December 23, 2011

Camel Grazing in the Steppe. Golodnaia Steppe

Located to the southeast of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, Golodnaia Steppe is composed of the loess variety of soil suitable for growing grass and small shrubs in semi-arid conditions. This photograph shows a dromedary camel (with a single hump) grazing in the midst of the steppe grasslands. The harsh continental climate of Golodnaia Steppe—cold in the winter and extreme heat in the summer—made camels the primary beast of burden in this area. In the background is a cow. In the hazy distance is the Turkestan Range. 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. In 1911 he made two trips to an area of Central Asia then known as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed Islamic architecture as well as Russian development projects. Among the projects in Turkestan was the diversion of water from the Syr-Darya River to create a productive area for raising cotton and wheat in the Golodnaia Steppe (“Hungry Steppe”).

Dvinsk. Roman Catholic Church

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire. 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.

Church of the Hodigitria Icon of the Virgin (1763), Southeast View, Kimzha, Russia

This southeast view of the Church of the Hodigitria Icon of the Mother of God, in the village of Kimzha (Mezen'skii District, Arkhangel'sk Oblast), was taken in 2000 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. The village of Kimzha arose in the early 16th century, on the right bank of the Kimzha River, a tributary of the Mezen' River, which flows into the White Sea. In 1699, a lightning strike and an ensuing fire caused the destruction of the 17th-century Church of the Hodigitria Icon of the Mother of God. Work then began on the present church. Due to the village's meager resources, the church was consecrated only in 1763. It is the sole surviving example of a type of church distinctive to the Pinega River area, with a high "tent" tower (shatër) and cupola closely flanked by four cupolas on barrel (bochka) gables. The apse (on the right) has a similar gable. In the 1870s the church's durable larch logs were covered with plank siding, painted white with blue and green trim. At that time a bell tower was erected over the west porch. (An earlier bell tower stood on the riverbank.) Soviet restoration practice frowned on 19th-century plank cladding, and in the 1980s part of it was removed. Lack of funds halted the process. Since 1993, various attempts have been made to restore this unique monument, but with limited results.

Pogost Ensemble, Church of the Transfiguration (1714) (Left); Bell Tower (19th Century); Church of the Intercession (1764), West View, Kizhi Island, Russia

This west view of the main church ensemble on Kizhi Island (Karelia) was taken in 1993 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Located within an archipelago in the southwestern part of Lake Onega, Kizhi Island is one of the most revered sites in the Russian north, with a pogost, or enclosed cemetery, containing two wooden churches and a bell tower. The site’s dominant feature is the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior (on the left), built around 1714. The church is the last surviving original example of an elaborate form of north Russian church architecture consisting of ascending octagonal tiers buttressed with rectangular extensions at the points of the compass. The various components of the pine log structure are crowned with barrel gables that support a total of 22 cupolas sheathed in aspen shingles. At the center of the ensemble is a 19th-century bell tower, a log structure with plank siding. To the south of the tower (on the right) is the Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God, built of pine logs in 1764 and consisting of a square main structure supporting an octagonal tower crowned with nine cupolas. On the church’s west end is a vestibule (trapeznaia). The Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God could be heated and thus was known as a “winter church.”

Pogost (Churches and Cemetery) (18th-19th Centuries), Northwest View, Liadney, Russia

This northwest view of two wooden churches and a bell tower at the village of Liadiny (Arkhangel'sk Oblast) was taken in 1998 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Located some 30 kilometers from Kargopol', the Liadiny area has been inhabited from time immemorial, and the village itself was the location of an ancient pogost, the sacred territory of an enclosed cemetery. The ensemble contains two churches: the Church of the Epiphany (on the left), built in the late 18th century; and the Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God, completed in the mid-18th century (in the center). The churches are built of logs, with plank siding probably added in the 19th century. Both structures are remarkable, but the Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God is the more dramatic, with its soaring "tent" tower. The interior of the Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God consists of a lower story for winter services (its altar is dedicated to Saint Vlasii) and a spacious upper story with the main alter. This upper space contains a partially preserved iconostasis and a superb painted panel ceiling. The Liadiny ensemble was completed at the end of the 18th century with the construction of an octagonal bell tower. Both churches are undergoing a partial restoration.

Dome of the Gur-Emir Mosque from West (Cracked). Samarkand

Shown here is Gur-Emir ("tomb of the ruler") in Samarkand, the burial place of the great Timur (Tamerlane). Timur began the shrine in 1403 in memory of his grandson Muhammad Sultan, who had founded a madrasah on this site in the late 14th century. Following Timur's own unexpected death from pneumonia in 1405, his body was also placed in the structure, which became the mausoleum of the Timurids. It was completed by another of Timur's grandsons, the astronomer-king Ulugh Beg. This view from the west side shows severe damage to the lavish ceramic ornamentation of the ribbed dome. The cylinder beneath the dome as well as the facades of the structure are adorned with sacred inscriptions. 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 (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), which he visited on a number of occasions, including a trip in January 1907 that focused on the ancient city of Samarkand.