Side View of a Crumbling Mosque


Shown here are ruins of the mausoleum of Sultan Sandjara, built in 1140 by a renowned Seljuk leader. Situated in the center of the Sultan Kala section of the ancient city of Merv (on the Murghab River in the Mary region of present-day Turkmenistan), the mausoleum was ransacked when the Mongols destroyed Merv in 1221. Thirty-eight meters in height, the mausoleum culminated in a dome that was originally covered in azure tiles. The dome rests on a complex arcade system of pointed arches. Also visible are traces of ceramic decoration on the facades. This photograph has exceptional historic value as a record of how this major monument of Islamic architecture, which was restored most recently in 2004, appeared more than a century ago. 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 was particularly interested in recently acquired territories of the Russian Empire such as Turkestan in Central Asia (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), which he visited on a number of occasions, including two trips in 1911.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Вид разрушающейся мечети с боку

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