Smolensk. Part of the Fortress Wall on Kazan Mountain


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, devastated during intense fighting over a period of three days in August 1812. Seen here is a segment of the western Smolensk wall on Kazan Hill, with a gap formerly occupied by the Bogoslovskii and Kazan Towers, both blown up by the French during their retreat through Smolensk in early November 1812. The massive Smolensk fortress was built by the engineer Fedor Kon in 1595–1602 at the command of Tsar Boris Godunov, who saw Smolensk as a bulwark against Poland. Supported on a limestone base, the arched brick walls are capped with crenellation. Narrow interior passageways allowed access to the top. This section of the walls no longer exists. 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

Смоленск. Часть крепостной стены на Казанской горе

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