Incredible colorized photos show Russia before the Communist revolution

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Pinkhus Karlinskii, the eighty-four years supervisor of Chernigov floodgate, poses for a photo.
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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

World War I drastically changed the face of Europe and set the stage of the even more staggering changes wrought by World War II.

Before the start of World War I, just over a hundred years ago in 1914, European empires still controlled vast swathes of territory, Communist revolutions had yet to spread across the globe, and the Russian Empire controlled Finland, the Baltics, Ukraine, and large portions of Poland.

The following photos, from the Prokudin-Gorskii Collection in the Library of Congress, offers an amazing glimpse into pre-Communist revolution Russia. The photos were taken throughout the Russian Empire between 1905 and 1915 and have been colorized to to give a unique view of what life was like during the last days of the empire.


A view of the Assumption of the Mother of God Church in Deviatiny, which was 200 years old when the photo was taken in 1909.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Andrei Petrov Kalganov, a former master at a production plant, poses in regalia, after being able to present bread and salt to His Imperial Majesty, the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Three young women offer berries to visitors to their izba, a traditional wooden house, in a rural area along the Sheksna River, near the town of Kirillov.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A family sits in front of hay stacks in a hay field during harvest time.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A guardhouse stands in the forest as the guardsman tills the land outside.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Pinkhus Karlinskii, the eighty-four years supervisor of Chernigov floodgate, poses for a photo.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A fisherman works on the banks of the Iset River in 1910.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A woman peasant poses in ‘Little Russia,’ which is present day Ukraine.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Workers on the handcar outside Petrozavodsk on the Murmansk railway.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

In the forest near the Kivach waterfall on the Suna River.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Photographer Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich Prokudin-Gorskiĭ and two men in Cossak dress seated on the ground.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A Laika dog rests on the shore of Lake Lindozero in 1910.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A group of railroad construction participants pose near the town of Kem.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A side view of Trinity Cathedral and the electric station at the Solovetskii Monastery, Solovetski Islands.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A steam engine “Kompaund” with a Schmidt super-heater engine.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

The crew of the steamship “Sheksna” of the Ministry of Communication and Transportation.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

On the deckhouse of the steamboat “Sheksna” of the Ministry of Communication and Transportation.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A group of children pose in 1909.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Entrance to the grounds of Leushinskii Monastery for women, Leushina, Russian Empire.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A monument dedicated to the opening of the Onezhskii Canal, Russian Empire.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Peasants rest during haying, 1909.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

Two people with a boat, 1909.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress

A switch operator poses on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, near the town of Ust Katav on the Yuryuzan River.

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Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/Library of Congress