Russian Archives Online
www.abamedia.com/rao/
printer-friendly version of the Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk narrative index

please use the "Back" button to return to RAO

THE RUSSIAN STATE DOCUMENTARY FILM & PHOTO ARCHIVE
AT KRASNOGORSK - (RGAKFD)
 

Photographs
Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk

The earliest photo document is an album "Sevastopol 1885-1856" with pictures of the period of Crimea war. A little bit "younger" are the photos from the album illustrating the construction in 1863-1867 of one of the first Russian railway bridge (authors - Sherer and Nabgolts), albums of views of Tiphlis (1858), (now Tbilisi, capital of Georgia) and Moscow (1876). During Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878 several photographers (Nikitin, Fisher K.A., etc.) photograph the battles of Russian troops. There are photo portraits of the participants of this war - generals and officers and photos of the battles on the Balkans and Caucasus fronts.

Archive keeps a lot of photos of Russian-Japanese war 1904-1905 (for example made by S.M.Prokudin-Gorskiy.) The most interesting are photos made by the junior captain of artillery Korsakov during the defense of Port Arthur - showing the period of time from the construction of fortification to the day when the Japanese marched in the city.

The life of the Russian Imperial Court is very well represented in photo documents: portraits and group photos of the Russian Emperors, their families, relatives and persons in attendance (archive preserves a lot of photos of the court photographer K.E.fon Gan), portraits of statesmen and public men.

There are a lot of photos on Russian army (since 1863) and fleet (since 1877): photos of reviews, parades, drills, maneuvers, etc., ( with the names of regiments), reviews of garrisons, scenes of military life, views of warships of the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Pacific fleets.

Archive photo documents show not only Russian history events. For example there is a photo album "Events in China 1900-1901", showing the suppress of the Boxer's revolt. There are photos of French colonial troops - zouaves, etc., made in 1874 in Algeria.

There are photo documents defining the state of industry, transport, municipal services, trade, education, mode of life (very picturesque landscapes of different regions of Russia), sports, literature and arts, (portraits of famous people such as L.Tolstoy, L.Andreev, F.Shaliapin) excellent gallery of portraits of theater and ballet actors, expeditions and many other events of Russian history of late XIX-early XX century.

There many different photo documents made during the World War I on the Eastern European (Russian) and Caucasus theaters of war (authors Dobruinin, Miroshnicov, Kozlov, Galitsin, Iliin, Nolken, Shirokov, etc.)

Photo portraits of Army commanders, army group commanders, army corps commanders, division and regiment commanders (portraits, group portraits, portraits on front lines, etc.), portraits of the most distinguished officers and non-commissioned officers.

There are a lot of significant photos showing the General Headquarters in the towns of Baranovichi and Mogilev - the Tsar and commanders, different military reviews and new military equipment - flame-throwers, mechanized artillery, etc., views of Mogilev town.

Nicholas II and his son tsarevich Alexey visiting battle-fronts. Reviews and parades on fronts. Battles, attacks, retreats, firing positions, fortifying, construction of defenses (entrenchment, wire entanglements, bridges, river crossings). Soldiers in entrenchment, scenes from military life, public worships on fronts, portraits of soldiers and officers (group photos).

Members of the imperial family visiting hospitals, injured men, collection of donations.

There is a big variety of photos showing new kinds of armament - different tanks, mortars, observation balloons, anti-aircraft guns, airplanes, balloons with fighting gas.

Most of the pictures show the North-Western (1914-1916) and South-Western (1914-1916) fronts - military operations of the 1st Russian Army in Eastern Prussia, captured material, captives, injured Russian soldiers. March battles in Jakobshtadt's forests (1916), military operations of the 4th Russian Army (1914-1916) and 8th & 9th Armies (1914-1916) against Austria-Hungarian troops. Such as: an album showing the military-marching life of the troops of the 9th Russian Army (100 photos), and an album showing the military-marching life of the 64th infantry regiment of Kazan in Eastern Prussia (1914-1915). Many photos illustrate the capture of Peremushl by Russians in 1915, Brusilovs breach in 1916 and the capture of Arzerum in Turkey.

There are very curious pictures of propagandistic posters (Russian and English) and caricatures.

The Archive keeps many photos of the war at the Western, Salonikskiy fronts: among them, photos of Russian troops in France. Some of these albums include: Frenchmen at the Western front, French troops in Italy; Montenegrins fighting against Austria. There are also pictures of Rumanian, American, Italian, Turkish, German, Belgium, Austria-Hungarian and Indian troops.

