Yurts along a Canal


In the late 19th century, the Russian Empire acquired large territories in Central Asia that became known as Russian Turkestan (comprised of present-day Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan). The region was suitable for growing high-quality cotton, and cotton production rapidly became a priority in the Russian development of the territory. The construction of extensive irrigation projects, such as this one on the Murgab estate near the town of Bayramaly (present-day Turkmenistan), was essential to this process. The main source of water was the Murgab (Morghab) River, which flows northwestward from Afghanistan into Turkmenistan. Seen here is an aryk (irrigation canal) under development. On the opposite bank are wattle yurts constructed by the local population from reeds and thatch. 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. Prokudin-Gorskii visited Turkestan 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

Юрты вдоль канала

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