The Russian Empire was soon to be destroyed and rendered unrecognizable. Yet these images reveal a surprising continuity: despite the subsequent cataclysm, faces, postures, buildings and landscapes still resonate with those who see them a century and more later.
The Russian Empire was torn between a rural population living almost medieval lives and the industrial and social change in the cities. The Tsar’s gigantic realm struggled with modernity and with its own internal contradictions between Asia and Europe; faith and science; ethnic divisions; and the divergent interests of the aristocracy, the middle classes, the urban workers and the rural poor. This continent of contradictions was captured by authors from Tolstoy to Chekhov, from Gogol to Gorky and Bely.