These hundred year old photos were taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944). They were commissioned by Tsar Alexander the II (Ben’s favorite Tsar).
Tsar Alexander reigned from 1855 until his death by assassination in 1881. Known as Alexander the Liberator for his decision to emancipate the serfs in 1861, Alexander was fairly left-leaning for a Romanov. He presided over an important period in the Russo-Caucasian wars of the 19th century, including the defeat and exile to Moscow of Shamil the Lion, who united the Caucasian tribes in military opposition to Russia in 1859 and the genocide of the Circassian tribes of the North Caucasus.
More about Circassian Genocide and Shamil the Lion to come.