Part of Smolensk beyond the Dnieper River from Veselukha Tower


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. This view to north from the Orel Tower (part of the eastern wall of the fortress) shows the Dnieper River valley. In the foreground are streets flanked by wooden houses, with the smokestack of a small factory in the far right. On the opposite (left) bank of the river is the Church of the Elevation of the Cross (1764–67). In the grove on the hilltop is the Church of the Icon of the Sign, built in the early 19th century in the Guriev Cemetery and now destroyed except for the bell tower. A ribbon of highway, paralleled by a railroad, extends along the far bank in the direction of Moscow. 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

Заднепровская сторона Смоленска от башни Веселуха

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