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How It All Began

"My historical photo collection now numbers more than 30,000 items, but it began modestly as a project to study the history of my hometown, Bogorodsk, about 40 miles from Moscow, Russia. This town is dominated by textile mills, which once belonged to a merchant family of the Morozovs. My interest naturally led to everything associated with that family: their social world, art collections, and projects. Thus, gradually I discovered the rich and fascinating Russian entrepreneurial culture of the 1900s.

In the Soviet Russia of 1970s, however, any interest in the “bourgeoisie” past was viewed with suspicion and fraught with some risk. Things began to change in the early 1990s, when I could, at last, share my photos with the public and with professional historians.

In the summer of 1991, a major photo exhibition in Moscow included some 600 of my photographs. This first public presentation of Russia's entrepreneurial history in the last 75 years attracted not only the general public but also journalists, historians, and academia.

The success of this project encouraged me to continue and expand my efforts. The Russian Communist Revolution of 1917, the ensuing civil war, and Stalinist repressions resulted in destroyed, lost, and confiscated evidence of merchant culture. Today one can find people from the merchant dynasties, who revere their ancestors yet have little understanding of their heritage. When I visited these families, I found beautifully preserved family albums, boxes of photographs, and keepsakes that bring to life the visual reality of a long-forgotten past. To these generous people, who over the years have shared their treasures with me, goes my deepest gratitude.

I am pleased that I can share these historical documents with you.

Yours truly,

Michail Zolotarev

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