Rear of Shah-i Zindah Mosque. Samarkand


The Shah-i Zindah Necropolis is located at the outskirts of Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan). Placed 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. Shown here is the back facade of the domed Khodzha Akhmad Mausoleum built in the mid 14th century for a local spiritual leader. Located at the end of the necropolis in the northern cluster of shrines, this damaged monument contains bright ceramic work with floral, geometric, and inscriptional patterns. The walls of the structure display geometric tile figures within which are patterns of block Kufic script forming words from the Kalima, the basis of the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith. On the right is the polygonal cylinder above the early 15th-century Khanaka of Tuman Aka. 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 Turkestan, where he photographed monuments of Islamic architecture.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

Задняя сторона мечети Шах-Зинде. 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