

Submitted by on October 17, 2014 – 12:14 pm 29 Comments |  
American Novorossiya MapWhen looking for specific maps on the internet, I often come across bizarre examples, such as a map of Novorossiya that depicts not southeastern Ukraine but rather northwestern North America. This fantasy political map, like many others of its ilk, can be traced back to a website called DeviantART, Inc., described by the Wikipedia as “an online community showcasing various forms of user-made artwork” that aims to:

provide a platform for any artist to exhibit and discuss works. Works are organized in a comprehensive category structure, including photography, digital art, traditional art, literature, Flash, filmmaking, skins for applications, operating system customization utilities and others, along with extensive downloadable resources such as tutorials and stock photography. Additional utilities include journals, polls, groups and portfolios. “Fella,” a small, devilesque robotic character, is the official deviantArt mascot. As of March 2013, the site consists of over 25 million members, and over 246 million submissions, and receives around 140,000 submissions per day.

A sizable trove of DeviantART fantasy maps can be found here. I find many of them intriguing, as I do the larger endeavor of fantasy mapping. Quite a few are visually attractive, showing a great deal of care and skill. Note on the Novorossiya map, for example, the imagined city of Urdaneta in “Alta California’s” Humboldt Bay, a name derived from the great Spanish (Basque) navigator who figured out how sail from Mexico to the Philippines and back in the late 1500s.

Fantasy Lithuania MapQuite a few of these maps exhibit strong desires for imperialism of one sort or another. One fantasy cartographer, for example, has imagined an “Empire of Lithuania” extending to the Pacific Ocean. Considering the fact that Medieval Lithuania was in actuality a huge state for a long period, it hardly seems that that expanding its borders to Kamchatka would be necessary.

Fantasy Texas MapThe same collection also features a map of a gargantuan Federal Republic of Texas. I do find it curious, however, that this mega-Texas does not include all of the territories that the Republic of Texas had claimed during its short period of existence (such as a chunk of what is now Colorado and Wyoming, fantasized here as part of an “Alpine Republic”).

British Empire Fantasy MapA number of DeviantART maps show patterns that some readers may regard as indicating nostalgia for European global empires. Cecil Rhodes’ dream of a “Cape to Cairo” railroad, for example, has been surpassed by another fantasy mapmaker’s “Cape to Singapore” line South America Fantasy Map(express, no less). A map of South America in 1950 shows numerous European colonies, the oddest of which is “South Umbria,” a British possession in northeastern Brazil. Desires for ethnic cleansing might even seem to be present in some of these maps, especially the one labeled “Central European Central Europe Fantasy MapFederation” (note the imagined disappearance of Hungarians from southern Slovakia). But it is impossible to know what the authors’ motivations are, and it is quite possible that they do not support the political structures and changes that they show on their maps.

United States Fantasy MapFantasy Russian Federation MapOther maps in the collection include one of a vastly enlarged United States and one of a huge Russian Imperial Federation of 1932.

I can only assume that the people responsible for these maps had a good deal of fun making them. Whether their products should be taken seriously by people outside of the community of DeviantART cartographers is another matter.

(Note: Many thanks to commentator Barzai for pointing out problems in the original post and for keeping me honest!  See the comments for an explanation.)

 

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  • barzai

    “Considering the fact that Medieval Lithuania was in actuality a huge
    state for a long period, it hardly seems that that expanding its borders
    to Kamchatka would be necessary.”

    I expect you are missing the point. As the website Uchronia.com, a compendium of alternate-history fiction, observes, there are no correct alternate histories, only plausible ones.

    One does not have to aspire to dreams of empire to imagine a “what-if” scenario. As you correctly point out, there was a substantial Lithuanian (more properly, Polish-Lithuanian) kingdom at one time: indeed, its survival is part of the basis of the Randall Garrett “Lord Darcy” series of stories, in which the eponymous protagonist is an agent of the British Empire, whose principal antagonist is…the Polish-Lithuanian Empire.

