These photos of Muslims in Central Asia (then part of the Russian Empire) are truly fascinating. These lands were the centre of Islamic learning and scholarship in which the likes of Imam Bukhari and Imam Tirmidhi lived.
Between 1909 and 1912, photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. He used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near true color images. When these photographs were taken, neither the Russian Revolution nor World War I had yet begun.
Take a step back in time and see what life was like for Muslims more than a century ago with these photos made available by the Library of Congress, which purchased the original glass plates back in 1948:
A boy sits in the court of Tillia-Kari mosque in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).
Two prisoners are seen shackled together in chains.
A man and a woman from Dagestan pose together. The man can be seen carrying his sword.
Nomadic Kirghiz on the Golodnaia Steppe (present-day Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan).
Isfandiyar Jurji Bahadur, Khan of the Russian protectorate of Khorezm (Khiva, now a part of modern Uzbekistan) seated outdoors with full uniform.
A group of women in traditional clothing from Dagestan.
The Emir of Bukhara, Alim Khan (1880-1944), poses solemnly for his portrait, taken in 1911 shortly after his accession. As ruler of an autonomous city-state in Islamic Central Asia, the Emir presided over the internal affairs of his emirate as absolute monarch, although since the mid-1800s Bukhara had been a vassal state of the Russian Empire. With the establishment of Soviet power in Bukhara in 1920, the Emir fled to Afghanistan where he died in 1944.
A Sart woman in purdah in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Until the Russian revolution of 1917, “Sart” was the name for Uzbeks living in Kazakhstan.
A kebab house in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).
A water-carrier in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).
An elderly man carrying birds in the snow.
A bureaucrat in Bukhara poses for the camera.
A cloth merchant in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan) sits in his stall.
A fruit seller sits in his market stall.
Shepherd pauses near a hillside, Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).
Two men sit in a mosque in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).
Students study with their teacher in a Madrassah (religious school) in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).
Students sit outside their Madrassah (religious school) in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).
A religious teacher with his two daughters.
Worshipers are seen outside a Mosque in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan).