Town of Kem. General View


The Murmansk Railroad was built by the Russian government during World War I to connect Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) to the ice-free port of Romanov-on-Murman (now Murmansk). Construction lasted from 1914 to the spring of 1917 when the line was completed. This image shows a view toward the northeast of a town near the route named Kem, the most important settlement on the western shore of the White Sea. Spread over the estuary of the Kem River near where it empties into the White Sea, Kem is now a regional administrative center in the Republic of Karelia. In 1913 it had 4,100 inhabitants. Near the center of the photograph is the white brick Cathedral of the Annunciation, built in 1903. The church was severely disfigured during the Soviet period. On the right is the wooden Church of Saint Zosima and Saint Savvatyi (no longer extant), which was dedicated to the founding monks of the Transfiguration Monastery. 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 his 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. Support for his work was renewed during the First World War, and in 1916 he was commissioned to photograph this new railroad project; he also photographed scenes in the regions along the route.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Город Кемь. Общий вид

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 23, 2016