Exactly 90 years ago, in Vladivostok, this album of 28 black-and-white photographs was presented ‘to the Vice-Chairman of the Priamur Zemsky Sobor, Vasily Nikolaevich Tolok’. Priamurye, squeezed between Manchuria and the Sea of Okhotsk, was the last White Army stronghold during the Russian Civil War. The staunch monarchist General Mikhail Diterikhs, at the invitation of the teetering Provisional Priamur Government, assumed control of the armed forces on 11 June and called for a Zemsky Sobor, or ‘land assembly’, to establish a new government. This was an institution dating back to Ivan the Terrible in which the tsar sought broad support from several estates, not just the nobility, for actions of national importance. The last Zemsky Sobor had been in 1684.
‘On July 23, 1922, the Zemskii Sobor was ceremoniously convened in a hall lined with imperial tricolored flags. It had two tasks before it. The first was to act on a report of the government regarding its past activities [a failed “near coup”] … The second task was to establish a new government. The feeling that emanated from the speeches and procedures was very much of old Russia, religious in tone. At the August 3 session the Committee of Monarchist Organizations of the Far East sponsored a resolution recognizing that supreme power rested with the Romanov family. This passed by a vote of 207 to 23. A greeting was sent to Dowager Empress Maria and Grand Duke Nicholas, for which the Empress thanked the assembly by wire … Diterikhs believed that he was reinvigorating the state by returning to proved historic values and his speeches were replete with references to God, Holy Russia, Christian Russia, and the like … [But] the White exodus was beginning. People were deciding whether to remain and take their chances with Soviet rule, or choose the uncertain course of emigration …’ (Canfield F. Smith, Vladivostok under Red and White Rule: Revolution and Counterrevolution in the Russian Far East, 1920–1922, pp. 153–4).
The defeat of the Whites was now the main goal of the Communists, and Imperial Russia finally came to an end a couple of months after these pictures were taken, when the Bolsheviks entered Vladivostok on 25 October 1922.