Northeastern Part of the City of Smolensk with the Fortress Wall


In 1911 and 1912, in connection with the centenary of the 1812 Napoleonic campaign against Russia, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) photographed sites associated with events along the invasion route. Prominent among them was the city of Smolensk, which endured an attack in August 1812 that led to the destruction of most of the city by fire. This view, taken from the Dormition Cathedral bell tower, includes a section of the north wall of the Smolensk fortress along the Dnieper River. In the left foreground is one of the flanking bell towers of the Church of the Hodegetria Icon of the Mother of God, built on the Dnieper Gate in 1814. The brick walls are capped with crenellation above arched bays. Brick houses and commercial buildings line the streets on the far side of the Dnieper. In the upper center are brick warehouses along the railroad, with a line of freight cars extending to an elevated pedestrian bridge on the right. The rolling hills in the distance show a mixture of fields and new factories with tall smokestacks. Prokudin-Gorskii used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire. 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.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Сев.-Вост. часть г. Смоленска с крепостной стеной

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: October 7, 2016