I'm a glaciologist user of declassified US Spy satellite images (Corona Key Hole satelites, Hexagon, etc.), that provide an extraordinary record of glacier extent at resolutions equivalent to about 4 meters per pixel (see this amazing example). There are also ex Soviet Union declassified images from the '60s onward from satellites like Zenit-4, Resurs-F1, Okean-O1, etc. with similar technical specification than the US images or maybe better (they had color and NIR capability). However all my attempts to access such images end up in pages written in Russian that I can't understand or navigate trough. Some interesting information about sources of imagery is here (search for "Subject: Russian Imagery"), but with my null knowledge of Russian I haven't been able to find where to order such imagery, not an online catalog, nor to find if such catalog even exist.

So: Does anyone know how to access/order declassified ex Soviet Union imagery?

[EDIT January 25 2018: I've added and answer below with information I found regarding an archive containing part of the images but not all.]

As an example, here is a 1973 Zenith image taken over antarctica: enter image description here

And here is a crop of the above image compared with Landsat 7 ETM+ at 30 meters per pixel. However, according to specifications, properly scan film should provide a much sharper and detailed image: enter image description here

  • I am not sure about the robustness in Russian but the google translate would help you to proceed a bit further.
    – fatih_dur
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 1:35
  • I tried that. But it doesn't translate the buttons and menus. I tried to follow all of them in a couple pages, but the answers, if there, were more than one link away. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 2:42
  • Did you look at what is available at the EROS data center? They have a lot of that declassified imagery there. You may have to georeference them yourself. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 18:31
  • @jchurchill Yes, I have. The example I posted (as a link) is indeed a mosaic of ortorectified images I made from Hexagon declassified images dowloaded from EROS, but trey don't have any russian/ex-Soviet Union imagery. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 18:40
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    @PolyGeo The problem with that is that it might not reach the people who might know the answer, who are most likely part of the GIS/Remote Sensing community. Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 6:17

5 Answers 5


As others have shown interest for this question I'll answer it using the information I've been able to gather so far:

There might be more than one archive or old Soviet Union imagery. As there were both military and civil missions (in contrast, film-recovery mission were forbidden in the US for non-military proposes).

The archive I know of so far is handled by the "Federal scientific and technological center of geodesy, cartography and infrastructure of spatial data" and contain more than 439,000 frames covering the whole world between 1974 and 1999.

From the many e-mails and contact messages, I've only received answers from INNOTER. They have been very helpful and provided me with shape files of the whole archive. The frames have not been digitized yet but the metadata is well kept, with footprint polygons for each frame, date, time, solar elevation and even percentage of cloud cover.

I've created the following figure showing the whole coverage of the archive. enter image description here

The images have been taken with three camera models: KATE-200 (in green and from 1974 to 1999), KFA-1000 (in magenta and from 1974 to 1999), and MK-4 (in yellow and from 1988 to 1995), here are some specifications for each camera: enter image description here

Multizonal and spectrazonal are different kinds of film that can be used by the MK-4 camera.

I'll update in the future with more details about the digitization process, that doesn't seem to be well established.

Any help in locating the archives derived from the many missions launched on the 60's would be highly appreciated.


I'm afraid, but there is only little chance, that such images will be in wide access. Most part of such images is still on film source, not in digital. Maybe there are resources, forums, trackers etc., where You can find portions of these images. But I think, most of them will cover territory of ex-S.U. The biggest glacial image archive is property of Russian Geography Society. How to make order from that arcgive - IDK.

