At the Saliuktin Mines. On the Outskirts of Samarkand


This unusual photograph shows camels and their drivers on the way to the Saliutkin Mines in the Tian-Shan Mountains. They are laden with equipment for a Russian group sent to observe a total solar eclipse on January 1 (14 on the Gregorian calendar), 1907, at the Cherniaevo Station settlement near the mines. Located in Central Asia near the border between present-day Kyrgyzstan and China, the Tian-Shan range derives its name from the Chinese for “celestial mountains.” The first Russian to study the mountains was the geographer Peter Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky, who explored them on visits in 1856 and 1857. The high elevation and clear dry air were ideal for astronomical observation. Despite the bitter cold in the exposed, snow-covered heights, the drivers are wearing tattered coats open at the neck. The path that winds in the background has a primitive yet effective edge of boulders. 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

На Салюктинских копях. В окрестностях Самарканда

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: September 30, 2016