Brick Stairs Leading to Tree-Lined Stream


In the late 19th century, the Russian Empire acquired large territories in Central Asia that became known as Russian Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states). Large parts of Turkestan were suitable for raising high quality cotton, and cotton production rapidly became a priority in the Russian development of the region. Essential to this process was the construction of extensive irrigation projects such as the one on the Murgab estate near the town of Bayramaly (present-day Turkmenistan). The main source of water was the Murgab (Morghab) River, which flows from Afghanistan into Turkmenistan and forms part of the border between the two countries. Shown here is an aryk (irrigation canal). Its careful design includes trees to reinforce the bank and shrubs that give a park-like appearance. 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. Prokudin-Gorskii was particularly interested in recently acquired territories of the Russian Empire such as Turkestan, which he visited on a number of occasions, including two trips in 1911. Turkestan appealed to him not only for its Islamic architecture but also for the transformation brought by Russian settlement.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Кирпичные ступеньки, ведущие к реке с деревьми вдоль берега

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: July 9, 2015