Photography Tsar

Much like French financier Albert Kahn, Tsar Nicholas II was keen on capturing native peoples and places in color.  So, on the eve of the first world war and the Russian Revolution, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii talked Nicholas into backing his plan to capture the Russian Empire on digichrome glass plates. Between 1909-1912, and again in 1915, he completed surveys of eleven regions, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation. The entire survey is available through the Library of Congress.  Above: an interior shot of the Borodino War and History Museum outside Moscow.

For more examples of the Albert Kahn collection, check out the recent posts at Ancient Industries.

And for a taste of modern Russia, check out my cousin Thomas flipping pancakes and speaking Russian in Petrozavodsk during his study abroad break from Oxford last year (the video only works on PCs).  

Austrian POWs

An elderly Tajik man in an area that is modern Uzbekistan today

Russian settlers in the borderlands of Southern Russia near the Caucuses and the Caspian Sea

A guard in traditional Russian garb monitors five inmates stuffed into a zindan, a traditional Central Asian prison

A Dagestani couple in the Caucuses 

A tea weighing station

Camp 1912

A Bashkir switch operator poses by the mainline of the railroad, near the town of Ust' Katav on the Yuryuzan River between Ufa and Cheliabinsk in the Ural Mountain region of European Russia.

Interior of a Uzbekistani textile mill ~1915


  1. jones says:

    Wonderful! Thank you for the trip back in time--such a beautiful country.

  2. Beautiful images.

    p.s. Why are old textile mills so creepy looking?

  3. Muffy says:

    Fascinating photos! Hubby's family comes from those environs, back in those days. I found myself searching faces for similarities to my exotic looking children. Very interesting.

  4. Wonderful! I have a Russophile friend that is going to go bonkers when he sees this.

  5. Liane says:

    Thanks for sharing these. They are magnificent. The one of the couple is spell-binding.

  6. I felt like I was reading my U4 Haplogroup blog.. lol.. nice..

  7. Those are my people! It's crazy to think that my grandmother, who was totally American, grew up as a child in that place. Thanks for the post.

  8. erin says:

    LOVE Russia. copying.