Barge Haulers on the Volga, Ilya Repin

The Russian Revolution was started around 1917. However, the seeds of this revolution were planted firmly beforehand in the struggles of the working class. A working class that was treated similar to that of labor bearing animals.

The painting above is called Barge Haulers on the Volga. It was an oil-on-canvas painting created between 1870 and 1873 by Ilya Repin while he was holidaying on the Volga. Although he initially had trouble finding people to pose for the painting due to the belief that your soul would be lost in the paper once the painting was finished, all of the characters represented in the painting were actual people that Repin had encountered. The painting depicts the lower working class people pulling in a barge on the Volga river. The men look defeated and worn down. Repin clearly used darker colors on all but one of the characters represented to show the their dismal state.

However, the important aspect of the picture is not the ten older, downtrodden individuals but rather the brighter, younger worker. This worker looks to be the youngest out of the group and seems to be taking off the ropes which burden the barge haulers. He represents the younger generation, who are beginning to recognize their oppression and through it to the wayside. Repin depicts the younger generation as “the light” of a new era in Russian society, hence the brighter colors. Only a short forty years later and this almost prophetic painting of uprising would come to fruition.

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