The Hoover Institution Library & Archives has acquired an astonishing photo album depicting scenes from the Russian Revolution, including images of Bolshevik leaders Vladimir Lenin and Grigorii Zinov’ev as they gave speeches, enormous public gatherings in Palace Square in Petrograd (with Lenin speaking from a podium erected outside the Winter Palace), and scenes of everyday life in the former capital of the Russian Empire.

Some of the photos bear remarkable resemblance to paintings by Ivan Vladimirov in the collections. Vladimirov, who also resided in Petrograd during the years of the revolution, appears to have found inspiration from real life, painting the exact same scenes as those depicted in the photographs. One scene featured in the album as well as in the paintings collection depicts a log house being disassembled for firewood. The composition of the photo and the painting have more than superficial similarities. The same is true of many other scenes portraying life in Petrograd in the early years of Bolshevik rule. 


Comparison of photo and watercolor depictions of Petrograd after the 1917 Russian Revolution
A scene from the photo album (left) and a 1920 painting in gouache, watercolor, and pencil by Ivan Vladimirov of a similar scene (right) depicts a group of men, women, and children moving wooden beams in front of a log-built structure. The workmen are demolishing wooden houses for fuel. (Ivan Alekseevich Vladimirov Paintings, Hoover Institution Library & Archives,


Although descriptive information is not attached to any of the photographs, it is assumed that they were taken between 1917 and 1919 based on one particular image: it depicts a celebration of the unveiling of a monument to French socialist and revolutionary Louis Auguste Blanqui (“martyr of revolution” as inscribed on the monument), which was unveiled on March 2, 1919. A very similar (but not the same) photograph, taken by Iakov Shteinberg, is held in a St. Petersburg archive.

While both the photographer and the purpose of the photographs are unknown, the subject matter of this photo album certainly provides a fascinating new glimpse into the revolutionary period in Russia.

Anatol Shmelev Hoover Headshot

Anatol Shmelev

Robert Conquest Curator for Russia and Eurasia / Research Fellow

Anatol Shmelev is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Robert Conquest Curator of the Russia and Eurasia Collection at Hoover’s Library & Archives, and the project archivist for its Radio…

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