Cotton. The Foreground Is Light and Rows of Solonetz Soil Can Be Seen. In the Distance Good Soil. Mugan Steppe


In 1904, Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) traveled to Dagestan. In 1905, he traveled and photographed extensively in the Caucasus. Among the areas he visited was the Mughan Plain in the southeastern Caucasian region at 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. Seen in this photograph is a cotton field in bloom in the village of Nikolaevka (or Novo-Nikolaevka), one of several villages established on the Aras River (the primary tributary of the Kura) in Baku Province. The stunted, sparse plants in the foreground suffer from a type of soil known as solonetz, which has a high sodium (salt) content. The healthy plants in the background are growing on soil that has been improved by irrigation. Settlers endured harsh conditions, including extreme heat in the summer and the continual threat of flooding along the Aras. Extensive work in regulating the Aras for irrigation purposes led to the establishment of several villages along the river. 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

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Title in Original Language

Хлопок. Впереди светлый и видны ряды - солонцовая почва. Дальше хорошая почва. [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: November 1, 2016