Color Photos of Russian Churches 100 Years Ago and Today

In this article there are some interesting photos of a few Russian churches made in 1910 and today. The fact that makes them more interesting the 1910 photos are color photos also!

Russian photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) received a few patents for his color photo technique. He traveled across Russia in the beginning of the 20th century and made thousands of photos. I visited his exhibition and the photos are really stunning, especially when you understand that they were made 100 years ago but are fully in color. That’s a real lost world of Russia before the Soviet era, before WW2 and WW1.

Prokudin-Gorskii left Russia in 1918, going first to Norway and England before settling in France. By then, the tsar and his family had been executed during the Russian Revolution, and the Communist rule had been established over what was once the Russian Empire. His unique images of Russia on the eve of the revolution — recorded on glass plates — were purchased by the United States’ Library of Congress in 1948 from his heirs.

In 2001, the Library of Congress produced an exhibition, The Empire that was Russia. For this exhibition, the glass plates were scanned and color images were produced digitally from the scanned red, green, and blue monochrome images, using a process called Digichromatography which was developed by Walter Frankhauser.

In 2004, the Library contracted with Blaise Agüera y Arcas to produce an automated color composite of each of the 1,902 negatives from the high resolution digital images of the glass plate negatives. A complete description of his process and a list of other sites that have prepared digital color composite images are in the collection profile at the Library of Congress.

And here are the few photos of some churches in Seliger region that were made by Prokudin-Gorskii almost 100 years ago and each photo goes with a corresponding photo of the same place made nowadays.
 prokudin-gorskii photos

Church in Ostashkov small town, 96 years ago. Check out the horse coach on the right. In the beginning of the 20th century when in the USA there were already 1,000,000 people in Russia there were only a few hundreds of passenger cars, the most common mean of transport was a horse powered transport.

prokudin-gorskii photos

Church in Ostashkov small town, today. Today there are almost no horse coaches, and even some road signs.

prokudin-gorskii photos

Ostashkov town, 96 years ago


prokudin-gorskii photos

Ostashkov town, today. Not a great change though.

prokudin-gorskii photos

Ostashkov town, Znamensky monastery, 96 years ago.

prokudin-gorskii photos

Same place, today, check those trees, on the first picture they were just planted and now there are big trees. Though probably these are already another generation of trees, two wars took place in this region so they might be burned down.

prokudin-gorskii photos

The Nilov Hermitage, 1910

prokudin-gorskii photos

Same view, today

prokudin-gorskii photos

Also Nilov Hermitage, 1910

prokudin-gorskii photos

And nowadays

prokudin-gorskii photos

Another view of the monastery in Nilov Hermitage, 1906

prokudin-gorskii photos

And today

prokudin-gorskii photos

The Nilove Hermitage, inside view, 1906

prokudin-gorskii photos

And nowadays

prokudin-gorskii photos

Another view of this place, check out the people 96 years ago

prokudin-gorskii photos

And nowadays the condition of the site is much worse.

prokudin-gorskii photos

Svetlitsa village near the Nilov hermitage, 1906

prokudin-gorskii photos

And today there is no more church, what a pity.

prokudin-gorskii photos

Another small church, 1906

prokudin-gorskii photos

And today, year 2006.

Times goes by, buildings appear and disappear, people are born and pass away but the nature, the sun, the shades, the greener stays the same, and that can be clearly seen from these photos.



More info on the color photo technology of Prokudin-Gorsky 

And catalogue of his photos

Submitted by greensnake


28 thoughts on “Color Photos of Russian Churches 100 Years Ago and Today”

  1. Amazing to see the quality of those old photographs; of course they most probably have been enhanced in some way or other, but they look so natural.

    I really like the stuff you’re posting on this log (in a language that I can understand). Keep up the good work!

  2. Wow..I found EnglishRussia about 2 weeks ago. After looking at the pictures and such I realized the Russians are just like us with the same problems, etc.

    I especially like the work of this website’s author. The subject is so varied from sadness to extreme hillarity!

    You keep up the good work and don’t change a thing!!

    I have learned alot!

    Dallas, Texas

  3. Thanx for good collection. I love this region and quite familiar with P-G works. 4those who do not believe: they are real. #3 is abs.right. Cool. Thanx again.

  4. ‘Stumbled’ upon this site today … To see both the former USSR, and Russia today, on the same website is fasinating to say the least. Thank you for providing such an informative, thought provoking place. Your approach to showing such contrasts, happy, sad, or just downright funny, without bias is very refreshing.

    Please continue with this site, I shall return daily, once again thank you.

    Tim GC

  5. – here is the source of colored photos made in Russia at the beginning of 20th century. The amazing story.

  6. After looking at the pictures and such I realized the Russians are just like us with the same problems, etc.

    People everywhere are all alike, they just want a belly full of food and a nice peaceful life. It’s governments that screw everything up.

  7. Hey, need a moderator for your comments section? I would really get a kick out of deleting some of these ignorant and inane comments.

    Fabulous post, by the way. 🙂

  8. Thank you.

    The sites with Prokudin-Gorsky photos are (some in Russian):

  9. This is so cool! Thank you 🙂

    Thanks, also, to Uriah who posted this link:

    I’s great to get a glimpse into lives so little documented, and so long ago. Check out the tribesman with his dagger & medals – he must have taken great care to get dressed up for his portrait.


  10. These pictures are truely beautiful. It is so very interesting to see how these churches have changed through all these years. Thankyou for taking the time to do something like this.

  11. This are so nice, so precious and beautiful in looking so colourful
    higherly inteligent perfect working with great sensibilitys,technology
    is good to show to all the world to see how colourful Russia is, very interesting to see and to visit,
    show more and continue in good work doing,100 PERCANT GOOD & PERFECT

  12. What a great site. The photos are beautiful especially the before photos, when the world was still romantic and majestic. Very interesting to see the change from the same camera vantage point, this is a treasure.

    Funny that I found your site on the first page of google after typing ‘gorsky russia’, which is the birthplace of a famous Russian martial artist named Tektorov.

    Great site, you are adding a good thing to the world.

  13. Awesome!

    Those must be some of the only Churches that made it through all the years of bolsheviks and communism… I know many, many beautiful Churches were destroyed.

    God bless from Canada! I too love Russia! Christ conquers!

    IC XC
    NI KA

  14. A priceless heritage of beautiful buildings, and we are so lucky to have the internet to view them. Also lucky to have someone to post them!

Leave a Comment