Polotsk. Monument to the War of 1812, on the Square near Nikolaevskii Cathedral


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 witnessed battles in August and October 1812. The victory over Napoleon was commemorated at various Russian battle sites through a series of iron monuments commissioned by Tsar Nicholas I in 1835 and designed by the Saint Petersburg architect Antonio Adamini. Seen here is the Polotsk monument (24 meters high), begun in 1847 on a square in front of the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas and dedicated in 1850. Crowned with an onion dome and cross, it closely resembled a monument dedicated in Smolensk in 1841. 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

Полоцк. Памятник войны 1812 г. на площади около Николаевскаго собора

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