In the last days of the Russian Empire, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii traveled the land in a specially outfitted railroad car: Czar Nicholas II had commissioned him to photograph the entire length and breadth of his territories.
Happily for us, those photos were in color. By taking three shots in quick succession with red, green, and blue filters, Prokudin-Gorskii was able to capture the peacock robes of a Central Asian emir, the lushness of a Chakva tea farm, and the vibrancy of Russian Orthodox icons in a Smolensk church. Prokudin-Gorskii took his last photographs, of the Murmansk railroad, in 1915; three years later the czar was dead. The photographer ended up in Paris. His glass-slide negatives found their way to the Library of Congress. And Russia, of course, turned red.
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