Western Dvina near the City of Drissa


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 the Daugava River (also known as the Western Dvina). The river, 1,020 kilometers long, originates in Russia and flows through the northeastern part of Belarus before entering Latvia, where it empties into the Gulf of Riga. This 1912 photograph shows the river near the town of Drysa (also seen as Drissa), first mentioned in written sources in 1386 and absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1772 as a result of the First Partition of Poland. Known from the 14th to the 17th centuries for its castle on the border of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with the Livonian Order, Drysa gained renewed attention in 1812 as the site of a major fortified Russian position intended to block Napoleon’s invasion. In 1962 the town, now in Belarus, was renamed Verkhnedvinsk (“Upper Dvina”). 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

Западная Двина у г. Дрисса

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