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Rasputin and Nicholas II: Pre-revolutionary Russia through a German lens

How an 11-year-old boy left Prussia to become St.Petersburg's main chronicler.
By RBTH
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Karl Bulla / Wikipedia.org

Karl Bulla can be considered St. Petersburg’s main photographer. His works captured the city’s great people at the turn of the 20th century and its historic facades, some of which were even used for restoration purposes. // Karl Bulla, self-portrait, 1917
Karl Bulla

Global Look Press

At the age of 11, Bulla alone fled his native Prussia for St. Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, where he didn’t even have any relatives. There are no archive documents explaining why he did this. // Solemn opening of a tram-line in St. Petersburg - photo by Karl Bulla - circa 1906
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Karl Bulla / Wikipedia.org

Bulla found employment as a courier at a photo company and quickly learnt how to take pictures himself // Leo Tolstoy, 1902.
Karl Bulla

Karl Bulla / RIA Novosti

For more than a decade, Bulla worked in his own studio at 54 Nevsky Prospect, which still exists to this day. Poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Sergei Yesenin, famous writer Maxim Gorky and singer Fyodor Chaliapin were all guests at Bulla's studio. // Artist Ilya Repin painting a portrait of Fyodor Chaliapin in his studio, February-March 1914.
Emperor Nicholas II

Karl Bulla / RIA Novosti

The photographer left unique and huge documentary evidence of the great people and events of the 19th and 20th centuries. He even enjoyed exclusive permission to take pictures of the Romanov family. // Emperor Nicholas II (C) arrives in St. Petersburg for a gala in honor of the 300th Romanov dynasty establishment anniversary, 1913.
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Karl Bulla / Wikipedia.org

He was also the official photographer of many state organizations, including the Interior Ministry, the Navy and Army Ministries, and the State Duma. // L-R: Colonel Loman, Grigory Rasputin, General Putyatin
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Karl Bulla / Bulla Foundation

Almost all the palaces and mansions that were damaged during the Civil War were restored using photographs taken by Bulla before the Revolution. // "God, Save the Tsar" caption at the General Staff Building in St. Petersburg
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Karl Bulla / Bulla Foundation

Many of the historical books issued before 1917 also used Bulla's photos. He took about 100 pictures of Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare. // Nevsky Prospect
Timeline

Viktor Bulla / RIA Novosti

Karl's sons also became photographers: Viktor was one of the first to take a picture of poet Sergei Yesenin several hours after his suicide (or murder, according to another version in the Hotel Angleterre in St. Petersburg). Moreover, Karl and Viktor took photos of the revolutionary events of 1917 and pictures of all the leaders of the Russian Revolution, such as Lenin, Stalin, Zinoviev and Trotsky. // Red Guards on Petrograd's Konnogvardeysky Boulevard
Vladimir Lenin

Karl Bulla / RIA Novosti

Viktor Bulla had special permission to take pictures of Vladimir Lenin's funeral in Moscow. // Vladimir Lenin making notes during the III Comintern Congress

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