Main Sluice of the Tsarevna Reservoir. Golodnaia Steppe
Among the primary initiators of development in Russian Turkestan was Grand Duke Nicholas Constantinovich (1850–1918), grandson of Tsar Nicholas I, who moved to Tashkent in 1881. There he sponsored a vast irrigation scheme to make Golodnaia Steppe (“Hungry Steppe”) a productive area for cotton and wheat. A related goal was to provide arable land to attract settlers. This photograph shows the head sluice and wooden gate at the Tsarevna (literally “daughter of a tsar”) outflow canal. The grand duke often chose place names that reflected his memories of Saint Petersburg and its court life. The embankment at the wooden structure is protected by a wattle buttress. Although the loess soil is fertile, the bare steppe indicates the extent to which agriculture in the area depended on irrigation. 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 his travels took him to Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), where he photographed Islamic architectural monuments as well as Russian development projects.
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