Polotsk. General View of the Northwestern Part. In the Distance Spaso-Evfrosinevskii Monastery


In 1911 and 1912, in connection with the centenary of the 1812 Napoleonic campaign against Russia, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) photographed areas along the invasion route. Among them was the Vitebsk region, including Polotsk, first mentioned in medieval sources for the year 862. Located at the confluence of the Polota River with the Daugava (also known as the Western Dvina), Polotsk was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the late 18th century as a result of the Partition of Poland. The town was the site of two battles in 1812. The first of these, in mid August, resulted in a stalemate that blocked the invaders’ path to Saint Petersburg. In mid-October, the Russian forces succeeded in driving the French from Polotsk. This 1912 view of the northwest part of town shows regular streets lined with small wooden houses, many of which belonged to workers in the factory visible on the right. Seen in the distance is the Cathedral of the Elevation of the Cross at the Monastery of the Savior and Saint Evrosiniia of Polotsk. 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

г. Полоцк. Общий вид сев.-зап. части. Вдали Спасо-Евфросиниевский [i.е. Спасо-Евфросиньевский] монастырь

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 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/prok/.

Last updated: October 7, 2016