Woodcutters on the Svir River. Russian Empire


The Volga-Baltic Waterway (formerly called the Mariinsk Canal System) links Saint Petersburg with the Volga River basin. The Vytegra River was an important component of the Mariinsk System, because it connected to other bodies of water that eventually led to the Volga River basin. The caption of this 1909 photograph states that these are woodcutters on the Svir River, but  similar photographs in this collection suggest that the location is near the point where the Vytegra River empties into Lake Onega. Shown here are carefully trimmed and sawn sections of pine logs that were probably used for construction purposes along the canal. Pine was ideal for building because of its durability and high resin content. The foreman of the group of woodsutters stands to the right. In the background is a stand of pine trees, through which a large body of water is visible. 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.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Пильщики на Свири. [Российская империя]

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 23, 2016