City of Ekaterinburg. Observatory on Pleshiv Hill


From 1909 to 1912, Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) made several trips to the territory around the Ural Mountains, where he photographed railroad installations, factories, urban settings, and natural scenes. This 1909 photograph shows the astronomical observatory on Pleshivaia (Observatory) Hill. The site, formerly on the outskirts of the town of Ekaterinburg (named Sverdlovsk 1924–91), was first identified as a favorable located for an observatory by the prominent Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), who visited the area in 1829. Through the initiative of the Russian scientist Adolph Kupfer (1799–1865), construction began in 1834 on the observatory complex, and the observatory was operational by early 1836. The observatory ensemble began to be rebuilt during the late 19th century. The main scientific observatory for the area was moved to the village of Kourovka in the 1960s, but this site continues to function as a meteorological station. Little remains of the wooden buildings seen here. Prokudin-Gorskii 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.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

г. Екатеринбург. Обсерватория на Плешивой горе

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 28, 2016