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c. 1905 - 1915

See Russia before 1917, brought to life in colorized photos

These images show the span of the Czar's empire

The photographs are the work of Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944). After taking a color portrait of Tolstoy, Prokudin-Gorskii became known to the then-Czar Nicholas II. 

Commissioned and funded by the Czar, he was to travel the span of the empire, capturing it in color. In total, Prokudin-Gorskii took more than 10,000 images.  He utilized a remodeled railroad car as a darkroom.

Prokudin-Gorsky’s color photographic process, never commercialized, used three individual black-and-white exposures, through a red, green or blue filter. Brought together, the three filtered exposures revealed the full color image.

Not all the photographs have a specific date, but all were taken between 1905 and 1915.

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Prokudin-Gorsky left Russia in 1918 after the Communist Revolution and ultimately came to settle with his family in Paris. Approximately half of his negatives were confiscated by the Russian authorities on his departure.

In 1948, the remaining images—just over 2,600—were bought by the Library of Congress from Prokudin-Gorskii’s sons.

1911
The Emir of Bukhara, Alim Khan (1880-1944).
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1911
A Rabbi and students.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1909
A fire brigade.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
Inmates in a zindan.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1909
A group of women haying at the Leushinskii Monastery.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
Evgenievsky spring, Borzhom.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1909
Children on the side of a hill.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1910
A Bashkir switch operator.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1910
A group of laborers sitting in front of a pile of logs being transported as lumber, for the smelting of iron ore.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1910
A young Bashkir man, Ekhir.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1911
Melon vendor.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1912
Constructing a dam.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1915
Railroad and foot bridge across the Onda River, near Soroki Station.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
A street scene with vendors and a child.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
A group of laborers.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
A Surt woman.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
A woman spinning yarn in the village of Izvedovo.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
An Uzbek woman.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
Baĭga, Samarkand.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
Chinese foreman.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
Houses and a poppy field.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
On the Registan, men posed on steps of a mosque, Samarkand.
Settlers in Grafovka.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
September 4th, 1911
View from the bell tower, Belgorod.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
1909
Haymaking.
Prokudin-Gorskii/Library of Congress
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