Migrant Farmstead in the Settlement of Spassky. Golodnaia Steppe


This photograph shows simple stuccoed brick structures of a farmstead at the settlement of Spasskii (“Savior”) in present-day Kazakhstan. In the foreground a line of poplar trees has been planted to provide shade and shelter from the steppe winds. 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 Prokudin-Gorskii’s 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. In 1911 his travels took him to an area of Central Asia then known as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed Islamic architectural monuments as well as Russian development projects. Among the primary initiators of such projects was Grand Duke Nicholas Constantinovich (1850-1918), grandson of Tsar Nicholas I, who moved in 1881 to Tashkent, which had been taken by Russian forces in 1865. There he sponsored a vast irrigation scheme to make Golodnaia Steppe (“Hungry Steppe”) a productive area for raising cotton and wheat. Even though conditions in the region were harsh, the project aimed to attract Russian settlers by providing them with arable land.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Переселенческий хутор в Спасском поселке. Голодная степь

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 30, 2016