Grave in the Shah-i Zindah Mosque. Samarkand


The Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) necropolis is located at the outskirts of Samarkand. Situated on an ancient burial ground, it is revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. Shown here are tombs and burial mounds on the hillside of the complex. Of special interest is the tomb in the foreground, enclosed with a wooden railing. The front of the tomb is marked by a traditional burial pole, with a colorful banner and horsetail ornament indicating the noble status of the deceased. The Shah-i Zindah necropolis is outside the frame of this photograph. 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. He was interested in recently acquired territories of the Russian Empire such as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), which he visited on a number of occasions, including two trips in 1911. He gave special attention to the Islamic architecture of Samarkand, such as 14th and 15th century monuments from the reign of Timur (Tamerlane) and his successors.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Могила у м. 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