Ca. 1931. Oblong Folio album ca. 26,5x35 cm (10 ¼ x 13 ¾ in). 15 card stock leaves. With 54 mounted original gelatin silver prints including five large photos from ca. 17,5x23 cm (7x9 in) to ca. 13x17 cm (5 x 6 ¾ in), the rest of the photos are postcard size - ca. 9x13 cm (3 ½ x 5 in). Most photos with black ink captions in Russian on the mounts. The album also houses two mounted printed maps of the Altai region with the tourists’ routes outlined in red. With 17 loose gelatin silver photos ca. 8x10,5 cm (3 ¼ x 4 in) printed on photo paper of postcard size, ca. 9x13,5 cm (3 ½ x 5 ¼ in); six photos numbered in negative, fifteen captioned in ink on versos. With 19 smaller loose gelatin silver photos ca. 6x8 cm (2 ¼ x 3 ¼ in), seven captioned and/or dated in Russian on versos; the photos are housed in a paper envelope ca. 8x13 cm (3x5 in) with a manuscript note in Russian “Altai. Small photos 1931. Amateur” (in translation). Period brown cloth album fastened with a string. Several images with mild silvering, but overall a very good album of rare strong photographs.
Attractive collection of original photos illustrating early years of the organized Soviet tourism to the Altai Mountains. The album houses photos from two trips to the Altai organized in summer 1931 by the Society of Proletarian Tourism and Excursions (1929-1936) – the first volunteer union of independent tourists in Soviet Russia. Founded by the Central Committee of Komsomol (Young Communist League), and headed by a prominent Soviet politician and an avid mountaineer Nikolay Krylenko (1885-1938), the Society strived to develop independent adventurous travels among young people and became very popular, with about 800,000 members in 1932. The Society operated about 360 tourist bases across the country and organized tours on over 170 routes, published several newspapers and magazines about tourism, pocket phrase books for over 20 national languages of USSR, opened the first college in Russia educating tourist guides, produced tourist and mountaineering equipment, fostered the increase in production of bicycles and amateur photo cameras; during the travels many tourists conducted scientific surveys, discovered mineral deposits, gave lectures for the population of remote regions, helped peasants during agricultural season etc. Like most of all other Soviet volunteer societies founded in the 1920s (“Friends of Children,” “Away with Illiteracy,” “Technique – to the masses” etc.), the Society of Proletarian Tourism was closed in the mid-1930s, as a dangerous ground of freedom and potential activities of the “enemies of the people.” The Society’s chairman Nikolay Krylenko was arrested and executed during Stalin’s Great Purge in 1938.
The album illustrates two trips to the Altai. The first one was a round trip from Biysk to Lake Teletskoye, now a part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site “Golden Mountains of Altai.” The tourist went up the Katun River to Ulala (now Gorno-Altaysk, the capital and the only city in the Altai Republic), Anos and Chemal villages and across the mountains eastward to the southern shores of Lake Teletskoye, crossed it from south to north and returned to Biysk rafting on the Biya River past the Artybash village. Interesting images show Russian peasants and their horses on a ferry across the Biya River near Biysk, a group of Siberian peasant girls in traditional costumes, six views of Lake Teletskoye, including one showing people from “Energostroy” state company (founded in 1927 for the construction of hydroelectric plants in USSR, a predecessor of the “Hydro project” firm) doing research on the lake’s shore; the Artybash village taken from Lake Teletskoye, Katun River valley and cataracts, River Biya flowing out of Lake Teletskoye, etc. Several interesting photos portray Altai native people, showing two horse-mounted Altai women smoking pipes, Altaians reading Soviet “Kьzьl Ojrot” newspaper (“Red Oirot”) near their ail (yurt), views of a Altaian settlements etc. Several photos portray the tourists - riding horses along the bank of the Biya River, approaching Ulala, listening to a lecture near Chemal village, posing at the bank of the Katun River near the Chemal village, going across mountain passes to Lake Teletskoye, rafting down Biya River etc.
The second trip started in Semipalatinsk (now Semey, Kazakhstan). The tourists went by boats up the Irtysh River to Ust-Kamenogorsk and further up to Irtysh’s tributary Narym River, thence on the road to Katon-Karagay and Berel villages, up the mountain to Rakhmanovskiye Klyuchi village and the foothills of the Belukha Mountain. The return trip went along the Bukhtarma River. Interesting images show a “sand storm. Semipalatinsk,” a base of the Proletarian Tourism Society in Katon-Karagay, Rakhmanovskoye Lake and a nearby village, the upper reaches of the Katun River, the Bukhturma river, tourists camp near the Belukha Mountain, a large portrait of four tourists posing on a Belukha glacier, portraits of Altaian families, Altaian winter dwellings near Berel village, etc.
Overall an interesting rare source on the early Soviet tourism and the Altai travels by the Society of Proletarian Tourism and Excursions which was destroyed during the Great Purge of the 1930s.