    But I digress. My larger point is, given that in our own actual history, the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom actually defeated the Russians and burned Moscow to the ground before falling apart from internal dissension, one can easily imagine that they managed to sustain themselves and–like the Russians of our own timeline–eventually expanded past the Urals and to the Pacific.

    Whether this would have been the basis of a more benign international environment is certainly speculative, but it’s certainly not entirely implausible, given the well-known Russian paranoia and penchant for authoritarian or totalitarian government, both largely attributable to the Mongol Conquest.

    Given that the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom was formed by a series of dynastic unions and had an elective monarchy and a very strong independent nobility, it’s certainly not impossible to see them emerging as a Slavic version of the Habsburg Empire: not entirely benign, to be sure, but far closer to a “normal” power than the Russians.

    • These comments, unlike your others, and pertinent and informed. “Plausibility,” however, is a tricky concept in such matters. The very autocracy of the Russian Empire was highly significant in its conquest of Siberia. it seems unlikely to me that the highly decentralized Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth could (or would) have done the same. Note as well that the map does not mention the Polish component of this state, which was the more powerful. Instead we see merely a Lithuanian Empire.

      • barzai

        “Note as well that the map does not mention the Polish component of this
        state, which was the more powerful. Instead we see merely a Lithuanian
        Empire.”

        Possibly the implied alternate-history requires a more centralized form of monarchy, to which the Polish nobles were resistant.

        I find it curious that you are so quick to dismiss the alternative as implausible–and please don’t deny it: we both know that’s what you meant. The whole point of quoting Uchronia’s comment is that, in the absence of any sensible way of testing alternate histories, plausibility must necessarily remain subjective.

        If you don’t find the Lithuanian Empire plausible, that’s certainly your prerogative. But don’t suggest that because you find it so, that it’s absurd: obviously, someone went to a lot of work to make up a map, presumably for some other reason besides showing an absurd possibility.

        I appreciate, in this as well as the prior exchange, that this is your blog and you can say or do what you please: but then you shouldn’t be surprised–or offended–if those who disagree with you and find your editorial comments problematic–or even offensive–push back: and if that’s a problem for you, then don’t allow comments.

        • I have to say that I side with Martin here, in that had Lithuania been in control of Russia, it would expand to the Pacific. This seems a rather absurd scenario to me, as it was due to Ivan the Terrible that the push eastwards (and due to Peter the Great that the push westwards) was initiated. It seems to be one of those scenarios that one can contemplate (because our cognition allows us to contemplate all sorts of things even Santa Claus and unicorns), but that knowledge of the history that I actually did happen prior to that makes highly implausible…

          • barzai

            Fair enough: you find it improbable. In fact, it is more than improbable: it is impossible, as it reflects a reality that never was. But I hair-split: I certainly take your (and Martin’s) point.

            But you also seem unable to grasp the notion that in the case of alternate history, it is altogether impossible to judge these things by any standard that could be regarded as objective.

            Contemplate, if you will, someone whose knowledge of Lithuania extends back only a century, to a time when it was a subdivision of a Russian province. If you asked this person to evaluate the plausibility of a Lithuanian Empire (possibly with a Polish component) extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea, such a person might say, no, very implausible.

            But of course, it happened in actual history.

            The late Tom Clancy once was asked in an interview what the most important difference was between the fiction he wrote and the real world his fiction extrapolated from. He replied, “Fiction has to make sense.”

            Such, also, is my view: there is nothing so inherently implausible, that it cannot have happened in real life.

          • To evaluate whether certain hypothetical historical scenario is plausible, one has to take into account all the actual history PRIOR to the beginning of the alternative scenario, but not what happened afterwards. If someone trying to imagine such alternative historical scenarios is ignorant of actual history, that’s their problem, no? My point is that alternative histories are only interesting/valuable/worthy of consideration in as much as they are embedded in some reality. So I guess I agree with Tom Clancy on that. (P.S. Tom Clancy really needs to get himself a Russian-speaking assistant to check all his Russian, as some of it is pretty atrocious — if he still writes about Russia, of course — I might write a post on this in my blog on of these days.)

