Smolensk. Assumption Cathedral from the East


In 1911 and 1912, in connection with the centenary of the 1812 Napoleonic campaign against Russia, Sergei Mihkailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) photographed sites associated with events along the invasion route. Prominent among them was the city of Smolensk, first mentioned in medieval chronicles in the year 862. This view toward the northwest, taken from the area of the city’s east fortress walls, shows the main shrine of Smolensk, the Cathedral of the Dormition, originally built in 1101. Severely damaged during a Polish siege in the early 17th century, the cathedral was completely rebuilt over several decades in the 18th century. Its present Baroque form, crowned with five cupolas, was created in the 1730s by Gottfried Schädel. The three segments of the apse, which contains the main altar in the east part of the structure, are clearly visible with unusual circular windows at the top. Also visible to the left is the south facade. 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. Успенский собор с востока

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