Photos of captives represent almost all countries' participants: captive Scots, Germans, Austria-Hungarians, Croats, Serbs, Frenchmen, Moroccans, returned Russians, and Belgian, Ukrainian and Armenian refugees.

In the Archive's reserves there are photos of events of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 (barricades on the streets of Moscow, policemen arrested by the residents, meetings and demonstrations, funerals of the victims, portraits of political leaders of different parties, etc.), events of the Civil War of 1918-1921 (more than 4000 photos): parades of the Red Army, various battles, and portraits of those who fought. These pictures show a region which extends from the Ukraine on the West to Middle Asia and the Far East.

Over 85,000 photos document battles on the Soviet-German front between 1941-1945. During all four years of the war photographers captured everything happening on the Fronts between the White and the Black Seas and in the rear - the tragedy of retreat and the bitterness of their losses, the fury of attacks and the joys of victory. These photos captured for history the portraits of common soldiers and famous Marshals.

The Archive was formed by a legislative process, getting documents from various state institutions and publishing houses. That's why among its materials there are not many really artistic photographs. Most are historical documents showing all spheres of life in the Soviet Union and Russia: state and law, military forces, economy and policy, science and culture, public life and education, medical care and sports. In spite of its strong political (socialist) background these pictures are very important for understanding the country's history.

The political life of the country is widely represented in photo materials: portraits of the state and party leaders of the Soviet Union of different levels, photos of different political events (Communist Party Congresses, Soviets of different levels, political trials, etc.) Among them - V. Lenin, J. Stalin, V. Molotov, N. Khruschev, L. Brezhnev, M. Gorbachev and others. Political and economical connections of the Soviet Union with the other countries of the world are represented by the photos of delegations and statesmen, their meetings and send-offs, some episodes of their visits to the USSR (most of them are devoted to the connections of the USSR and countries-allies and countries of Soviet orientation); official protocol pictures of agreement signings; receptions and presentations of credentials by Ambassadors.

During the Soviet time much attention was paid to the propaganda of economic achievements. That's why the Archive possesses a large amount of photos showing the erection of new works in industry, transport and municipal economy. Usually these photos documented each phase of construction. The Archive also has many portraits of workers in the different branches of the Soviet national economy whose successes were widely propagandized all over the country.

The connoisseurs of Russian and Soviet culture would be interested in the photos of the world-famous, such as: M. Gorkiy, M. Sholokhov, S. Prokofiev, D. Shostakovitch, G. Ulanova, B. Pasternak, E. Neizvestnuy, M. Plisetskaya, G. Vishnevskaya, M. Rostrapovich, D. Oistrakh, etc., whose names are the pride of the country's and the world's culture.

Among Archive documents there are portraits of distinguished sportsmen, world and Olympic champions of different years, and moments of great athletic achievement.

The "Golden fund" of the Archive contains the works of such masters as: the "father of Russian photography" S. Levitskiy, A. Denier, N. Svishov-Paola, K. E. von Gun, M. Pariiskiy, K. Bulla, I. P. Dmitriev, J. Shteinberg, A. Saveliev, P. Novitskiy, M. Sherling, M. Nappelbaum, D. Debabov, M. Alpert, E. Haldey, B. Kudojarov, V. Grebnev, G. Zelma, V. Tarasevitch, A. Shaikhet, P. Otsup, O. Lander, E. Javno, V. Minkevitch.

The photo chronicle of our country is continually increasing. Among the recent additions - the events of August 19-21, 1991 in Moscow - the attempted coup d'etat.


Films
Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk

One of the most interesting and little-known groups are those between 1896-1917. The earliest of these films was made by the French cameraman Kamill Serf during the coronation of Nicholas II in Moscow in 1896. He was sent to Russia by the Lumiere Brothers' company.

From 1904 to 1917 the highest position in the Russian film business was occupied by two French companies - Pate and Gomount. Beginning in 1907, Russian film businessmen took their place in the Russian market. Among the most important weere - A. Khanzhonkov, who made a valuable contribution to the development of Russian newsreel and popular science films; and A. Drankov, who filmed L. N. Tolstoy and other well-known Russian writers and actors; and chronicled different sensational events.

In 1909 the Apollo Film Company was founded. The cameramen of this company (father and son Bulla) successfully competed with the cameramen of foreign companies. They show in their films the life of the royal family, sporting events; they also filmed and presented the topical film "Picturesque Russia".

In 1910 the first newsreel "World Mirror" arrived. It soon changed its name to "Pate-Journal'. In 1911 the newsreels "Gomount Chronicle" and "Review of Russia" by A. Drankov began. In 1912 the newsreels "Pegasus Chronicle" by A. Khanzhonkov, "Express-Journal", "Distorting Mirror", etc., began.

