Oil Tree. Chakva


In 1905 Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) traveled and photographed extensively in the Caucasus region. In the spring of 1912, Prokudin-Gorskii returned to the Caucasus region, where he photographed both in the mountainous interior and along the coast. Much of the southern Caucasus was dominated by the Ottoman Empire beginning in the first half of the 16th century. In the 19th century the Russian Empire expanded into the area, particularly following the conclusion of the Caucasian War in 1864. Of special interest was the southern region of Ach’ara and its port city of Batumi. With its semitropical climate along the Black Sea near the Turkish border, this area of southern Georgia was home to a variety of exotic flora unknown elsewhere in Russia. The settlement of Chakva, to the north of Batumi, was especially known for its cultivation of new plant varieties, including those used to produce tea. Seen here is an oil tree (Aleurites), native to China and southeast Asia. The large fruit of this evergreen contains oily seeds used for paraffin and lubricants, as well as for paint and soap. Poisonous in natural form, the seeds can also be processed to produce cooking oil. 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

Масляное дерево. Чаква

Additional Subjects

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