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The Color Of Russian History

We tend to see history in black and white, the distance of time emphasized by faded faces and sepia smiles. But the world, as Russian colorist Olga Shirnina points out, "has always been full of colors, even in war." With an artist's eye and a surgeon's precision, Shirnina uses Photoshop to transform black-and-white pictures into color. The artist, who works under the name Color By Klimbim, ​has revived figures from Russian and Soviet history so faithfully, it's as if blood is flowing through their veins once more.

The piercing stare of Grigory Rasputin. Shirnina says the most exciting part of coloring historical images is "when suddenly the person looks back at you as if he’s alive."
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The piercing stare of Grigory Rasputin. Shirnina says the most exciting part of coloring historical images is "when suddenly the person looks back at you as if he’s alive."

Princess Zinaida Yusupova, whose son became famous for his role in the killing of Rasputin, who was poisoned, shot, beaten, and dumped into a river in St. Petersburg. 
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Princess Zinaida Yusupova, whose son became famous for his role in the killing of Rasputin, who was poisoned, shot, beaten, and dumped into a river in St. Petersburg. 

Soviet fighter pilot Aleksandr Pronin in 1942. Shirnina studies carefully before deciding on her colors. "When I colorize uniforms I have to search for info or ask experts. So I’m not free in choosing colors."
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Soviet fighter pilot Aleksandr Pronin in 1942. Shirnina studies carefully before deciding on her colors. "When I colorize uniforms I have to search for info or ask experts. So I’m not free in choosing colors."

Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, the third daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, in 1906. The tsar's family was shot dead by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918. 
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Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, the third daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, in 1906. The tsar's family was shot dead by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918. 

A worker and his supervisor at a Moscow car factory, 1954. 
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A worker and his supervisor at a Moscow car factory, 1954. 

Members of the Russian Expeditionary Force march in Paris in 1916. The men were part of a brigade sent to assist France in its fight on the Western Front in World War I. Many of the soldiers would later mutiny as word spread of the Bolshevik Revolution at home in Russia. 
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Members of the Russian Expeditionary Force march in Paris in 1916. The men were part of a brigade sent to assist France in its fight on the Western Front in World War I. Many of the soldiers would later mutiny as word spread of the Bolshevik Revolution at home in Russia. 

You can almost hear the wicker creak in this image of Lenin. Shirnina read a firsthand description of Lenin's eye color before beginning work on the portrait. 
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You can almost hear the wicker creak in this image of Lenin. Shirnina read a firsthand description of Lenin's eye color before beginning work on the portrait. 

Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, with his family in 1914. Four years later, with Lenin in power, the family was shot and bayoneted to death by communist revolutionaries. 
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Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, with his family in 1914. Four years later, with Lenin in power, the family was shot and bayoneted to death by communist revolutionaries. 

Undated photo of a Russian pilgrim. 
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Undated photo of a Russian pilgrim. 

A Russian soldier and his "sculpture of moist sand" in World War I. 
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A Russian soldier and his "sculpture of moist sand" in World War I. 

A young reaper, 1914-1916. 
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A young reaper, 1914-1916. 

Leo Tolstoy in 1856, aged 28. Tolstoy would later draw on his experiences of battle to write War And Peace. 
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Leo Tolstoy in 1856, aged 28. Tolstoy would later draw on his experiences of battle to write War And Peace. 

Iya Savvina playing the lead in a Soviet film adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Lady With The Dog, 1960. 
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Iya Savvina playing the lead in a Soviet film adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Lady With The Dog, 1960. 

Soldiers from an Soviet antitank artillery unit sit with a woman during World War II. 
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Soldiers from an Soviet antitank artillery unit sit with a woman during World War II. 

The "first passengers" on the Moscow metro, 1935. 
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The "first passengers" on the Moscow metro, 1935. 

An unknown Russian pilot next to his biplane during World War I. 
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An unknown Russian pilot next to his biplane during World War I. 

Yury Gagarin in front of a monument to space exploration in Moscow. The Soviet cosmonaut is posing with his Matra Djet sports car, a gift from the French government.   
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Yury Gagarin in front of a monument to space exploration in Moscow. The Soviet cosmonaut is posing with his Matra Djet sports car, a gift from the French government. 

 

Vera Komissarzhevskaya, the actress who originated the role of Nina in Chekhov’s play The Seagull. Vera’s father wrote of her “She is to my spirit what air is to physical existence. Human being, friend, daughter, sister, family — everything is concentrated in her alone...”  
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Vera Komissarzhevskaya, the actress who originated the role of Nina in Chekhov’s play The Seagull. Vera’s father wrote of herShe is to my spirit what air is to physical existence. Human being, friend, daughter, sister, family — everything is concentrated in her alone...”

 

An unknown Russian ensign in World War I. 
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An unknown Russian ensign in World War I. 

Vera Kholodnaya, whose surname translates as "the cold one." The celebrated beauty became Russia's first silent film star but died at age 25 during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-19. 
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Vera Kholodnaya, whose surname translates as "the cold one." The celebrated beauty became Russia's first silent film star but died at age 25 during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-19. 

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