The Library of Congress acquired in the late 1940s a large collection of glass plates / negatives of photos done in the early 1900s of Russian scenes. They were done by Prokudin-Gorskii during the time the Russian Empire still existed. He had even been known as the photographer to Russian Tsar Nicholas II. With the downfall of the royal empire and the murder of the Tsar and his family, Prokudin-Gorskii had managed to leave Russia in 1918 with his photo collection to eventually live in Paris, France, where he died in 1944. This collection now has been scanned and made digital on the Library of Congress’ web site. Such an unique opportunity to see scenes of Russian life under the Tsar are now open to anyone.
Prokudin-Gorskii was born in 1863 in Murom, Vladimir Province, Russia and trained as a chemist. His passion was with photography. Eventually he had patents for producing color film slides and for projecting color motion pictures. He began is journey of Russia to capture the vast and diverse history, culture, and modernization of the empire in the form of images between 1907 and 1915. Outfitted with a specially equipped railroad car darkroom provided by Tsar Nicholas II, and in possession of two permits that granted him access to restricted areas and cooperation from the empire’s bureaucracy were Prokudin-Gorskii to photography the real Russia — pre-1915.
To use the Library’s site over 2,605 Russian images by, Prokudin-Gorskii, use the search engine at the top. Place a keyword, location, surname or term for an industry, such as ‘sheep’ if your ancestor was a sheep herder. There is also the link which says “View All’. Click on this to have thumbnail image of the 2,605 digital images which you can then click on to enlarge. A hundred are shown as thumbnails at a time and you can then view the next page of 100 images. Place the mouse cursor over each thumbnail and a brief description will appear. Click on an image to enlarge it where a more detailed description is provided. Names of places are in the Russian language along with a translation.
For anyone with ancestors from Russia prior to 1915, these images of people, religious architecture, historic sites, industry, agriculture, public works construction, scenes along water and railway transportation routes, along with views of villages and cities will allow the descendants to step-back in time. There will be scenes long forgotten, now preserved to the researcher to view today.
Lastochkino Gnezdo, a castle atop a cliff in the Ukraine.< Return To Blog