Vitebsk. Part of the City with the Western Dvina


Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) was a pioneer in the development of color photography. In the early 1900s, he formulated an ambitious plan to carry out a photographic survey of the Russian Empire. After gaining the support of Tsar Nicholas II, between 1909 and 1915 he completed surveys of 11 regions, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation. This photograph by Prokudin-Gorskii shows the city of Vitebsk, which is located in present-day Belarus near the border with Russia and Latvia. In the early 1900s, Vitebsk was a commercial and industrial center, connected by railroad to St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev. Its population of 81,000 included Russians, Belarusians, Latvians, Poles, and Jews. The iron bridge with stone supports was constructed in 1863–67, and was the first permanent bridge across the Western Dvina River, which runs through the city. Portraits of Vitebsk and its people appear in many paintings by Marc Chagall, who was born there in 1887.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Витебск. Часть города с Западной Двиной

Type of Item

Physical Description

Glass negative (presented as a digital color composite)


  • Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographic work survives primarily in two forms: 1,901 black-and-white triple-frame glass plate negatives, made with color separation filters, which Prokudin-Gorskii used to make color prints and lantern slides; and 12 albums of sepia-tone prints, made from the glass negatives, which Prokudin-Gorskii compiled as a record of his travels and studies. The Library of Congress purchased the glass plate negatives and the albums from the Prokudin-Gorskii family in 1948. In 2004, the Library of Congress had digital color composites made from all the surviving glass negatives using a software algorithm to automatically align the color components. As with most historical photographs, title and subject identifications are corrected and enhanced through new research. Current information on the collection is at

Last updated: November 7, 2017