View of the Fortress Wall from Veselukha Tower. Smolensk


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 by three days of fighting in August 1812. The great Smolensk fortress was built by the engineer Fedor Kon in 1595–1602 at the command of Tsar Boris Godunov, who intended Smolensk to serve as a bulwark against Poland. Supported on a limestone base, the brick walls were capped with crenellation. Narrow passageways allowed access to the top. This view to the south from the Veselukha Tower (in the northeast corner of the fortress) shows the square Pozdniakov Tower and the massive 16-sided Orel (or Gorodetskii) Tower. In the distance is the Cathedral of the Transfiguration (completed in 1753) at the Monastery of Saint Avraamii, who lived in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. 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

Вид на крепостную стену с башни Веселуха. Смоленск

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