Mirza Ulugh Beg. Registan. Samarkand


In the center of Samarkand is the Registan complex, consisting of three examples of the madrasah (religious schools). The oldest component is the Ulugh Beg Madrasah, built in 1417–20 by the scholar King Ulugh Beg (1393?–1449; grandson of Timur). Shown here is the main facade with the great iwan arch at the entrance. The facade displays remnants of polychrome ceramic ornamentation, including panels of geometric and botanical motifs, and a vertical Perso-Arabic inscription band. The walls also display monumental geometric tile figures, within which are patterns of block Kufic script that form words from the Kalima, the basis of the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith. The image is by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944), who used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. 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. During a trip in 1911 he gave special attention to the Islamic architecture of Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan), including 14th and 15th-century monuments from the reign of Timur (Tamerlane) and his successors.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Мирза-Улук-Бек. Регистан. Самарканд

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: September 30, 2016