Prokudin-Gorskii’s Photographic Record

A Group of Workers Harvesting Tea

I chose this photo because I wanted to look into how these people farming were affected by the growing change to industrialization.  While reading the assigned chapter in Russia A History, I became interested in the famine that started in 1891. Twenty provinces were affected, with hundreds of thousands of deaths (Freeze, 238). While the weather was a clear contributor due to the frost killing the grain crops, the country had enough grain to feed those in need, but was more focused on the transition to industrialization instead of paying more attention to their starving people (Russian Famine of 1891-92). The government was also already hard on the peasants by doing things like raising taxes to make them sell more grain and having peasant sons taken away to join the military (Russian Famine of 1891-92). With their sons gone, there were far less people with the strength to do the hard manual labor involved in agriculture.

Russia A History discusses how the famine sparked resentment against state programmes (Freeze, 238). The state wasn’t taking proper care of all the people, clearly taking little concern with the poorer ones in the country considering they weren’t giving the famine the attention it needed. Peasants were in a rough time, and without aid from the government in their time of need, of course many would end up resenting the current administration.

Once the government realized that more needed to be done, they looked to the zemstvo for assistance (Freeze, 239). The zemstvo was a type of local government that had become inactive during this time period (Freeze, 239). With the government reenlisting the zemstvo’s aid, “society was summoned back to life to take part in a national war on poverty” (Freeze, 238). I think that this was a critical moment for Russia because if society becomes more involved, they’ll want to have more control in what happens in the government, which increases the likelihood of people speaking out against the government.

This image is titled: A Group of Workers Harvesting Tea (1907-1915)

They were created by:  Prokudin-Gorskiĭ, Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich, 1863-1944, photographer

The Permanent record here:

Additional Resources:

Wikipedia contributors, “Russian Famine of 1891-92,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 30, 2014).

Freeze, Gregory. Russia A History. New York: Oxford University Press Inc, 2009.


1 thought on “Prokudin-Gorskii’s Photographic Record

  1. This post helps compliments my own thoughts on the Freeze reading as I noticed that Russia’s attempts to industrialize seem to have the opposite effect that the regime wanted. You make a great point in noting that the government’s call to the zemstvo for help gave society more control or it gave them the idea that they thought they had more say in what happens in the government. This reminded me of Alexander II’s fears regarding serfdom that “it is better to begin abolishing serfdom from above than to wait for it to begin to abolish itself from below” (Freeze, 203). Unfortunately, Russia’s attempt to industrialize and make better reforms seems to have caused further frustration and passion among society, which the government was trying to initially avoid.

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