These rare color photos by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii document the Russian empire between 1909 and 1915. With the support of Tsar Nicholas II, Prokudin-Gorskii traveled throughout the Russian empire in a specially outfitted train car conducting a photographic survey, according to the Library of Congress, which owns the original slides (Captured: Color Photography from Russia in the Early 1900’s).
Using a special technique that captured three black and white photographs in succession, the pictures could then be combined using red, green and blue filters to create realistic color. The result is vivid photographs that look startlingly modern. The world that Prokudin-Gorskii carefully documented was soon to be destroyed by the Russian revolution, and he would leave Russia himself in 1918 for France. However, these amazing photographs remain as a vivid reminder of Russia’s diverse peoples and rich history.
Peasant girls, Russian Empire. Three young women offer berries to visitors to their izba, a traditional wooden house, in a rural area along the Sheksna River, near the town of Kirillov; 1909.
Man and camel loaded with packs; between 1905 and 1915.
Bashkir switchman; 1910.
Isfandiyar, Khan of the Russian protectorate of Khorezm (Khiva), full-length portrait, in uniform, seated on chair, outdoors; between 1910 and 1915.
Photographer posing with two others; 1915.
In Little Russia (Ukraine); between 1905 and 1915.
Alim Khan, Emir of Bukhara, seated holding sword; between 1905 and 1915.
Boy standing by wooden gatepost; 1910.
Work at the Bakalskii mine; 1910.
Andrei Petrov Kalganov. Former master in the plant. Seventy-two years old, has worked at the plant for fifty-five years. He was fortunate to present bread and salt to His Imperial Majesty, the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II, Zlatoust; 1910.
On the Karolitskhali River, self portrait of photographer Prokudin-Gorskii in suit and hat, seated on rock beside the Karolitskhali River, with mountains in background; between 1905 and 1915.
Pinkhus Karlinskii, eighty-four years. Sixty-six years of service. Supervisor of Chernigov floodgate, Russian Empire; 1909.
Crew of the steamship “Sheksna” of the M.P.S. (Ministry of Communication and Transportation), Russian Empire; 1909.
Dagestani types, Group of women posed outdoors; between 1905 and 1915.
Construction of iron-concrete frames for the lock’s walls, Beloomut, Uniformed man posed in framework of lock; 1912.
Mosque in Vladikavkaz; between 1905 and 1915.
Shepherd posed near a hillside, Samarkand; between 1905 and 1915.
Georgian woman standing on a carpet, outside, near a tree; between 1905 and 1915.
Mugan, Settler’s family, Settlement of Grafovka; between 1905 and 1915.
Group of workers harvesting tea. Greek women, Chakva; between 1905 and 1915.
Dagestani types, Man and woman posed outdoors; between 1905 and 1915.
Camel caravan carrying thorns for fodder, Golodnaia Steppe; between 1905 and 1915.
Melon vendor, Samarkand; between 1905 and 1915.
At work on the upper reaches of the Syr-Darya, Golodnaia Steppe, Four men on a horse-drawn cart, next to a cliff; between 1905 and 1915.
Migrant farmstead in the settlement of Nadezhdinsk with a group of peasants, Golodnaia Steppe; between 1905 and 1915.