39 Psychedelic Photos Of Pre-Revolution Russia

Published October 14, 2016
Updated August 15, 2017
Photog With Friends
Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii seated with two men in Murmansk. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Church Of Saint Nicholas The Wonder Worker
The church of Saint Nicholas the Wonder Worker in a work settlement called Nyrob. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Antique Peasant Dress
A woman in peasant dress. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Peasant Girls
Three peasant girls offer berries outside of their "izba," a traditional log house.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Artvin Street
A view of the mountainside village of Artvin, in Turkey, which Russia occupied until 1917. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Armenian Woman National Costume
An Armenian woman in holiday attire in Artvin.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Armenian Women
Two Catholic Armenian women from Artvin in traditional dress. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Church Of Saints Peter And Paul
Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Belozersk, Russia. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Andrei Petrov Kalganov
Andreĭ Petrov Kalganov, the foreman at a factory in the town of Zlatoust.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Kolchedan Ural Mountains
The village of Kolchedan, in the Ural Mountains

Bashkir Woman
A Bashkir woman in traditional costume. The Bashkir are the indigenous people of the Ural Mountains. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Church In Vetluga
A church in the town of Vetluga. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Assumption Monastery
A cross in front of a monastery for women in Staraya Ladoga.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Church Of The Resurrection Outside
Church of the Resurrection in Kostroma. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Church Of The Resurrection
The courtyard of the Church of the Resurrection.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Gerogian Women
Georgian women seated in a park in holiday dress.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

In Paltoga
A man leans on a fence in the small village of Paltoga.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Greek Women Harvesting Tea
A group of Greek women harvesting tea in Chakva, Georgia. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Haying At The Leushinskii Monastery
Women rake hay in a field outside of the Leushinskii Monastery.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Peasants Haying
Peasants working in a hay field near what was then called the Mariinsk Canal System, which links the Volga river with the Baltic sea. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Woodcutters On The Svir River
Woodcutters on the Svir River.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Head Study
Portrait of an unknown woman. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Melon Vendor Samarkand
A melon vendor in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Purdah Woman Samarkand
A woman in Samarkand practicing Purdah, a Muslim tradition in which women seclude themselves from the rest of the community by living separately and covering themselves in a full-body veil.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Jewish Girls Samarkand
Two Jewish girls in Samarkand. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Jewish Teacher Samarkand
A group of Jewish children with their teacher in Samarkand.

Emir Bukhara
The Emir, a traditional Muslim chief, of Bukhara, Uzbekistan.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Sigovets Rapids
A home near the Sigovets rapids.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Kivach Waterfall
A self-portrait of Prokudin-Gorskii posing by the Suna River.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Kovzha Factory
A view of the Kovzha River.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

On The River
A family on the Svir River. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Ministry Of Communications
A guardhouse on the Volga-Baltic Waterway. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Monument Emperor Peter The Great
A monument to Emperor Peter the Great in the city of Lodeynoye Pole.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Naziya River
A view of the village of Naziya from the river. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Novaia Ladoga
The town of Novaya Ladoga.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Petrozavodsk On The Murmansk Railway
Prokudin-Gorskii rides a railway handcar along with some workers on the Murmansk railway.Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Pinkhus Karlinskii
Pinkhus Karlinskii, 84, manning the floodgate in Chernigov, Ukraine, a post he held for 66 years. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Kyrgyz Family Uzbekistan
A nomadic Kyrgyz family in Uzbekistan.

Sunni Muslim Man
A Sunni Muslim man in the Dagestan region of Russia. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

From 1909 to 1915, photographer and chemist Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii traveled around the Russian Empire, documenting life in its most rural corners. He photographed farms, small villages, and churches, capturing the daily lives of the people he encountered along the way.

And Gorskii didn't travel for the sake of travel, or photography, itself: In this ambitious project, Gorskii pioneered color photography techniques he hoped would educate Russian school children on the history, culture, and modernization of their homeland.

The resulting photos provide a haunting record of an empire on the brink of revolution.


Next, check out 45 haunting photos taken during the last days of the Romanovs, just before the revolution began.

author
Elisabeth Sherman
author
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey. She holds a Master's in writing from Columbia University, and her work has appeared in Food & Wine, The Guardian, Yahoo, BBC, HuffPost, VICE, MSN, and Vulture.
editor
John Kuroski
editor
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Sherman, Elisabeth. "39 Psychedelic Photos Of Pre-Revolution Russia." AllThatsInteresting.com, October 14, 2016, https://allthatsinteresting.com/russian-empire-photos. Accessed May 18, 2024.