Nikolaevka. Unusual Example of Two Adjacent Planned Lots. Solonetz Dark Alkaline Soil Has Been Sown Three Times. Only Separate Bushes of Cotton Can Be Seen. Mugan Steppe


In 1905, Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) traveled and photographed extensively in the Caucasus region. Among the areas he visited was the Mughan Plain, located in the southeastern Caucasian region near the lower reaches of the Kura River (the largest river in the Transcaucasus). This semiarid area was intended by the Russian government as land for resettlement, primarily by Ukrainian peasants. At the turn of the 20th century, development of this area was impeded by a high mortality rate among settlers. Settlers endured harsh conditions, which included intense summer heat and flooding along the Aras River (the primary tributary of the Kura). In addition, the soil in this region was difficult to cultivate. The location near the Caspian Sea meant the soil, known as solonetz, had a high sodium (salt) content in its upper layer. This photograph illustrates the difficulty of farming in solonetz. The image shows scattered, stunted cotton plants on a plot at the village of Nikolaevka (or Novo-Nikolaevka). Despite three plantings, the soil produced minimal results. 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.

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Title in Original Language

Николаевка. Резкий образчик двух соседних плановых участков. Солонец 3 раза сиян. Видны только отдельные кустики хлопка. [Муганьская степь]

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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: October 7, 2016