Bayga. Samarkand


Bayga is a traditional form of horse racing popular among the Turkic peoples of Asia. The length of the race could vary, but it was essentially a test of endurance for the horses. This photograph shows hundreds of horsemen gathered on a hillside outside Samarkand for a race. Higher up on the hill spectators are seen sitting and standing. Samarkand is one of the oldest settlements in Central Asia. It came under the control of Bukhara in the 16th century. Russian forces occupied the city in 1868, which was linked to the Trans-Caspian Railway some 20 years later. By the time this photograph was taken, Samarkand reflected a mix of its centuries-old Islamic culture and the four-decade Russian presence. 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 parts of the empire. In 1911 he traveled to the region of Central Asia then known as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed Islamic architectural monuments, scenes of traditional culture, and Russian development projects.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Байга. 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