Tsar-Dam. General View from the Top. Golodnaia Steppe


Among the primary initiators of Russian development projects in Turkestan was Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich (1850–1918), grandson of Tsar Nicholas I, who in 1881 moved to Tashkent. There he sponsored a number of ventures, including a vast irrigation scheme to make Golodnaia Steppe (“Hungry Steppe,” present-day Uzbekistan) a productive area for raising cotton and wheat. There he sponsored an irrigation scheme to make Golodnaia Steppe (“Hungry Steppe”) a productive area for raising cotton and wheat. Seen here is the “Tsar Dam” on the Syr-Darya River in the area of Golodnaia Steppe. The Syr-Darya, known to the Ancient Greeks as the Jaxartes, has its origins in the Tian Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan and flows past Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan on its way toward the Aral Sea. (In recent decades the ecological consequences of widespread irrigation have led to its disappearance before reaching the Aral.) In the foreground is a navigation channel. 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 he made two trips to an area of Central Asia then known as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed Russian development of the area.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Царь-плотина. Общий вид сверху. Голодная степь

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