Volyn Levee on the Emperor Nicholas I Canal. Volyn Bridge in the Distance. Golodnaia Steppe


Among the primary initiators of development in Russian Turkestan was Grand Duke Nicholas Constantinovich (1850–1918), grandson of Tsar Nicholas I, who moved to Tashkent in 1881. There he sponsored a vast irrigation scheme to make Golodnaia Steppe (“Hungry Steppe”) a productive area for cotton and wheat. A related goal was to provide arable land to attract settlers. This photograph shows the Volyn embankment, with water regulator, on the irrigation canal named in honor of Tsar Nicholas I. In the background is a wooden bridge near the Volyn settlement. The name Volyn is associated historically with a region in northwestern Ukraine on the border with Poland. Settlers from that region likely chose the name for this area. The image is by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944), who used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Some of Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographs date from about 1905, but the bulk of his work is from between 1909 and 1915, when, with the support of Tsar Nicholas II and the Ministry of Transportation, he undertook extended trips through many different parts of the empire. In 1911 his travels took him to Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed Islamic architectural monuments as well as Russian development projects.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Волынская подпруга на канале Императора Николая I. Вдали виден Волынский мост. Голодная степь

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: September 30, 2016