The results of research on the cartographic representation of the Czech-German national border in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century are summarised in the study Stanislav HOLUBEC – Jitka MOČIČKOVÁ, Zobrazování česko-německé národnostní hranice na mapách v období cca 1820–1940, Historická geografie 46/2, 2020, s. 283–340. (available here)

Web map application

Web map applications created in GIS environment show to what extent the representation of the Czech-German ethnic border differed on individual maps of Czech, German and Austrian provenance in the period from the mid-19th century to the 1930s. They allow the comparison of the specific course of this border on thirty selected ethnic maps, and to trace the degree of manipulation within the cartographic production of each nation. The selection includes both maps that depict the ethnic border correctly and maps that are highly manipulative. Setting in a broader historical context is facilitated by the accompanying layers of contemporary administrative divisions of the state (state or provincial boundaries, county and district boundaries).

Map database

The database of maps depicting the Czech-German ethnic border in the period ca 1820–1940 provides a detailed bibliographic description of more than 350 maps depicting the Czech-German ethnic border. In addition to standard bibliographic data, it also provides information on the place of deposit of the maps (Czech and foreign memory institutions) and, in many cases, links to digital copies of the maps in various virtual map collections.


The ethnicity issue was undoubtedly one of the key social and political issues in the Czech lands in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. Relatively early on it was often thematised in cartographic documents. The ethnic composition of the population of the Czech lands began to appear on maps from around the 1820s, initially rather sporadically and schematically on maps of larger regions (Europe, Central Europe). The first more accurate depiction of the ethnic structure of the Czech lands is provided by Pavel Josef Šafařík's map Slovanský zeměvid from 1842 (the publication of this map was preceded by Šafařík's manuscript sketches from the late 1830s).

Significant development of ethnic maps, both quantitatively and qualitatively, occurred in the second half of the 19th century, especially in connection with the introduction of periodic official statistical surveys from the 1880s. Technological advances that made colour printing possible, and in general, the significant price reduction of map printing, which made it possible to print larger, more affordable editions, also contributed to that development. Last but not least, the creation and production of ethnic maps must be seen in the context of the rise of modern nationalism, which shaped its territorial framework, seeking to preserve or expand it. The national movement recognised the potential of this genre quite early and began to use it frequently as an effective mobilising tool in the Czech-German ethnic conflict.

The period immediately after 1918 is one of the peaks of the production of ethnic maps, which were produced in large numbers as background material for the negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference (1919–1920), and individual nations and newly emerging nation-states declared their territorial claims by means of ethnic maps during this period of fundamental redrawing of the borders of Central Europe.

Until the beginning of the Second World War, ethnic maps were a common and popular genre of thematic cartography. They also appeared in the form of supplementary maps to general geographical maps, becoming a common part of atlases. The importance attached by the public of the time to ethnic issues is evidenced by the fact that by 1918 the Czech-German ethnic border appears on many maps that were not primarily produced as ethnic maps.

The main focus of this research was on the development of the representation of the Czech-German ethnic border and the question of whether and to what extent Czech-language ethnic maps differed from their German-language counterparts (i.e. German and Austrian in provenance). It turned out that both the Czech, German and Austrian sides used various methods of manipulation during the creation of these maps in order to make them appear to their advantage. This tendency was particularly strong during the political upheavals of 1848, 1918 and the late 1930s.

On maps it is possible to notice "traditional" methods of manipulation, which also appear on non-cartographic documents (propaganda titles, texts or slogans), but also some specific methods, such as using the ideological subtext in the names of individual map features (e.g. border areas with a predominantly ethnic German population are marked on Lange's German map Deutsch-Österreich und die Tcheco-Slowakei from 1919 as "Vergewaltigte deutsche u. deutschfreundliche Gebiete", i.e. raped German and German-friendly areas), using manipulative colours or deliberate distortions with use of well-chosen data classification methods indicating the percentages of a certain ethnic group in a given territory (asymmetrical intervals, too narrowly or, on the contrary, broadly defined intervals, etc.). Czech authors' maps differed from those of German-speaking authors in their conception of who the Czechs actually are, whether they form one nation with Moravians or Slovaks, and how this ethnic group is referred to.

Ethnic maps of the Czech lands are important and so far only marginally used sources that clearly reflect the development and dynamics of Czech-German relations from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the Second World War. On a more general level, the study of these maps provides information on the way ethnic issues are thematised in cartographic documents, as well as on the methods and purpose of their deliberate distortion. Last but not least, the development of the cartographic representation of the Czech-German ethnic border can be compared with the mapping of other "conflicting" ethnic borders (e.g. between Poles and Germans or Slovaks and Hungarians).

Figure 1: The map Pays Tchéques. Bohême, Moravie, Silésie autrichienne et Slovaquie (ca 1919) uses the label "Czech lands" for Slovakia and distinguishes only between areas "inhabited by Czechoslovaks" and "mixed areas" throughout the territory. The Map Collection of the Institute of History of the CAS. (view)

Figure 2: In addition to the text emphasizing the restriction of the rights of Czech Germans, the German map by Friedrich Lange Grenzgebiete der Deutschen Republik. Sudetenländer (ca 1919) also contains the slogan „6 ½ Millionen Tschechen wollen 3 ½ Millionen Deutsche vergewaltigen!!!“ (i.e. 6.5 million Czechs want to rape 3.5 million Germans). The Map Collection of the Institute of History of the CAS. (view)

Figure 3: German map Volksgruppen in der Tschechoslowakei (1938) distinguishes Czechs and Slovaks as two ethnic groups, and it also identifies the Moravian Slovaks as a separate (sub)ethnic group. The Map Collection of the Institute of History of the CAS. (view)

Figure 4: Czech map République Tchécoslovaque: carte ethnographique et biologique (ca 1921–1922) uses an unbalanced colour scale (100–80%, 80–50%, 50–20%, 20–5%) and identifies the territories inhabited by Czechoslovaks and unspecified minorities. Territories, where Czechoslovaks make up less than 5% of the population, are not marked using the colour like other areas, but only with points. Moreover, their homogeneity is disturbed by a 'biological' element - the areas of border forests marked in green, called "des grandes forêts sur la frontière du territorie habité par les Tchécoslovaques" (i.e. large forests on the border of the territory inhabited by Czechoslovaks). The ethnically German territory is thus depicted as a partly wooded, sparsely populated area. (view)


Thanks to the financial support of the AV21 Strategy programme, national maps of the Czech lands from the Map Collection of the Institute of History of the CAS were catalogued and digitised.

Bibliographic records are available in the online catalogue of the library of the Institute of History of the CAS. High-resolution scans of maps with basic bibliographic descriptions are available in the virtual map collection Chartae Antiquae.