Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

Russia, In Color, 100 Years Ago

Armenian woman in costume

This article was recommended on a listserve that I subscribe to and I wanted to share it with my readers. I can’t believe how haunted I am by these photos.

They were taken between 1909 and 1912 by a photographer, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who was commissioned by Czar Nicholas II to do a photographic survey of the Russian Empire. What is really fascinating to me is that there was no color film back in that time. So what he did is he captured three black and white images and then during development, used different colored filters and combined the different colors into layers and then printed these photos. He took hundreds of photos which are now owned by the Library of Congress who purchased the glass plates in 1948.

Photographs such as these are typically sepia at this point and many are damaged from poor storage. These photographs are so vivid and beautiful and provide an amazing link to the past that to me, is easier to view and relate to than those old faded sepias. They share a life and a culture that no longer exists.

My grandparents lived in Russia and my great-grandmother was in Hungary during this time period, although they were very young and left to come to America right about the time these photos were taken. They all died when I was pretty young and I don’t recall many stories about the ‘old country’ being told. My great-grandmother didn’t want to talk about her life there. She lived in a ghetto and I suspect she was glad to get out and leave her memories of poverty behind. I look at these photos, and I am able to see my relatives in a context of where they were from, and perhaps understand a bit more about what their lives must have been like.

I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do. 

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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