Four short links: old Russian photos

I’ve been interested in old photos of Russia since visiting a fabulous exhibition at the Manezh in St Petersburg in late 2004. I still have vivid memories of pictures of the elderly Tolstoy riding his horse with his beard streaming, and a fascinating set of photos of the first trams in Petersburg. My love of such things has been reawakened by my first choice, sent to me by John Levin, whose ability to find so many interesting sites never ceases to amaze me.

1. Russia in color, a century ago. An extraordinary collection of pictures of the Russian Empire taken between 1909 and 1912 by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. As the preamble explains, the photographer used a special camera which took pictures with different coloured filters in quick succession, and although you can see a few places where the process hasn’t quite worked, for the most part the results are absolutely perfect and a real eye-opener.

2. Moskva, kotoroi net. Photos from around 1910 to the 1930s, with some particularly interesting images of the destruction of churches in the 1930s and evocative pictures of street life from before and after the revolution. Mostly in Russian, although at least one category has captions and explanations in English. Some of the photos are available for purchase from Retrofoto.

3. Nevsky Prospect. Some great pictures of old Nevsky, part of Berkeley’s Mapping Petersburg project. I don’t think either the Nevsky site or the wider project is particularly easy to navigate – they seem to have been designed with the appearance of the sites in mind, rather than their usability – but there’s some interesting stuff here.

4. New York Public Library Digital Gallery: Slavic and Baltic Collections. Some wonderful collections here, far too many to mention. From views of Petersburg, to portraits of Russian political exiles and convicts and pictures of events and personalities of the Russian Revolution, plus posters, drawings, etc., this is a very rich resource, and well worth a browse.

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