Geography, Political

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Geography, Political


the study of the territorial arrangement and correlation of political forces both within and among individual countries and groups of countries in the context of their socioeconomic structure. The territorial formative process of countries and states, including state boundaries, historical regions, and administrative structure, is also analyzed.

Soviet geographers generally regard political geography as an integral part of economic geography; some scholars consider political geography an independent geographical discipline connected with economic geography. Certain bourgeois scholars often detach political geography from economic geography, which inevitably leads to disregarding and even distorting the social nature of political geography.

Apologists for imperialism attempt to treat the problems of political geography from the standpoint of a pseudoscientific political conception—geopolitics.

In Russia the term “political geography” was first employed by V. N. Tatishchev; M. V. Lomonosov also used it. The first textbook of political geography, written by I. M. Grech and S. F. Nakoval’nin, was published from 1758 to 1772. Among the geographical works published in the last quarter of the 18th century and during the 19th, political geography was most closely studied in the writings of A. N. Radishchev, P. I. Chelishchev, K. I. Arsen’ev, K. F. German, and P. P. Semenov-Tian-Shanskii.

Political geography has become particularly important in the period of the general crisis of capitalism. In the USSR and other socialist countries, it studies the contemporary political map of the world and the individual countries. It takes as its point of departure the basic content of the contemporary era—the transition from capitalism to socialism and the struggle of the two opposite social systems.

Along with the works of K. Marx and F. Engels, the works of V. I. Lenin, especially The Development of Capitalism in Russia (1899), New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture (1915), Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), and State and Revolution (1917), were of fundamental importance for the development of Soviet political geography. In The Development of Capitalism in Russia, Lenin gave the first scientific substantiation for the division of Russia into economic regions; in New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture, he similarly substantiated the division of the USA into the industrial North, the homestead West, and the slaveholding South. In Lenin’s works, the economic region appears as a social-historical category, indissolubly linked to the mode of production of material wealth. The resolutions of party congresses, conferences, and plenums of the Central Committee of the CPSU, which contain a scientific analysis of world economic and sociopolitical evolution, have been very important for the development of political geography in the USSR.

Soviet geographers have made a significant contribution to the development of political geography. Their works demonstrate the influence of the political-geographic situations of countries and regions on the settlement pattern of the population and the development and distribution of productive forces. Political maps of the world are studied taking into account the division of the world into groups of countries: the socialist, developed capitalist, and developing countries (in this last group, countries with a socialist orientation are set apart from the others of the group).

Soviet political geography criticizes and exposes the reactionary political-geographic conceptions of bourgeois political geography; at the same time, it studies progressive manifestations in the political-geographic works of a number of scholars in capitalist countries.

The Soviet geographers in whose works questions of political geography are represented include N. N. Baranskii, I. A. Vitver, I. M. Maergoiz, A. G. Mileikovskii, and B. N. Semevskii. These questions are given much attention in the works of scholars in foreign socialist countries, such as S. Radó (Hungary), H. Zanke (GDR), J. Barbag (Poland), and A. Núñez Jimónez (Cuba). Among the geographers in capitalist countries who are studying political geography from a Marxist standpoint, the works of P. George (France) stand out.


Lenin, V. I. “Imperializm, kak vysshaia stadiia kapitalizma.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27.
Vitver, I. A. Istoriko-geograficheskoe vvedenie v ekonomicheskuiu geografiiu zarubezhnogo mira, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1963.
Semevskii, B. N. “Politicheskaia geografiia kak sostavnaia chast’ ekonomicheskoi geografii.” In Voprosy teorii ekonomicheskoi geografii. Leningrad, 1964.
Shiger, A. G. Politicheskaia karta mira (1900-1960): Spravochnik. Moscow, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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