Cotton Field, Probably Golodnaia Steppe or Mugan Steppe


Cotton was an essential raw material for the large textile mills of the Russian Empire, which underwent rapid industrialization in the late 19th-early 20th century. Russian authorities made concerted efforts to find areas in the empire that were warm enough for the cultivation of this crop. Shown here is a cotton field, probably located on the Mugan Steppe in present-day Azerbaijan. This area of the eastern Caucasus was acquired by Russia from Persia in 1813 under the terms of the Treaty of Gulistan. Bounded on the east by the Caspian Sea, the Mugan Steppe was a semi-arid region that depended on irrigation for the use of its fertile soil. 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.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Хлопковое поле, вероятно Голодная или Муганьская 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

Last updated: September 30, 2016