THE MAKING OF MODERN RUSSIA: A STUNNING PHOTO ALBUM SHOWING LANDSCAPES AND VIEWS FROM THE EARLY TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILWAY
“The Great Way”: Views of Siberia and the Siberian Railway.
Krasnoyarsk, I.R. Tomashkevich and M.B. Axelrode and Co., 1899.
Photo album (30x36cm), pp. (iv), 124 [= ill.]. Cyrillic type. Translation of subtitle: “Issue No. 1: From the river Ob to the river Yenisei and Tomsk branch. 124 views of the most important railroads, buildings, cities, villages, views of foreigners and scenic areas adjacent to the line. etc., with a description of them, compiled by V. A.; photos by Tomashkevich”; [auth. pref. Akselrode and Tomashkevich]. In a crimson buckram binding, beautifully illustrated on front cover in colours, with gilt title. Embossed gilt lettering to spine. Double blind panels and central tooling on rear cover. Only some very light spotting on initial three leaves. A perfect copy.
125 years ago, in 1891, work for the Trans-Siberian Railway began. Still today it is considered one of the greatest infrastructure projects in the history of mankind. A railway across Eurasia not only made the East closer, but also contributed to the creation of many cities, without which it is impossible to imagine Russia. It only took about 25 years to complete the railway. Created in Krasnoyarsk by I. R. Tomashkevich and M. B. Axelrode, this photo album was meant to proudly advertise and promote this difficult engineering enterprise by emulating the American example. It also instigated new communication policies aimed at the cultural unification of the Russian nation, as pointed out by the scholar Mikhaylova Natalia in “Confectionery trade cards from the series ‘The views of Siberia and the Siberian railway’ as part of mass visual culture of the late 19 early 20 century Russia” in ART&CULT, No. 18, 2-2015 (abstract: A series of trade cards “The views of Siberia and the Siberian railway” demonstrates some key points of the mass visual culture of the late XIXth and early XXth centuries. The series reflects the vision on Siberian Railroad and the symbolic appropriation of Siberia by a Central Russia resident): “A simple comparison of the Einem cards [chromolithographs] with the postcards from the album indicates that the latter with no doubts served as a source for an unknown artist of ‘Einem’. This method of memorialization of a large state-sponsored construction project had foreign analogues: in the late 1860s an album “Great West Illustrated” devoted to the construction of the Pacific railroad was published in the United States. However, the significance of the Tomashkevich-Axelrode album for its time was far more profound than just publishing the documents on Trans-Siberian Railway. It played an important role in promoting this ambitious construction project, both in Russia and abroad. The album was presented at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris and, along with the famous panoramas of P. Piasecky, was meant to shape a visual image of a new large-scale Russian undertaking in European audience. A series of trade cards produced by the partnership “Einem” may be regarded as the canonical mass-edition of this album. A world’s fair in Paris was widely covered in the press of the period, and the Russian public was well informed about the exhibits presented in the Russian pavilion that were dedicated to the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is likely that the album by Tomashkevich-Axelrode had a high cultural status. Those purchasing Einem candy boxes with a card from the Siberian series had thus an opportunity to share the experience of those who were able to visit the Exposition Universelle.”