These photographs are taken by George Kennan, an American explorer noted for his travels in the Kamchatka and Caucasus regions of the Russian Empire. In 1864, he secured employment with the Russian–American Telegraph Company to survey a route for a proposed overland telegraph line through Siberia and across the Bering Strait. Having spent two years in the wilds of Kamchatka, he soon became well-known by his lectures, articles, and a book about his travels.
In May 1885, Kennan began another voyage in Russia, this time across Siberia from Europe. He had been very publicly positive about the Tsarist Russian government and its policies and his journey was approved by the Russian government. However, in the course of his meetings with exiled dissidents during his travel, Kennan changed his mind about the Russian imperial system.
On his return to the United States in August 1886, he became an ardent critic of the Russian autocracy and began to espouse the cause of Russian democracy. Kennan devoted much of the next twenty years to promoting the cause of a Russian revolution, mainly by lecturing. His reports on conditions in Siberia were published serially by Century Magazine, and in 1891, he published a two-volume book Siberia and The Exile System. It, with first-hand interviews, data, and drawings, had an influential effect on American public opinion. In 1901, the Russian government responded by banning him from Russia.
(Photo credit: Library of Congress).