          • barzai

            “My point is that alternative histories are only
            interesting/valuable/worthy of consideration in as much as they are
            embedded in some reality.”

            Well, not to me, but it would certainly indicate a major reason for the differences in our thinking.

            Of course, since all counterfactuals/alternate histories are–by their nature–predicated on something that didn’t happen in our history, one might suggest that what you really mean is that alternate histories aren’t interesting, full stop.

            Indeed, part of my puzzlement in this conversation has been the apparent lack of interest in what scenario could have produced some of these fictive maps: Certainly I find that aspect the most interesting. But of course, my own interests lie more in history than in geography.

            As to Tom Clancy, he has gone to meet his maker: more than a year ago, it would seem. I knew he’d died (hence “…the late…”) but I hadn’t realized that the first anniversary of his death was just a few weeks ago.

            Even before he died, many of the more recent books bearing his name were co-authored with others. But I assume he had a Russian-language editor of some sort to assist him, but it’s likely that they would have been provided by his publisher, so you should probably blame them, not him.

          • So what is for you the difference between an alternative history and any bullshit scenario anyone might envisage? And if there is none, what is the point of considering such scenarios?

            As for Tom Clancy, sorry to have missed his passing. Whether it’s his assistants or those working for the publisher, they are surely doing a lousy job. As an example, a two-word phrase in one of his later books that I started reading recently contained at least two major errors: one error per word, that’s a bit much, wouldn’t you say? Anyway, with literally tens of thousands of native Russian speakers in the country it is very sloppy to produce such “works of fiction”. If very obvious things are conspicuously wrong, how can a reader believe anything else. After all, he didn’t seem to follow his own motto…

          • barzai

            “So what is for you the difference between an alternative history and any bullshit scenario anyone might envisage?”

            Really. Is such vulgarity necessary?

            Short answer: I’m with Clancy…an alt-hist novel–which is mainly where I encounter the genre–should be based–like all “proper” science-fiction–on accepting one major “suspension-of-disbelief” premise and working out the rest logically from that–though you are certainly permitted some minor premises that suit the needs of the work, so long as they aren’t too silly.

            An example would be the one I gave in a different response, the Conrad Stargard/Crosstime Engineer stories. The major premise is, a Polish engineer is whisked back through time from 1986 to 1321 (IIRC), ten years before the Mongols are due, and must do what is necessary first of all to survive, then to get himself and his ideas accepted by someone, and finally to convince people that there really is a threat that they must turn to.

            Now, obviously, to the best of our knowledge and belief, time-travel does not exist, and indeed may not be possible at all. So, does this make the novel silly, worthless, or otherwise not interesting? Certainly not: it’s a classic scenario of the stranger in a strange land who must figure out how to make his way.

            Another example might be the various works by Harry Turtledove in which it is premised that the Byzantine Empire survives to the present day and beyond, as does the Persian Empire: the notable change is that Mohammed does not found a syncretistic religion of his own, but becomes a convert to Christianity and (later) a saint, Saint Mouamet.

            Truth be told, you could do worse than to peruse the Uchronia website, which is really the “go-to” site for this sort of thing.

            But one can also use alt-hist in a more rigorous way: the late, great historian Robert Fogel did that in one of his early works about the impact of railroads on the economic development of America in the 19th century. He postulated a counterfactual scenario (that is what smart guys with Ph.D.s call alt-hist ) in which canals became the dominant form of internal communication rather than railroads.

            Fogel’s work–and indeed Fogel himself–while controversial, is well-respected, and the use of counterfactuals in history is now a well-established part of the discipline thanks largely to him.