At the beginning of World War I other newsreels appeared. Those of the beginning of the century capture military parades, holidays, reviews and drills of the Guards. Many are devoted to the Fleet. They document everyday life of the Baltic Sea and Black Sea squadrons. Some of the newsreels document the fire of the Maliy Theatre in Moscow, mass gymnastics, auto and motor races, zoos and animal preserves, and the life of peoples of the Russian Empire. The objects of filming were political and cultural figures, the construction of warships, the Moscow flood, the testing of new agricultural equipment and the oil industry in Baku. There are also films showing the towns of Russia, etc.

There were special court cameramen and photographers who captured the small details of life in the Royal family. The Company of von Gun filmed the Tsar, and with the permission of the Ministry of the Court, showed these films in movie theatres beginning in 1907. Before the February 1917 Revolution, the von Gun Company was the main provider of the Tsar's chronicles in the Russian film industry. After 1907 other filmmakers were permitted to film the Royal family, including A. Drankov, V. Bulla (the elder), Khanzhonkov Company, Pate Company, and others.

During World War I, cameramen captured events on all fronts. Before 1915, the exclusive rights to film battles belonged to the Film Department of the Skobelev Committee. The Skobelev Committee of the Assistance to the Wounded Soldiers of the General Staff was founded in November 1904 as public organization.

By the order of the Scobelev Committe many cameramen filmed the events of the World War I, such as Englishman Arcol (representative of Pate Company, filmed on South-Western and Caucasus fronts), cameramen E.D. Dored (represented American companies) and P.V. Ermolov, (filmed events on Caucasus front); P.K. Novitskiy (Gomount Company), N.M. Toporkov, K.E. von Gan, A.K. Gan-Jagelskiy, made filming in the General Headquarters. Other cameramen such as: A. G Lemberg, S, Zebel, Trushe, etc. also worked at the fronts.

Cameramen filmed the war not only on the fronts but also from the rear. Since the first month of the war until 1917 the Scobelev Committee produced about 70 newsreels. From 1914 to 1915 cameramen of the Scobelev Committee produced 21 series of the newsreel "Russian Military Chronicle". The materials of this newsreel were used many times for the separate films made by Scobelev Committee and other film companies.

There were several other film companies and cinema factories which produced and showed military news-reel. Among them: Joint-stock Company " biokhrom", Joint-stock Company "A. Khanzhonkov and Company", (produced and show newsreels 'Journal-Pegasus" and others), firm of Drankov, cinema factory P.L. Pendrie, firms of Kozlovskiy and Uriev, Luisogorskayia, Libken and others. There were many newsreels on the Russian film market showing the events of 1914-1917. Montage and demonstration of the newsreels were done by the branches of the companies working in St.-Petersburg and Moscow. Such as the series: "Gomount Chronicle", "Pate Journal", "Parisiana Chronicles", "Eclair-Journal", "Alliance Chronicle" and "Pegasus Chronicle". "Pate Brothers" company, using footage of military topics taken from the other countries, made montages and showed its newsreels - "Chronicle of the War", "Military Review" and others. News from different fronts of World War I were included in the newsreels: "Gomount Chronicle", "Parisiana Chronicle", "Eclair-Journal", "Alliance Chronicle" and "Pegasus Chronicle".

Many foreign documentaries were shown in Russian movie-theaters at that time. For example, a production of Italian company -"Ambrosia," a Danish company - "Nordisk,"a French company - "Gomount and Pate", works of the Cinema Department of the French Army, (newsreels -"Chronicle of the War" marked by the trade-mark "COFA"), production of the Cinema Department of the General Staff of the British War Ministry, " Serbia-Film", etc.

There is a lot of material about the French and British allies of Russia. Some Chronicles are devoted to battles near Champagne in 1915-1917, near Verden in the Winter of 1916, battles on the Somme and Ankre rivers in 1916, in the Argon Forests and in Flanders between 1915-17. In the newsreels, Italian, Serbian, USA, Swiss, Greek, Canadian, Portuguese, Rumanian, Polish, Austrish, etc. armies were advertised.

Documentaries showing events on the Russian front form a separate group which is the biggest part of Archive's World War I collection. Newsreels of "Pate", "Gomount", Khanzhonkovs, Drankovs companies show the mobilization of Russian soldiers, their techniques and transportation on the fronts; war supplies, the collecting of donations and the making of bandages by different charity organizations, patriotic demonstrations.

