Czar of the Sands

This image, captured by photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii in the early Twentieth Century, was taken near the current city of Mary in Turkmenistan. It is among ruins of the former city of Merv, which at the time was part of the Russian Empire. The famed ancient city was once the biggest city in the world and was part of the Silk Road. 

I specifically liked this photograph because it gives a new perspective on the Russian Empire.  When traditionally thinking of Russia, we think of Moscow, the Vulga River, and other well-known parts of the country. We often fail to realize just how huge Russia really is, and how big it was at the height of the empire. At one point it stretched as far south as Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan and virtually surrounded the Caspian Sea.

Who thinks of sand and adobe buildings when they think of Russia? I know I don’t.

4 Replies to “Czar of the Sands”

  1. You’re right – it’s hard to comprehend the sheer size of Russia. This is a really, really cool picture and represents the past of a land and people long gone, soon to be joined by the Russian Empire.

  2. I think this pictures enforces what we learned in the reading about revolutionary support coming especially from borderlands (Freeze, 233). Since this area became its own country after the collapse of the Soviet Union I wonder what its political stance was during the Great Reforms and the Revolution.

  3. It’s amazing to think of the history that used to exist within the Russian Empire. You picked a great photo that really shows the geographic diversity of the Russian Empire. I wonder what other archaeological sites used to exist within the Russian Empire?

  4. This is such an interesting photo! I had no idea that imperial Russia included such varied terrain within its territory. The first terrain/climate to come to mind when I think about Russia is the vast boreal forests and a ton of snow covered land. This photo proves that imperial Russia stretched over many peoples of many lands, and not just the commonplaces we know of like St. Petersburg, the Ukraine, and other areas in European Russia.

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