            As to your comments regarding Clancy’s errors…they don’t seem to have prevented him from becoming a well-known and best-selling author: sorry if that grieves you. But I don’t accept your suggestion that one dismiss the whole of his work based on some inconsequential errors.

          • Actually, yes, in this case it is necessary. My question, which you didn’t answer, is where you draw the boundary between alternative history and nonsense. From what I can glean from your response I think you agree with me that alternative history (as well as fiction) needs to be in compliance with some common sense observations and principles shared with reality. You can “suspend disbelieve” on some things but not on EVERYTHING.

            Re: Tom Clancy, I find his books about Russia as sloppy and uninformed about Russian history, culture, customs, etc. as they are about Russian language. Why am I reading it in the first place, you might wonder? I read the first fifty or so pages out of curiousity and finally abandoned it, which I almost never do with books. I’ve just compared his translation of “no food” into Russian with that of Google Translate and both are hilarious — definitely a room for a post there. So check my blog in the near future: languagesoftheworld.info

          • barzai

            [amused shrug] Well, it’s interesting to see that I can still arouse such a passionate outflow of words with a comment! 🙂

            Have a great life.

          • Not you, but Tom Clancy. Maybe he is talented after all 😉

            Have a great life too.

        • You are reading into this post WAY more than I intended. As I noted, I find these maps interesting and intriguing. My basic view of the Empire of Lithuania map is one of amusement, not contempt. I have no problem with such a map, but I would note that even the cartographer admits that it is a bit of a stretch. And you are certainly right that plausibility is entirely subjective.

          We could, however, discuss some of the obstacles to such a Lithuanian Empire. First, one would have to go back to the period before the Union of Lubin (1569) as otherwise one would have to deal with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, not a Lithuanian Empire. But would the Lithuanians have had enough people to pull off such an enterprise without the Poles? If so, they would have had to “Lithuanianize” many others to get the raw manpower, but that does not seem to have been something that they did. The Lithuanian language was not even used as an administrative language in the Slavic-speaking lands of the Lithuanian state. And then there are the Cossacks to consider — as they were the force that essentially conquered Siberia, and they were not friendly with the Poles and Lithuanians. Of course, that might have worked out differently, but one would have to construct a very elaborate alternative history to make it plausible. If one can pull that off, my salutations!

          • barzai

            I guess in my own concept of this, I assume that the Lithuanians basically mount a coup (I know, very anachronistic term here) against the Poles. One can imagine a scenario in which some Lithuanian–or even a disgruntled Pole–presumably a high noble and a military leader–seeing the Sejm collapse for the umpteenth time due to abuse of the liberum veto, just decides it’s time for a change…and all else flows from that.

            I confess, I do not know enough of the period to know if there would have been a plausible contender for such a role: but of course, in the world of alt-hist fiction, that is where the authorial prerogative comes in! 🙂

            As an amusing example, a Pole by the name of Leo Frankowski has written a series of novels–only the first is any good, the sequels are unfortunate victims of overpromoting your protagonist in the first book–premised on a modern-day Polish engineer–from Communist Poland, no less: this was written in the mid-80s. before the Revolutions of 1989–is carried back to the 14th century…a decade before (as he knows, but the locals of course don’t) the Mongols are going to show up and burn the whole region down to bedrock. He has just that much time to convince people to fix things up and to introduce some modern tech to stop them.

            Under that scenario, obviously, one can readily imagine a global Polish empire with no difficulty whatsoever! 🙂

  • barzai

    “Desires for ethnic cleansing are also seemingly apparent on some of these maps, especially the one labeled “Central European Federation” (note the imagined disappearance of Hungarians from southern Slovakia).”

    Once again, you seem inclined to ascribe malign motives to completely imaginary and fictional depictions. In this instance, I’ll limit myself to observing that you seem quite exercised by the elimination of Hungarians from southern Slovakia, but completely unconcerned by the (far larger) elimination of Germans from the Sudeten lands of Bohemia–which, by the way, actually occurred in our own timeline–and from Silesia and “Lusatia”, along with the (inferred by the absence of Polish as a Federation language) elimination of Poles from “Krakovia” and “Ruthenia”.