Cameramen K.E. von Gan, A.K. Gan-Jagelskiy, Toporkov, and Erkole filmed the events in the General Headquarters during the war (1914 - Summer, 1915 in Baranovichi, and from Summer, 1915 in Mogilev). Until 1915, the rights to film military events belonged exclusively to the "Military Cinema Department of Skobelevs Committee."

The group of Archive documents showing pre-Revolutionary life in Russia contains the materials of Khanzhonkov, Ermoliev, Talduikin, "Pate", "Russia", 'Screen" film companies. Their materials were kept in cinema factory storehouses and were nationalized after the Revolution. (1917.) In 1918 the "Scobelevs Committee" was also nationalized. The Archive of the Royal family (about 20,000 meters of film) was taken from Tsarskoye Selo. It contains the works of A.K. von Gan and A.K. Gan-Jagelskiy between 1902-16.

During the period of nationalization film documents were taken from storehouses without edit logs; some descriptions of the nationalized films were lost. Many film documents were mixed up in 1919-1920 during their transportation to the storehouses of the All-Russian Photo-Film Department. Parts of the films were lost because they were kept in very bad conditions in unsuitable rooms. Film businessmen took some of the documents out of the country.

The Archive got many odd and mixed-up documents. Some lost their titles and inner captions. It was impossible to define the ownership and authorship of films, to interpret the subjects of filming and to reconstruct the author's edit logs of many newsreels. It made scientific research into these films difficult, and good information for scientists and filmmakers was hard to come by. The pre-Revolutionary film documents stood unpacked for dozens of years. Only a rough count of them was made.

In spite of this, some pre-Revolutionary documentaries were used for Socialist propaganda. For example, filmmaker E. Shub made documentaries " The Fall of Romanovs Dynasty" (1927), "The Great Way", (1927), "Russia of Nicholas II and Leo Tolstoy" based on old film materials.. His work started the development of historical-documentaries in Soviet cinematographic art.

The effort to analyze pre-Revolutionary materials was made several years ago. It helped to reconstruct, interpret and describe part of the World War I documentaries, which forms 1/3 of the entire pre-Revolutionary film collection.

Research and practical work by the Archive staff helped reconstruct the primary edit logs and bring back to life many film documents which were presumed lost. Now the research work is proceeding.

Among recently reconstructed documentaries are: several series of "Skobelevs Military Committee", " baltic Fleet" by Khanzhonkov, "Celebrations in Riga", ( 1910 ) by Drankovs Company, "The Holiday of Pokrov in Mtskheta", (1910 ) and "The Festivals in Erivans House Hold-Troops of His Majesty in Tiphlis", (1913 ) by cameraman Digmelov, chronicle "The Meeting of Nicholas II and British King Edward VII on Revels Raid" , (1908 ) by Drankov, films about the 300th Anniversary of Romanov Dynasty, etc. The negatives of some films were found, some mis-edited films were reconstructed, authors, dates and objects of films were deciphered.

Unfortunately most of films made during the first twenty years of Russian cinematography do not exist - all together the Archive keeps 1040 films dated 1896-1916.

The overthrow of Romanov Dynasty in February 1917 completely changed the image of Russia.

The events of February Revolution of 1917 were filmed in detail, and show the atmosphere of that stormy time very well. Among them, sequences showing big political demonstrations, meetings, congresses, (such as The First All-Russian Congress of Soviets), military parades, members of State Duma, and the Provisional Government headed by A. Kerenskiy. Many film businessmen and cameramen did not acknowledge the October Revolution of 1917 and few filmed it - P. Novitskiy, I. Kobzev and G. Boltianskiy.

The Archive keeps about 200 separate films of the Civil War period (1918-1920). Such as: political meetings where Lenin and Trotsky spoke; military events on all Civil War fronts - Volga Region, Ukraine, Siberia, Petrograd, etc. These films were widely used in newsreel "The Film Week" (kept in the Archive). Many of them were lately used in historical documentaries. For example, the Archive possesses the long documentary "History of the Civil War" made in 1921 by the young filmmaker Dziga Vertov.

During 1920-30, many films showing important political events were made: Communist Party Congresses (since 1919), Congresses of Communist International (from 1919 to 1935), Communists demonstrations and parades. The total politicization of Soviet society can be seen in documentaries showing industrial and agricultural development which illustrated achievements of the new political society.

Documentaries on art and culture of 20-30s represent many famous people, such as Maxim Gorky, L. Sobinov, V. Meirkhold, B. Pasternak, the young D. Oistrakh and E. Gilels, D.Shostakovitch, S. Prokofiev, M. Sholokhov, Gerber Wells, Roman Rollan and others.

