russia in color: a century ago

russia in color series
Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara, seated holding a sword in Bukhara (present-day Uzbekistan), ca. 1910.

Between 1909 and 1912, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II and the Ministry of Transportation. Prokudin-Gorskii used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near-true color images. The high quality of the images, combined with the bright colors, make it difficult for viewers to believe that they are looking 100 years back in time. When these photographs were taken, neither the Russian Revolution nor World War I had yet begun. Collected here are a few of the hundreds of color images made available by (the miracle that is) the Library of Congress, which purchased the original glass plates back in 1948.

A chapel sits on the site where the city of Belozersk was founded in ancient times, ca. 1909.

An Armenian woman in national costume poses for Prokudin-Gorskii on a hillside near Artvin (near present-day Turkey), ca. 1910.

A view of the Nikolaevskii Cathedral in Mozhaisk, ca. 1911.

A man and woman pose in Dagestan, ca. 1910.

Metal truss bridge on stone piers, part of the Trans-Siberian Railway, crossing the Kama River near Perm, Ural Mountains Region, ca. 1910.

A boy leans on a wooden gatepost in the Ural Mountain region, 1910.


In this last image, Self-portrait on the Karolitskhali River (ca. 1910), Prokudin-Gorskii is seated on a rock beside the Karolitskhali River. The Karolitskhali is located in the Caucasus Mountains near the seaport of Batumi on the eastern coast of the Black Sea.

I'm enthralled by this whole Prokudin-Gorskii trove. Next post will offer more information on the innovative, ingenious process that Prokudin-Gorskii developed to produce these brilliant images.

:library of congress


i still have a dream

The night before he was murdered, Martin Luther King warned, in his famous "I See the Promised Land" speech in Memphis, that "if something isn't done, and in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed."

In "A Christmas Sermon on Peace," broadcast on Christmas Eve 1967 on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as part of the Massey Lectures, Dr. King acknowledged "that not long after talking about" the dream in Washington in 1963,
"I started seeing it turn into a nightmare."

He spoke of the nightmarish conditions of Birmingham, where four girls were murdered in a church bombing a few weeks after his speech. He spoke of the punishing poverty that he observed in the nation's ghettoes as the antithesis of his dream, as were the race riots and the Vietnam War. King confessed that while "I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes," that "I still have a dream."

By 1967, Martin Luther King had stretched his dream to include the desire "that one day the idle industries of Appalachia will be revitalized, and the empty stomachs of Mississippi will be filled, and brotherhood will be more than a few words at the end of prayer, but rather the first order of business on every legislative agenda."

These speeches place Dr. King's dream in the broader context of his spiritual and moral evolution over the last three years of his life. Set free from the ideological confines of his "I Have a Dream" speech, King's true ethical ambitions were free to breathe through the words he spoke and wrote as he made his way to the promised land. Perhaps even more so than when he dreamed out loud in Washington in 1963, Dr. King's act of dreaming in 1967 was a courageous act of social imagination and national hope:

Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can't give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.