Sakhalin, the island of exile : Photograph collection of the Russian island penal colony during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Collection History

The Library acquired the majority of the albums in this digital presentation during the early 1930s. Many were originally part of Romanov palace libraries nationalized by the Soviet government and sold abroad for hard currency.


Subjects include Russian Orthodox churches, monasteries, and ecclesiastical art; views of cities, as well as small provincial towns; secular architecture; tsarist- and Soviet-era political exiles; and the diverse peoples of the Russian Empire. A number of albums include portraits of the Tsar or the imperial family; state occasions, military maneuvers, and relaxation at the imperial hunting lodge are all depicted. Represented as well are military operations, particularly during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. Russian Revolutionary-era photos are extensive, ranging from the immediate aftermath of the February Revolution, to the Stalinist period.

Many of the imperial association albums-that is, those presented as gifts to the royal family-are of superior technical and artistic quality, and in several cases mounted in bindings that are themselves works of art, incorporating silver, wood, and other decorative elements.

Related Resources

Hee-Gwone Yoo."Holdings of rare photographs and plate books at the Slavic and Baltic Division of The New York Public Library." Rosia yongu (Russian Studies), vol. 12, no. 1 (2002): [323]-332.

Collection Data

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1894 - 1905
Library locations
Shelf locator: Slav. Reserve Photo and *ZQ-1002
Sakhalin (Russia)
Gelatin silver prints
Content: The collection is mentioned in the magazine Bostonia, no. 3(May/June, 1990), p. 53-59. Views of administrative center of Alexandrovsk and Derbinsk on Sakhalin Island.According to William C. Brumfield, "typical views include administartive buildings, churches, local ethnic types, prisoners (some mention crimes, punishments) convicts at work. Photos numbered in no particular order, with English captions, with some corrections by a person (the photographer?) who was present during the photography, and thus knew the subject matter/sites. Four per page of 4 1/4" x 5 1/2" prints (128 total, some on verso). No photographer given. Photos presumably taken around time of Chekhov's visit and composition of his famous expose Journey to Sakhalin (189_). Remarkable materials from one of Russia's most notorious penal colonies. Of exceptional interest, in spite of the fading of some of the prints. The photographs themselves are generally well-executed. Priority for preservation; high quality copy negatives essential."
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number) : b11614035
UUID: 7c1ac6e0-c6c5-012f-d142-58d385a7bc34
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