  • Thanks Sergey, in fact it looks like most of the images have not been digitized. However, given that several companies sell them (as pointed in the cited link), make me think that some sort of catalog in digital format must exist. And even if most images cover the ex S.U., there must be plenty over others areas, as they embarked on a whole globe mapping protect. I do have Russian maps of the whole of South America produced on the '70s, and I'm not aware of extensive Russian surveys on that time, so most likely they were compiled from satellite imagery from the mentioned platforms. Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 19:22
  • I know several imagery dealers, that can have archive images. They are Sovzond, ScanEx, Innoter. I can help You with translation. I also asked a couple of scietists - glaciologists, maybe they can help with the data sources or something else.
    – Sergey N
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 5:54
  • Thanks again Sergey. The web pages of those companies are thankfully bilingual with English option (en.sovzond.ru , scanex.ru/en/?setlang=en, innoter.com/?language=en). Sovzond has an online catalog but without any historical image. ScanEx have a non working catalog link, and doesn't mention any product related with historical imagery. Innoter does not have a catalog but their order form allows to select the Kometa satellite, I asked whether they have 70's and 80's imagery. I'll contact the other two to find out if they can offer historical imagery and report here. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 18:02
  • Glacilogist, that I've asked, answered, that it is a difficult task to find declassified historical images, even for scientists in Russia. He used images from Keyhole satellight programm.
    – Sergey N
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 5:58
  • Thanks! However those are bad news. I hope to find a way to access those images. It is clearly not easy, I'll see if I get anything back from the companies I've sent messages. Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 6:16

I would suggest contacting the Russian embassy in the country that you live or work in, (N.B. If you work in a government or government funded job seek permission first).

Explain what you are looking for and why and you will almost certainly find them very helpful in:

  • Pointing you towards any online resorces
  • Possibly assisting with translation
  • Putting you in touch with Russian researchers who are working in the same area and speak English
  • Possibly providing access to film images or prioritising digitising them
  • Possibly even assisting in trying to get more recent images from the same area declassified sooner than would otherwise be possibly or allowing you limited access to still classified images for this express purpose.
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    Thanks Steve, that is definitely a possible approach. However, it is quite a lengthy endeavour to start without knowing even if they have cloud-free imagery on a given area of interest. That's why I'm looking for some sort of catalog, and I think there is good reasons to believe that a catalog in digital format exists somewhere. Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 19:28

You can try to write an official letter to "Федеральный научно-технический центр геодезии, картографии и инфраструктуры пространственных данных" ("Federal scientific and technological center of geodesy, cartography and infrastructure of spatial data"). As mentioned on their page (only in russian):

  1. Предоставление материалов дистанционного зондирования Земли (ДЗЗ).

4.1. Цифровые материалы

4.1.1. Цифровые ортофотопланы местности.

4.2. Аналоговые материалы (период создания с 1954 по 2008) **.

4.2.2. Материалы космической съемки местности (1972–2000 г.г.).

4.2.3. Материалы аэрофотосъемки (АФС) местности (1954–2008 гг.).

**В настоящее время в Учреждении отсутствует специализированное оборудование для сканирования фотоматериалов. Заказчику необходимо заключить договор на сканирование снимков с организацией, имеющей специализированный сканер.

They receive requests for submitting aerial and satellite images:

Provision of remote sensing materials (Earth remote sensing). 4.1. Digital materials

4.1.1. Digital orthophotomaps of the area.

4.2. Analog materials (creation period from 1954 to 2008) **.

4.2.2. Materials of the space survey of the area (1972-2000).

4.2.3. Materials of aerial photography (AFS) of the terrain (1954-2008).

** Currently, the agency lacks specialized equipment for scanning photographic materials. The customer needs to conclude a contract for scanning images with an organization that has a specialized scanner.

I could help you with russian translation if you want to send an official letter.

I must also warn of the high probability of non-receipt of data, since the procedure for obtaining them is heavily bureaucratized. If the data is classified, then the probability of obtaining them is zero, since this requires a license from the FSB (Federal Security Service).

Here is requirements for the package of documents and form for data receiving (they only works with paper requests, no email requests allowed).


Unfortunately you can't get imagery from Soviet and post-Soviet (1991-2010) images, I literally checked every Rus web-site that offers imagery and no one could offer me scans. As you mentioned earlier cgkipd.ru is a site that offers imagery, but it only works for Russian residents with GOSUSLIGI+ESIA online account, this is legally impossible for US resident to have this account. At least I have an account, what's next? When logged in, FPPD literally says that they have to keep 95.6% of data in secret. So, this website is useless for acquiring anything except for newer imagery, as I didn't ever see that analog (film) source was open or declassified. Ordering from this site will cost a lot, and it is better to order new imagery from roscocmos (https://next.gptl.ru/)(Only one website where you can order imagery with no problem).

However, you can try to contact roscosmos, as they have RESURS imagery

enter image description here

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