    Are you yourself by any chance a Hungarian? Because I am of (partially) Hungarian ancestry and I can’t get nearly as worked up as you seem to be.

    Finally, though I realize that “ethnic cleansing” has come to have a sinister and pejorative meaning in the contemporary age, it was at one time synonymous with “population exchange” or “resettlement” and considered a benign alternative to…extermination.

    • Just because I pointed out one problematic aspect of a particular map does not mean that I did not notice other problematic aspects. It is often necessary to limit yourself to specific examples: if you feel compelled to list every instance, writing can quickly get out of control.

      “Resettlement” is of course preferable to extermination, but large numbers of deaths usually occur during the process. Death rates in Stalin’s expulsions were often close to 50%. The expulsions of Germans from Sudetenland, Silesia, etc. after WWII were not that deadly, but the process was still a human-rights disaster. Tens of thousands perished; rape was common.

      I hardly see how a quick mention (“note the imagined disappearance of Hungarians from southern Slovakia”) makes me “worked up about this,” and I find your question “Are you yourself by any chance a Hungarian?” both foolish and offensive. (Does “Lewis” look like a Hungarian name to you?) You seem to be implying that only Hungarians could possibly be concerned about the fate of Hungarians living in other countries. This sort of thinking only encourages the Hungarian extremism and irredentism found among groups like Jobbik, which I do find highly disturbing.

      • barzai

        My criticism, as sarcastically as may be, was not of your selectivity, but of your ascribing sinister motives to individuals whose minds you cannot possibly know, and for which there is exactly zero evidence.

        If I go to the DeviantArt page that contains this map, there are nine thumbnails of other maps by the same artist…presumably there might be even more in his gallery. Among only these maps, one finds, inter alia: two maps of Finland, one of a greater Finnish Empire and one of a post-independence Finland implied to be a traditional monarchy; two maps of Germany and Austria, one that appears to implement a version of the Morgenthau Plan, and another that is based on Austrian defeat of Prussia in the war of the same name; a speculative map of a possible divided outcome for contemporary, real-world Ukraine; a map of a possible Greater Yugoslavia; and others as well.

        Does the possibility of Axis victory in World War Two–part of the backstory for several of these–mean the author is a closet Nazi? Or does his German maps suggest a covert anti-German bias? Hmmm…no, he’s a crypto-Serbophile, as demonstrated by the Greater Yugo map!

        As you can observe, there are all sorts of possible inferences–many of them mutually exclusive and contradictory–that one could take from these maps: but you chose to take a sinister inference about one element of one map, which may not even have been intended by the author!

        I therefore asked–admittedly sarcastically–whether you were perchance yourself a Hungarian, inasmuch as that was the only plausible explanation–other than pure malice–I could think of.

        As to whether “Lewis” is a Hungarian name…I don’t even know how to address that, it’s wrong on so many levels. Is “Hecht” a Hungarian name? Nope–it’s Austrian. But my ancestors on my father’s side came from an area of the Empire that was officially part of Hungary, nevertheless.

        But as far as “Lewis” is concerned…are you unaware that many people changed their family names when they arrived at Ellis Island? Mine almost did: my last name could have been “Pike” instead of “Hecht”, since that’s how it’s translated (the fish, not the pole-arm).

        So having the name “Lewis” has absolutely no bearing on whether you might be of Hungarian origin. Certainly, the name on the statue to the memory of the great Hungarian freedoem fighter that stood not far from where I lived in New York–Louis Kossuth–is a misnomer: it’s simply an anglicization of “Lajos”, the Hungarian form of “Louis”. But I think you’ll agree that such things don’t change the underlying substance.

