Old Church Fence. Six Versts from Polotsk


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. Polotsk was the site of two battles in 1812. The first of these, in mid August, resulted in a stalemate between two armies, but also blocked the invaders’ path to Saint Petersburg. The French presence in Polotsk protected Napoleon’s supply routes. In mid-October, Russian forces succeeded in driving the French from Polotsk. Shown here is a crumbling brick wall enclosing the yard around the Church of the Elevation of the Cross at the village of Strunye (Goryany), located just to the west 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

Старинная церковная ограда. В 6 верст. от Полоцка

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