Captivating Colorized Portraits of Russian Fighters In World War 1

"The most thrilling part of the coloring process is when suddenly the person looks back at you as if he’s alive" - Olga Shirnina

“My heart yearned to be there, in the boiling caldron of war, to be baptized in its fire and scorched in its lava” – Maria Bochkareva, commander of the Russian Women’s death battalion in her 1919 autobiography Yashka, My Life as Peasant, Officer and Exile.

 

maria-bochkareva

Maria Bochkareva

Color can bring the past to the present, giving black and white images a spritz of life. We’ve seen color photos of the Russian Empire in Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii’s gorgeous photos. But what would the goofy Romanovs looks like in color? Thanks to Olga Shirnina (aka Klimblim) we get a good idea. She colorizes black and white images of Russians in World War 1.

The lead photo show us Maria Leontievna Bochkareva (1889–1920), a Russian soldier who fought in World War I and formed the Women’s Battalion of Death. She was the first Russian woman to command a military unit. She was executed by a Bolshevik firing squad. “Passing her on the street, you had to look three times to make sure she was not a man,” Bessie Beatty  (January 27, 1886 – April 6, 1947), the American journalist, editor, playwright and radio host, wrote in The Red Heart of Russia. “After the first few days of grumbling protest, her comrades seldom remembered she was a woman.”

“Sometimes a picture can say more than many words,” says Olga, “and I’ll be glad if people learn more about Russia and its people through my colourings, especially about our brave women … The most thrilling part of the coloring process,” she adds, “is when suddenly the person looks back at you as if he’s alive.”

 

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Russian scout Alekseev and his sand sculpture

Russia color World War 1 colour

Russia color World War 1 colour

Maria BochkarevaRussia color World War 1 colour

Maria Bochkareva

Ilya Muromets Russia color World War 1 colour

Vasily Karabanov, sub-ensign of the 146th Tsaritsyn Infantry Reg

Vasily Karabanov, sub-ensign of the 146th Tsaritsyn Infantry Reg

Russian Empire : Russian Empire, military exercises: Machine gun position - 1914 - Photographer: Karl Bulla

Russian Empire : Russian Empire, military exercises: Machine gun position – 1914 – Photographer: Karl Bulla

Russia color World War 1 colour Russia color World War 1 colour Russia color World War 1 colour Russia color World War 1 colour Russia color World War 1 colour

Russia color World War 1 colour

1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death

Russia color World War 1 colour

Burial of a fallen Russian soldier, 1916

 

Russia color World War 1 colour

Kagul (renamed Ochakov, later General Kornilov) was built by Sevastopol dockyard. Laid down 1900, launched October 1902, completed 1905, seized by the White forces in the Russian Civil War and interned in Bizerta in 1920 as part of Wrangel’s fleet, sold for scrap in 1933

Russia color World War 1 colour

Russia color World War 1 colour

Karel Vašátko

Russia color World War 1 colour Karel VašátkoRussia color World War 1 colour

Russia color World War 1 colour

Russian expeditionary force in Paris

Russia color World War 1 colour

Russia color World War 1 colour

Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Romanov in a military hospital

Russia color World War 1 colour

Members of the Women’s Battalion

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Russia color World War 1 colour

The first Russian military pilot Evgeny Rudnev

Russia color World War 1 colour

Zinaida Malynich

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Easter at the front – 1916

See more of Olga Shirnina’s work on her website.