Three Generations: Zlatoust factory

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Three Generations

Looking at this picture, one can see three people. The three people each belong to a different generation where the old man on the left is 72-year-old Andrei Petrovich Kalganov, the man in the middle is his son, and the woman is Kalganov’s granddaughter (Library of Congress). Andrei Kalganov was a specialist in leather sheathing of saber scabbards for military officers. He was awarded two medals and a gold-edged caftan for mastery of his craft and his good work (Library of Congress). This shows that he was appreciated by his employers or they gave him these awards so he would not be in favor of going on strike.

Andrei Petrovich Kalganov was chosen to be the one to give Tsar Nicholas II the bread-salt greeting when the Tsar visited the factory in 1904 (Library of Congress). After looking into what the bread salt greeting was, I found out it is an ancient Russian tradition to greet visitors. According to Anna Sorokina, “bread and salt symbolized prosperity and health, so hosts would put on their best clothes, lay a feast on the table, and offer a loaf or two together with the condiment to their guests” (par. 2). She goes on to say that “Bread in Slavic culture is considered a sacred thing: No bread at home means there’s nothing to eat – no meal doesn’t include bread” (par. 3). The symbolism for salt was that during the early years of Russia, salt was expensive and not everyone could buy it. The salt tax was removed at the end of the 19th century which allowed salt to be purchased again. Russians would only use salt for a special occasion because of this (Sorokina, par. 4). Based off of this, it would seem that it would be a great honor for Andrei Kalganov to give the bread salt greeting to Tsar Nicholas II.

Salt and Bread

Looking at the picture, the man on the left seems to look tired or detached while the two on the right look scared or stressed. My assumption is that Andrei Kalganov and his family were pressured into taking the picture in order to quell the worker riots. The Russian government would hope that if the other workers see this picture, they would believe that workers are being rewarded and riots would be unnecessary. George Freeze writes in his book Russia: A History, that “the renewed labour unrest that erupted in some of the factories of centra Russia, including Moscow, in the mid-1890s, was dwarfed by a succession of city wide strikes in St Petersburg’s textile industry in 1896-7” (pg. 241). It can be seen later that the government tried to deter more strikes by either legalizing labor unions or shortening the workday. In 1897, a limit on the workday was introduced and labor unions were legalized in 1906 (Freeze, pg. 242). The picture’s description says that Tsar Nicholas II visited the factory in 1904 (Library of Congress). Nicholas II may have visited the factory in order to give off the sense that he cared for the workers and that they mattered. He did not want the workers to riot and cause any more problems for the Russian government.


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Third ed., Oxford University Press, 2009.

Prokudin-Gorskii. “Three Generations. A.P. Kalganov with Son and Granddaughter. The Last Two Work in the Shops of the Zlatoust Plant.” WDL RSS, Library of Congress, 1 Jan. 1970, Gorskii&page=4.

Sorokina, Anna. “Why Russians Greet Guests with Bread and Salt.” Russia Beyond, 14 June 2018,

4 Replies to “Three Generations: Zlatoust factory”

  1. I appreciate how you explained the bread-salt tradition and the social and economic factors related to it. It was a fascinating piece of Russian culture. I also found your decision to analyze the photograph from the perspective of the political motivations to be interesting. It makes one wonder how much of Prokudin-Gorskii’s work has political motivations behind the staging and subject matter versus what is a perhaps less biased glimpse into Russia at this time.

    1. Thank you, I was initially confused by the term “bread-salt greeting” and wanted to know more about it. I could not help but notice that the three people were oddly tense and I wondered if there was something going on behind the scenes.

  2. I really like what you did with this image! The historical detail you provide about the three generations of workers is fascinating and you connect it nicely to a speculative (but pretty plausible) discussion of working-class unrest. And the bread and salt analysis offers such a nice (traditional) counterpoint to the change and modernization evidenced by the photograph. Just looking at how the people are dressed — the senior Kalgonov wearing kaftan and full beard, while the younger people are in more modern, urban dress. And just the fact that woman is depicted as being part of a multi-generational skilled workforce itself represents significant change. (Also, nice job with the photo caption!)

    1. Thank you Professor Nelson! I did not notice how the people were dressed could be interpreted as well. The bread and salt tradition was fun to look into. I had a lot of fun creating this blog.

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