It was very popular during the 30s to advertise creations of Soviet Socialist system: achievements of Soviet aviation (films showing the flight of pilots V. Chkalov, G. Gaidukov and A.Beliakov from USSR to USA through the North Pole); car races (for example, film "Moscow - Cara-Cum - Moscow" by cameramen E. Tisse, R. Karmen, M. Gomorov, 1930); polar exhibitions (the most popular was film "Cheluskin" by J. Poselsky, 1934 about the rescuing of the ship "Cheluskin", crushed by Arctic ice.)

Very popular during Soviet time were newsreels which had interesting depictions of Soviet society. All together the Archive keeps more than 60 newsreels titles from 1919 to 1985, which came from different regions of the country. Among them: "SCJ" - Sous Cino Journal - mute [1925-1944] and sound [1931-1944], "News of the Day" [1944-1983]. There were special newsreels for kids - "Little Star" (1936-1938), "Young Pioneers" [1931-1985]; newsreels about Soviet Army (one of them - "Soviet Soldier" [1961-1985]; newsreels devoted to technical news ("Science and Technique" [1931-1935]), newsreels of different trade associations, such as "Soviet Village", (mute [1929-1938] and sound [1936-1938] or "Railway Man" [1936-1941].

Soviet cameramen also filmed the "hot spots of the world". By this method many well known documentaries were made: "Shanghai Document" (filmmaker J Bliokh. 1928); "Abyssinia" (1936). The Archive keeps the 20 newsreel series " The Spanish events". There is 40,000 meters of footage by R. Carmen and B. Makaseev showing the Civil War in Spain - battles, bombardment of Madrid, etc. The most impressive sequences were used in the full-length film "Spain" by E. Shub. (1939).

A special place in Archive collection belongs to the documentaries of the period of World War II - newsreels, full-length films, made during and after the war. The total footage of 80,000 meters ( filmed by more than 200 front cameramen) - sequances of bitter losses and happy victories, great battles - of Moscow and Stalingrad, the Kursk Bulge, capture of Berlin; tragic sequances of destroyed towns and villages; the horror of concentration camps.

As early as February 18, 1942 the full-length film "The Crushing of Germans in the environs of Moscow" about the first serious defeat of the Germans arrived (filmmakers L. Varlamov and I. Kopalin). This film was considered to be the best documentary of the year (1942) by the American Academy of Cinematographic Art.

The cameramen worked on all fronts from the North Sea to the Black Sea; some of their films are: "69s Parallel" (1942) about sailor of the North Fleet, "Sailors of the Black Sea Fleet" (1942) about defenders of Odessa and Sevastopol.

15 cameramen filmed the great battle of Stalingrad between August and February 1943. Many of their sequences were included in the film "Stalingrad" (filmmaker L. Varlamov, 1943 ), where one can follow the battle from the beginning to the end.

Films by A. Dovzhenko " battle for Our Soviet Ukraine" (1943), "Victory on the Right-Bank Ukraine and Banishment of German Invaders out of the Soviet Ukrainian Lands" (1944). Later battles were also filmed and shown in the movie theaters in the newsreels, such as: "The Victory on the South", "Kennigsberg", "Vienna", "From Visla to Oder", The Liberated Czechoslovakia" and many others. Events of the last period of World War II were reflected in the film "The Destructions of Japan" (filmmakers Zarkhi and I. Kheifits).

The main subject of documentaries of the post-war period is the reconstruction of the wrecked national economy. The geography of filming was expanded - the Archive possesses materials about and from almost every region of the Soviet Union.

An interesting idea - to film different regions of the country on the same day was used by I. Kopalin and I. Setkina in the film "The Day of the Victor Country" (1948). About 100 cameramen did filming all over the country on August 14, 1947.

Soviet filmmakers tried to film the main events on every continent. Among them -"Liberated China" (filmmaker Gerasimov, 1950), "Victory of the Chinese People" (filmmaker L. Varlamov, 1950). Sequences of wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, events in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968). The Archive also keeps the chronicles of the last events in Russia covering almost all spheres of politics, economy and culture.

In 1992 the Archive began to acquire documentary video-tapes. Among them, - interviews of political leaders and performances of famous actors. Most video-tapes are full-length films based on Archive materials: many series about Stalin - " The Monster" by Ivankin, "Andropov U.V. - Life Pages" by O. Uralov, "Romanov Dynasty" by V. Semenuk.


(end)