The Murgab estate near the town of Bayramaly (present-day Turkmenistan) was a cotton center. The Murgab Oasis and the city of Merv (now Mary) were annexed by the Russian Empire in 1884. The oasis takes its name from the Murgab River, which flows from Afghanistan into Turkmenistan and forms part of the border between the two countries. Large parts of Russian Turkestan were suitable for the raising of high quality cotton, and cotton production rapidly became a priority in the Russian Empire’s development of this area. Essential to growing cotton in arid regions was the creation of irrigation projects such as the one on the Murgab estate. The main source of water was the Murgab River. Shown here are regulators from the reservoir to the aryk (irrigation canal) system. This photograph was damaged by faulty alignment of the three negative plates. 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 (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), which he visited on a number of occasions, including two trips in 1911.
Title in Original Language
Type of Item
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: July 9, 2015