Ferry Ride and Farm, Lake Baikal, Siberia, 1961

A Slice of Life in Siberia, Summer 1961

Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia, 1961. Photo by Harvey Richards

Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia, 1961. Photo by Harvey Richards

The photos in this gallery came from Harvey and Alice Richards’ trip to the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1961 to make a film called  A Visit to the Soviet Union, Part 1: Women of Russia and Part 2: Far From Moscow. I accompanied them, at age 17, to help with the batteries and heavy equipment. Along the way, Harvey Richards photographed selected subjects.  We visited Irkutsk in Siberia where we photographed farms and, at nearby Lake Baikal, a ferry boat ride. These photos, now, 52 years later, and 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, show a slice of life on a clear summer’s day in a socialist Siberia.  

Visiting a place for a brief moment is like taking a fast frame photo in the stream of history sweeping invisibly past you. Many changes have occurred since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.  These photos, taken 28 years before then, are more than a travel log since they preserve the look, the faces, the clothing, and smiles of people deep in the heart of the socialist world.  Harvey and Alice’s goal in photographing the Soviet Union was to humanize it, to bring understanding beyond the political rhetoric of the Cold War that seemed to be leading us to another world war at that time.  Presenting these images today helps fulfill their goal.


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