Two students in Kursk, Russia, before 1914

These two young men may have been students at a military academy or members of a cadet corps, which was another type of officer-training program.  They’re both wearing a military-style tunic with no insignia.  It’s also possible the tunic was part of a uniform at an educational institution not connected to the military.  I’ll update this page if I find out more.

The two portraits were made by different photographers, but both are cartes-de-visite and both were made in the city of Kursk, in southwestern Russia, near Ukraine.  Both have inscriptions on the back dated January 1914.  I assume they were given to a friend after an important event such as a graduation.

CDVs fell out of favor by 1900, as faster and easier photographic methods arose, so 1914 is very late for them.  I suspect these were made some years earlier.  The one above came from the studio of D.A. Abeldyaev (Д.А. Абельдяевъ):

Russian cadets in Kursk 3

I’ve attempted to read the dedications on both photos.  Some key words on the one above eluded me, including the word “patient,” but a visitor to the blog offered assistance (see comment section below).  The young man in the portrait seems to be referring to medical training:

To my first patient, dear Se__, as a keepsake from [one who is] grateful for the experience of a Leib – a_____a.
S. Kishkin [С. Кишкинъ]
Remember the 6th of January 1914
8 Jan. 1914

Russian cadets in Kursk 2


Here’s the second portrait, from the studio of N. Chernyshev (Н. Чернышевъ):

Russian cadets in Kursk 4

The inscription on the back of this one is easier to read:

I love life because it presents us with the greatest obstacles.
Pavel Mochulsky [Павел Мочульский]
6 / I / 1914

Russian cadets in Kursk 5

Great obstacles lay ahead for Pavel and his comrades.  The First World War would begin six months later, in July 1914, followed by revolution in 1917.  In the Russian Civil War (1917-1922), most cadets sided with the monarchy against the communist forces.  When their side was defeated, some left the country to spend the rest of their lives in exile abroad.

The two portraits were for sale together in England.

Russian cadets in Kursk 6

To see additional photographs connected to Russia, click on the Russia tag in the lower right corner of any page.


11 thoughts on “Two students in Kursk, Russia, before 1914

Add yours

  1. Interesting pictures and an interesting story. In my understanding the text is as follows:

    “Первому своему пациенту, дорогому Севе, на память от благодарного за практику лейб (медика?)
    С Кишкина
    Помни 6 Января 1914 года”

    Old East Slavic or Old Russian language. Reading is not easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aha! “My first patient.” That’s great, thank you!! And Sevya would be a diminutive, but I’m not sure of what name.

      In this case, “практикa” would refer to medical experience (practice). So, what exactly does “лейб – a_____a” refer to, and why didn’t he write the word? It’s a puzzle!


  2. It’s a great puzzle!
    Kursk was a place with numerous military hospitals during the first world war.
    There was a lack of medical stuff due to a huge number of patients so volunteers were recruited. I also know that the last name Kishkin was a common surname in Kursk region.
    Kishkin probably was not a professional medic, so that’s why he didn’t write his specialization in medicine.
    “Лейб” means the rank at the Royal court.
    Some photos can tell us a lot about the history)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great information! Now I understand he was using “Лейб” in an archaic sense, as in “лейб-гвардия,” which would be like the Life Guards in Britain. We just have to figure out what word he was attaching it to. Fascinating!


  3. It could be лейб- гвардия. Another meaning: Leib-Medic (from Leib (german) – the body)) -a medical post: лейб-хирург, лейб-акушер, лейб-педиатр, лейб-окулист, etc.
    A medical consultant provides medical advice for the royal family.
    Why Kishkin did not indicate his medical specialization?
    He was not a certified doctor or just did not want to disclose the type of illness of his first patient…..will remain a mystery)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, quite possibly. I suspect these two photos were given to a third person, perhaps a fellow student, who emigrated from Russia after the Revolution. The photos are clearly connected to each other, because both inscriptions mention the date of Jan. 6, 1914. I’d be very curious to know the fate of the two young men.

      Liked by 1 person

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