General View of Shah-i Zindah Mosque, from the Northwest. Samarkand


The Shah-i Zindah Necropolis, located at the outskirts of Samarkand, is built on an ancient burial ground. Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) is revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammad. Most of the some two-dozen mausolea and shrines date from the late 14th and 15th centuries. A number were commissioned by Timur (Tamerlane) and by his grandson Ulugh Beg, the astronomer king. Seen here from left to right are the Shadi Mulk Aga and Emir Zade Mausoleums, with ribbed domes; the Shirin Bika Aga Mausoleum; and the two domes of the Kazy-Zade Rumi Mausoleum, built in 1437 by Ulugh Beg. Much of the profuse ceramic tile decoration, partially visible here, has been restored. On the cemetery slope (foreground) are remnants of burial mounds and brick tombs. 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. In 1911 his travels took him to an area of Central Asia then known as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed monuments of Islamic art.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Общий вид мечети Шах-Зинде с северо-запада. 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

Last updated: September 30, 2016