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May 29, 2017

Fascinating Vintage Photographs Capture the Diversity of Those Living in the Russian Empire During the 1870s and 1880s

The Russian Empire stretched from eastern Europe, across Asia to include parts of North America. Ruling this vast area was the Tsar – or emperor – who governed an incredible range of people that may come as a surprise to some.

Explorer George Kennan, from Ohio, collected hundreds of cartes de visites — picture postcards which display the wide variety of the emperor’s subjects during the 1870s and 1880s.

In 1864, he secured employment with the Russian–American Telegraph Company to survey a route for a proposed overland telegraph line through Siberia and across the Bering Strait. Having spent two years in the wilds of Kamchatka, he returned to Ohio via Saint Petersburg and soon became well known by his lectures, articles and a book about his travels.

In his book, Tent Life in Siberia, Kennan provided ethnographies, histories and descriptions of many native peoples in Siberia, that are still important for researchers. They include stories about the Koraks (modern spelling: Koryaks), Kamchatdal (Itelmens), Chookchees (Chukchis), Yookaghirs (Yukaghirs), Chooances (Chuvans), Yakoots (Yakuts) and Gakouts. During 1870, he returned to St. Petersburg and travelled to Dagestan, in the northern Caucasus region, which had been annexed by the Russian Empire only ten years previously. There he became the first American to explore its highlands, a remote Muslim region of herders, silversmiths, carpet-weavers and other craftsmen. He travelled onward through the northern Caucasus area, stopping in Samashki and Grozny, before returning once more to America in 1871. These travels earned him a reputation as an "expert" on all matters pertaining to Russia.

This Afro-Karabakh mountaineer from the Caucasus region is one of those few might associate with Russia.

A woman from Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire.

This image from between 1870 and 1886 shows an Arab from Jerusalem, taken in Russia.

This man, named as Dikofski, is a prisoner dressed in his convict clothing in Odessa, modern Ukraine.

This photo, taken between 1870 and 1886 shows a Kazakh or Buryat man.

Four men from the Transcaucasian region with their names written in Russia above the photograph.

This image, showing an officer of Sesghian, St. Petersburg, was taken between 1870 and 1886.

A group of Chechen men attend a wedding. They were all wearing traditional head wear and carrying weapons.

This Muslim Mullah is one of many images collected by Kennan during his travels around Russia.

Three tribesmen are pictured in another Kennan's photo. He spent two stints travelling around Russia in the 19th century and collecting information about its people.

Conversations with convicts, like those in this image, caused Kennan to turn against the Tsar.

A Kazakh man and woman stand together in one of hundreds of cartes de visites collected by Kennan.

A Muezzin – the chosen person at the mosque who leads the call to prayer – from Georgia.

This portrait collected by American George Kennan shows Dr Bunge, a Siberian Arctic explorer.

On his second trip, Kennan met many runaway prisoners, like these three men.

Information Kennan collected about Russia’s different ethnic groups is still valuable for researchers today.

A wealthy Buryat man and his wife in Siberia wear outfits similar to Mongol clothing.

This image taken between 1870 and 1886 was collected by a US explorer and shows a Christian mountaineer.

This photo, taken between 1870 and 1886, shows a man from Persia, which was in the Empire’s sphere of influence.

A Kazakh man sits with a stringed musical instrument called a dombra, which is a type of lute.

This Kazakh bride, left, is wearing a saukele hat – a traditional garment passed down from generation to generation.

(via The Sun)



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