Traveling with Lotte Jacobi


August 23, 1932 to February 23, 1933.

Lotte Jacobi’s photographs offer a window onto the sweeping changes—political, economic, social, and cultural—taking place in Russia and Central Asia in the 1930s under the Soviet State. Armed with press passes, Jacobi embarked on her six-month trip to the USSR in August 1932. She traveled by train from Berlin to Moscow, on to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and then back to Moscow at the end of her trip.

In seven cities, Jacobi took photographic portraits of intellectuals, politicians, and people on the street, as well as views of historic Islamic architecture. Agriculture, industrialization, the unveiling of women, Russian education, political rallies, and trade in historic cities along the Silk Road were among the many noteworthy subjects she explored with her camera.

The best evidence we currently have for the stops and duration of Jacobi’s trip comes from her 1932-1933 daybook and her time-consuming labeling of negatives with Gary Samson in the 1980s. (Both her daybook and her negatives may be found in The Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire). Jacobi went by train to seven cities overall: Moscow and Michurinsk in Russia; Bukhara, Samarkand, and Tashkent in Uzbekistan; Khodjent (now Khujand) and Stalinabad (now Dushanbe) in Tajikistan.

Moscow, Russia
On August 23, 1932 Jacobi arrived in Moscow, where she was based until moving on to Dushanbe (Stalinabad), Tajikistan, on October 21st. The photographs Jacobi made in and around Moscow include St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, Hotel Metropol, and other architecture; the Sickle and Hammer (the Moscow Metallurgical) plant; and portraits of artists and writers, politicians and people on the street. More on Moscow.

Michurinsk, Russia
From her base in Moscow, Jacobi made a three-day trip 250 miles (400 km) southeast to Michurinsk September 5th-8th. She focused her work on agriculture, both workers in cotton fields and the laboratory and specimens of the celebrated botanist Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (1855-1935), after whom the city of Kozlov was renamed in 1932. More on Michurinsk.

Stalinabad (Dushanbe), Tajikistan
On October 21st, Jacobi left Moscow for Stalinabad (now Dushanbe), the capital of Tajikistan. After an 1860-mile trip (2991 km) south, she arrived in Stalinabad on October 27th and stayed until November 25th. Beyond scenes of tradesmen and women in the bazaar, the capital of Tajikistan offered opportunities for Jacoby to observe an October Revolution Day parade, a women’s institute, a private home, classes for both adults and children, a cotton kolkhoz [collective farm], a club in a cotton factory, and a party for local communists. More on Stalinabad (Dushanbe).

Bukhara, Uzbekistan
December 5 (?), 1932
More on Bukhara.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan
December 7-10, 1932
More on Samarkand.

Khodjent (Khujand), Tajikistan
Ca. December 13-20, 1932
More on Kodjent.

Tashkent, Uzbekistan
More on Tashkent..

Moscow Again
After spending the rest of October, November, and December in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Jacobi returned to Moscow for the rest of her stay in the USSR, from January 1 to February 23, 1933, when she returned to Berlin. More on Moscow.