Domed Adobe Buildings with Crumbling Mosque in Background


Shown here is a group of small adobe shrines at the mazar (mausoleum) of Ahmed Zamcha, located among the ruins of the fabled city of Merv (on the Murghab River in the Mary region of Turkmenistan). Settled in the third millennium BC, Merv was taken by the Arabs in 651 and became a staging point for Arab conquests in Central Asia. Merv reached its zenith under the Seljuks in the late 11th and 12th centuries, when it was one of the world’s largest cities and a major point on the Silk Road. Destroyed by the Mongols in 1221, Merv never regained its former importance. In the background is the domed ruin of the great Mausoleum of Sultan Sandjara. 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 architectural and archeological monuments in recently acquired territories of the Russian Empire such as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states) in Central Asia, which he visited on a number of occasions, including two trips in 1911.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Саманные постройки с куполами, на заднем фоне видна разрушающаяся мечеть

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