Polotsk. Nikolaevskii Cathedral from the Left Bank of 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. Many of the monasteries, cathedrals, and churches that appear in Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographs no longer exist. The Nikolaevskii Cathedral, shown in this photograph, was built in 1738 as the St. Stanislav (Stephan) Church of the Jesuit monastery at a time when Polotsk was still part of the Polish Commonwealth. Polotsk passed to the Russian Empire in the first partition of Poland in 1772. In 1830 the cathedral was renamed in honor of St. Nicholas and architectural changes were made to adapt it to the needs of the Russian Orthodox Church. The building was damaged by Bolshevik forces in 1922 and later destroyed.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

Полоцк. Николаевский собор с левого берега Западной Двины

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 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/prok/.

Last updated: November 7, 2017