Watermelons. An Import along the Kura River in Petropavlovskoe. Mugan Steppe


This photograph shows watermelons awaiting shipping along the Kura River, the largest river in the Transcaucasus, in Petropavlovka (present-day Sabirabad, Azerbaijan). Petropavlovka was established in 1887 on the right bank of the Kura, near the confluence with its largest tributary, the Araks, in the southeastern Caucasian region of the Mughan Plain. The Russian imperial government intended the semiarid region as a place for resettlement primarily by Ukrainian peasants. Living conditions and climate were harsh and flooding from the Araks was a continual threat, so that the growth of Petropavlovka village increased only in the early 20th century. Even then its agricultural productivity was limited until an extensive system of irrigation canals was developed. In 1931 Petropavlovka was renamed Sabirabad in honor of the Azerbaijani poet Mirza Alekper Sabir (1862–1911). 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 parts of the empire. In 1905 he photographed extensively in the Caucasus region, where this photograph was taken.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Арбузы. Привоз по р. Куре в Петропавловское. [Муганьская 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 28, 2016