        • Fair enough. In retrospect, my comment was too harsh: It should have added something like “might seem to indicate a desire for ethnic cleansing,” and I should have noted that such mapping does not necessarily indicate personal support for the patterns so mapped.

          So — thank you for taking the time to respond carefully. But I think that you will find that a less sarcastic approach works better than one based on insults, and that it it is best not to ascribe personal motivations based on ethnic identity (yes, you could say that I did the same in, but does that mean that you should respond in kind?).

          I am well aware that names were often changed in the immigration process, but I don’t think that any Hungarian names were anglicized to “Lewis.”

          And, by the way, I do think that the Hungarians were shafted by the Treaty of Trianon. That is not an excuse for the extreme nationalism that one finds among a sizable minority of Hungarians, but it does help explain it.

          • barzai

            Well, I did not mean to express myself so harshly either: I’d just written a long and exhausting essay in the previous post (the one you gave your approbation to) and I confess, I was no longer as fresh as I might have been. In retrospect, I should have taken a break instead of plowing on. But, no matter. If you will accept my apology, we will put the whole matter behind us, and I will try to be more tactful in the future! 🙂

          • Thank you. Note that I have changed the original post — and that I give you credit at the end for “keeping me honest.”

          • barzai

            That is very generous and open-spirited of you…both as to the changes and to the credit you give me! 🙂

            It is pleasing to see that a contentious issue can nevertheless be resolved peacefully and amicably. I salute you, sir! [glyph of rigid USMC-style salute]

            Be well. Keep the faith.

          • It is difficult to eat one’s words and admit to being wrong, but it is essential. The possibility of being corrected is one of the best features of this discussion forum. Without corrections, it is hard to learn, and learning is what I care about above all. Thanks again — you really made me think.

          • Bravo! Well done!

  • Given that some 10,000 Lithuanians live in Siberia and the Far East, I don’t see why they can’t use the same logic of “protecting the ethnic [Lithuanians]” to extend their borders all the way to the Pacific. 🙂

    However, at this time, it seems that the Lithuanian and many other scenarios depicted in these maps are highly fictitious. Yet, I wouldn’t be too sure about the “Novorossija in North America” scenario. At least, recently “Izvestija” (a national Russian newspaper) reported that a Russian MP questioned whether Fort Ross legally belongs to Russia:

    http://izvestia.ru/news/577183

  • Alexander Richards

    Knowing the creator the Novorossiya map personally, and being involved in the wider alternate history community that most of these maps appear to be deriving from, one thing I feel needs to be pointed out is that the content and the opinions of the creator need to be considered very separately.
    It’s certainly a fascinating scenario to consider what a Croatian dominated Balkans or maximal Romania might look like, and realistically ethnic cleansing is going to be involved in such a scenario, but many will tell you that just because something makes an interesting and attractive map, doesn’t mean it’s something they’d personally like to see.

    • Excellent point. As I mentioned in the post, I do find these maps interesting.

  • Novelty Nostalgia

    I suspect quite a few of these maps may be used for “alternate history” empires. Depending on the date of the point of divergence (PoD), things in this “alternate world” (aka in this time line or ITTL) may be very different from our time line (OTL). Authors explores topics like “What if Nazi Germany won the second world war?” or
    “What if the English settled Brazil first instead of the Portuguese”. Most of these “alternate history” are usually termed as “wanks” which are based on the authors desire of a larger and/or stronger US/Germany/British Empire/French Republic/Ottoman Empire/etc./etc. Some of them are bad, but others do take into consideration quite a lot of other factors. A good one would be Male Rising at Alternate History Forum – http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=226788

    • Donald McDonald

      That website is a leftist circlejerk that will ban you at the turn of a dime. I once said that abortion was murder, and got kicked for- get this- “offending abortion doctors”. Another guy, HUGE in the alternate history field, was banned because he said that adult male muslim terrorists should be killed. Not all muslims, not all adults, not all males, all adult male muslim TERRORISTS.