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[In pictures] Pre-revolutionary Russia as you may never have seen it before


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[In pictures] Pre-revolutionary Russia as you may never have seen it before

Photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii became famous throughout Russia after taking a colour shot of Leo Tolstoy.

In 1909, the photograph brought him to the attention of Tsar Nicholas II, who provided both the funding and authority for Prokudin-Gorskii to embark on what he described as his “life’s work”.


‘Andrei Petrov Kalganov’. Former master at the Zlatoust plant. Taken in 1910, when he was 72 years old and had worked at the plant for 55 years. He had the opportunity to present bread and salt to His Imperial Majesty, the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II. [Zlatoust]

He went on to spend much of the next ten years travelling the length and breadth of the Russian Empire, recording his findings in more than 10,000 colour photographs, which he developed in a darkroom created from a specially-modified railway carriage.


‘Girl with strawberries’, 1909. [Russian Empire]

In 1918, shortly after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, Prokudin-Gorskii left Russia and eventually settled in Paris with his family. As he departed from his homeland, approximately half of his negatives were confiscated by the Russian authorities. The photographer’s heirs sold those remaining to the Library of Congress in 1948.


‘Kush-Beggi’ (Minister of the Interior), taken between 1905 and 1915. [Bukhara]

Here we can see a selection of the images, which capture the diversity of the pre-Revolution Russian Empire.

  • 'Armenian women (Catholics) in customary dress', taken between 1905 and 1915. [Artvin] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Armenian women in holiday attire', taken between 1905 and 1915. [Artvin] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Austrian prisoners of war near a barrack', 1915. [near Kiappeselga] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Bashkir woman in a folk costume', 1910 - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Church of Saint John the Precursor on Malyshevaia Hill', 1909. [Staraia Ladoga, Russian Empire] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Crew of the steamship "Sheksna" of the M.P.S.' (Ministry of Communication and Transportation), 1909. [Russian Empire] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Dagestani types', taken between 1905 and 1915. - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Entrance into the yard of the Church of Saint George', 1909 [Staraia Ladoga, Russian Empire] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Georgian woman', taken between 1905 and 1915 - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'On the handcar outside Petrozavodsk on the Murmansk railway', 1915 - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Kurd woman with children', taken between 1905 and 1915. [Artvin] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Man with camel loaded with packs', taken between 1905 and 1915 - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Mugan. Settler's family', taken between 1905 and 1915. [Settlement of Grafovka] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Mullahs in mosque', taken between 1905 and 1915. [Aziziia, Batumi] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Old cross in the Assumption Monastery for women', 1909. [Staraia Ladoga, Russian Empire] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Pinkhus Karlinskii', 84 years old. Taken in 1909 after he had done 66 years of service as supervisor of Chernigov floodgate. [Russian Empire] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Nikolaevskii Cathedral from the left bank of the Western Dvina', 1912. [Polotsk] - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

  • 'Russian children sitting on the side of a hill near a church and bell tower in the countryside near White Lake, in the north of European Russia', 1909 - Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

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