Incredible Color Photos of Early 20th Century Mongolia

When photographer Stefan Passe visited Mongolia in 1913, the country had only recently declared its independence from China in the wake of the collapse of the Qing Dynasty. It would take years for the idea of its autonomy to really take hold; meanwhile, the area came under Soviet protection, and in turn, political influence, before eventually becoming the Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924. These amazing photos from the Albert Kahn Archive, which we spotted on English Russia by way of Retronaut, capture a society on the brink of massive change in stunning pops of color. Click through to check out a selection of fascinating shots from Passe’s travels.


A hunter in the vicinity of Urga. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


A woman sentenced to death by starvation. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


Two Cossack soldiers in Urga, 1913. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


Carriage of Stefan Passe between Kykhta and Urga. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


The Mongolian capital of Urga, June 1913. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


A street in Urga. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


Stupas in the Gandan Monastery in Urga. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


Married woman in Urga. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


Triumphal Gates of the Yellow Palace in Urga. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


Lamas at the Yellow Palace. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


Gonchigjalzangiin Badamdor (an early 20th century Mongolian religious figure) in the vicinity of the Yellow Palace, Urga. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive


Mongolian yurtas. Photo credit: Stefan Passe, courtesy of Albert Kahn Archive