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The Tsar's Photographer and His Amazing Contribution to the Preservation of Russian History

100 photos, 100 years old or older, 100 years after Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky completed his historic quest to capture the beauty, diversity, and spiritual power of Tsarist Russia

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Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky was a Russian chemist and photographer famous for his pioneering work in color photography in the early twentieth century.

In 1905 Gorsky set himself to the task of photographically documenting the Russian Empire with the primary aim of educating Russian schoolchildren on the diverse history and culture of the realm. After his famous color photograph of renowned author Leo Tolstoy in 1908, Gorsky received an invitation to present his work to Tsar Nicholas II and his family. So impressed was the Tsar that he commissioned Gorsky's plan and provided him with funding and a specially-outfitted dark room rail car for his work.

From 1909 to 1915 Gorsky tirelessly traversed the Russian empire capturing thousands of shots of virtually every walk of Russian life. In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the completion of his historic mission, we are publishing 100 of his best shots, giving a vivid glimpse into Tsarist Russia on the eve of the Communist Revolution.  


'War and Peace' author Leo Tolstoy - 1908



84-year-old Pinkhus Karlinsky was the supervisor of the Chernigov floodgate over the course of 66 years - 1909


Dagestani couple - between 1909-1915


Assumption Cathedral in the Dalmatov Monastery - 1912


Assumption Cathedral in Tobolsk, rampart and part of fence - 1912


Austrian prisoners of war at a barracks near Kiappeselga - 1915


Young boy standing next to a gatepost - 1910


Bukharan bureaucrat - between 1909-1915


Cathedral in Shadrinsk - 1912


Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God at the Ipatevsky Monastery - 1910


Cathedral of the Transfigured Savior and Church of the Entry to Jerusalem in Torzhok - 1910


Foreman of the Chakva tea factory, Lau Dzhen Dzhau - between 1909-1915


Chapel from the time of Peter the Great near the Kivach Waterfall near the river Suna - 1915


Chapel where the city of Belozersk was founded in ancient times - 1909


Children sitting on a hill near a church and belltower in the countryside near White Lake in northern Russia - 1909


Church of the Resurrection of the Blood - between 1909-1915


Church of the Holy Mother of God in Tobolsk - 1912


Church of the Resurrection in the Grove in Kostroma - 1910


View of Dalmatov from the monastery belltower - 1912


Joining of the Irtysh and Tobol rivers - 1912


Courtyard of the Church of the Resurrection - between 1909-1915


Dagestani couple - between 1909-1915


Dmitrievsky Cathedral in Vladimir - 1911


Drying nets on Lake Seliger - 1910


Entrance to the Church of the Resurrection in Kostroma - 1910


Exit from the yard of the Church of St. George at the Riurik fortress Staraya Lagoda - 1909


Carpet merchant in Samarqand - between 1909-1915


Family working iron mines in the Bakaly Hills with shovels and horse-drawn carts - between 1909-1915


Farmers taking a rest from haying - 1909


Russian forest - 1910


Column fresco in the Church of St. John Chrystosom in Yaroslavl - 1911


Overview of Artvin from the small town of Svet - between 1909-1915


View of Liksansky Palace from the Kura River - between 1909-1915


View of Nikolaevsky Cathedral from the southwest - 1911


View of Shakh-i-Zendi Mosque in Samarkand - between 1909-1915


Georgian woman standing next to a tree - between 1909-1915


Girl with berries - 1909


Sergei Gorsky at the Karolitskhali River - 1912


Gospel belonging to the nun Varsanofiya, governess of the Tsarevna, in Trinity Monastery in Alexandrov - 1911


Group of Greek tea harvesters in Chavka - between 1909-1915


Hay storage at the Viazovaya Station - 1910


Iconostasis at a church in Borodino - 1911


Iconostasis at the Winter Church of the Fedorov Mother of God in Yaroslavl - 1911


Treasures in the vestry of the Ipatevsky Monastery in Kostroma - 1911


Borodino Museum - 1911


Jewish children with their teacher in Samarqand - between 1909-1915


Production shop for scabbards at the Zlatoust arms plant - 1910


Boat Yard in Kareshka - 1909


Large gathering of men in Central Asia, possibly for a game of Bayga - between 1909-1915


Workers laying concrete for a dam over the Oka River - 1912


Locomotive and coal car at a railroad yard - between 1909-1915


Horseman on the Golodnaya Steppe - between 1909-1915


Man sitting among bamboo trees - between 1909-1915


Man sitting on a log next to a hut for woodcutters - 1912


Melon vendor in Samarqand - between 1909-1915


Mills in Tobolsk Province - 1912


The last Emir of Bukhara, Mohammad Alim Khan - 1911


Artistic casting at Kasli Iron Works - between 1909-1915


Monks planting potatoes at Gethsemane Monastery - 1910


Mother of God-Odigitria in the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin in Smolensk - 1912


Mullahs at a mosque in Aziziya Batum - between 1909-1915


Sergei Gorsky near the Kivach Waterfall on the Suna River - 1915


Hotel in Gagra with chauffeur in front - between 1909-1915


Night camp by a rock on the banks of the Chusovaya - 1912


Kyrgyz family on the steppe - between 1909-1915


Noviy Afon Monastery Ponds - between 1909-1915


An old man in Samarqand holding a brace of birds - between 1909-1915


Ordezh River near Siverskaya Station in Petersburg Province - between 1909-1915


Handcar outside Petrozavodsk on the Murmansk Railway - between 1909-1915


Skuritskhali River - between 1909-1915


Guests standing near Catherine's Spring at a spa at Borzhom - between 1909-1915


Rafts on Peter the Great Canal in Shlisselburg - 1909


Right bank of the Irtysh River at Tobolsk - 1912


Hauberk and helmet of St. Dalmat - 1912


Sart fields in Samarqand - between 1909-1915


Sergei Gorsky with two Cossaks in Murman - 1915


Settler's family in village of Grafovka - between 1909-1915


Steam engine 'Kompaund' with Schmidt super heater - 1915


Stork in a nest in Bukhara - between 1909-1915


Tile stove in the prince's chamber in Rosta Veliky - 1911


Tow rope bridge in the village of Lava - 1909


Trinity Cathedral in the city of Lalaturovsk - 1912


Trinity monastery in the city of Tumen - 1912


Tsar Aleksei Mikhaelovich's gospel and Tsar Mikhael Feodorovich's sacremental vessels in Trinity Monastery in Alexandrov - 1911


Tsarist gifts to the Goritsky Monastery - 1909


Two men and a woman standing outside the Zlatoust arms plant - 1910


Two men and two boys in Samarqand - between 1909-1915


Two men with a boat in Ostrechiny - 1909


Shir-Dar madrasa in Samarqand - between 1909-1915


Solovetsky Monastery - 1915


View of Tbilisi from St. David Church - between 1909-1915


View of Dalmatov Monastery from the Iset River - 1912


View of Tobolsk from Assumption Cathedral - 1912


Village of Kolchedan - 1912


Weighing station at the Chakva tea factory - between 1909-1915


Woman in Purdah standing next to a wooden door - between 1909-1915


Woman spinning yarn in the village of Izvedod - 1910


Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord in the village of Pidma - 1909


Young woman in Malorossi (Ukraine) - between -1909-1915


Young women offer berries to visitors to their izbas - traditional wooden houses along the Sheksna River near Kirillov - 1909

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