Cotton Plants, Probably in Golodnaia Steppe or Mugan Steppe


This is not an image from the Mugan Steppe. The original caption is incorrect. These cotton plants in bloom were photographed on the estate of Murgab near the town of Bayramaly (present-day Turkmenistan). The Murgab Oasis and the city of Merv (now Mary) were acquired by the Russian Empire through negotiations in 1884. Irrigation was essential for agriculture in this semi-arid region. One such irrigation project was at the Murgab estate, whose 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. 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 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. Large parts of Turkestan were suitable for the raising of cotton, which soon became a priority in the development of Russia’s Central Asian territories.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Хлопчатник, вероятно в Голодной или Муганьской степи

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