Smolensk. Nikolskii Gates


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 Smolensk, devastated by three days of fighting in August 1812. Seen in this view from the north is the Nikolskii Gate Tower, the westernmost surviving element of the southeast range of the Smolensk walls. The tower, one of the secondary entrances into the city, was named after the Church of Saint Nicholas, which was destroyed during the Napoleonic invasion. The tower passage was closed in the 19th century, and in 1898–1900, a larger arch was opened in the wall to the east of the tower. In 1901, a tram line was laid through the arch. Visible over the old gate is an icon of Saint Nicholas. The brick walls, built at the turn of the 17th century, were periodically whitewashed. The photographer’s color method shows that the old gate was framed by a blue-painted 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. Никольския ворота

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