Posted on December 1, 2009 - by Venik
I am not even Russian, but I cannot help being overcome by a sense of melancholy, nostalgia and loss when I see these glorious century-old color photographs of Imperial Russia and her people. These were taken in the decade before the First World War ruined so much that is here presented.
The pictures by the intrepid chemist and photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who departed Russia in 1918, were purchased by the Library of Congress in 1944 and appeared recently on the Denver Post blog site ( brought to our attention by Mike Averko).
The sheer geographic sweep of these photos is part of their grandeur, reminding us of the unmatched reach of eternal Russia. But the deepest poignancy resides in the dignified faces and bearing of varied Russian people in the days before seven decades of calamity beset their country. Notice the photographer’s pride that displays Russia’s new factories and bridges, as well as old people in their regional costumes. The 84 year old river ferryman is surely a classic; the photo, in its tonal sentiment, evokes a painting one might find in the Hermitage. This collection is like a pictoral tour of the landscape of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s soul.
This Russia was betrayed and sold out by the Communists. Now we have new post-Communist generations frantic to catch up with modernity and “normality”, but pausing sometimes, perhaps, strangely aware that there is something they are missing from the past.