For this first blog post, I decided to analyze Prokudin-Gorskii’s photograph depicting a metal production factory in Zlatoust, taken in September of 1909. While the factory’s main purpose was metal and armament production, this particular photograph shows the room in which scabbards (the sheath that holds a sword) were made.
Regarding what this picture shows about societal change in late Imperial Russia, the surprisingly multicultural nature of this time period in Russia comes to mind. Specifically, as the description from the World Digital Library illustrations, this factory heavily utilized German immigrant labor. As the description also notes, the instructions of how to create the scabbards were even in German. While the factory was most successful in the earlier part of the 1800s, this usage of German labor in general points out this multicultural aspect.
In terms of economic change, this photograph is evident of the growing industrialization during this time. This “progress” was measured by Russia’s ability to catch up to its Western European counterparts. However, it was challenged by a few paradoxes. As Freeze notes in Russia: A History, this growing industrialization and “progress” was contradicted by the growing unrest among the working class, urbanity, and increasingly likelihood of social tensions between classes (p. 241).
This picture perhaps isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but it does depict what many workers would have seen (and where they would have been) in their everyday lives.