This image initially struck me for its bright colors. Because of Prokudin-Gorskii’s three-negatives technique, individuals were able to digitally produce one final, colorized version. With the addition of color, the image fills with depth. Immediately, viewers see a woman. She wears a full-length robe, and it is covered with pinks, reds, yellows, and more. Additionally, a headpiece sits and covers her hair, and the intricate beading adds texture. More colors flow from the back half of the headpiece.
She stands on an equally ornate rug. The rug is bright red, but small detailing shows the level of work put into it. However, it lays on the ground in front of a light tan building. Called a yurt, these structures are circular-shaped homes, and they are often inhabited by inner Asian groups.
The Library of Congress (LOC) includes this image as part of their online exhibit in the ethnic diversity of the Russian Empire prior to 1917. It labels her a “nomad,” and it explains that the Russian Empire sought to change their nomadic ways. This extra piece of information prompted me to search the World Digital Library, and I learned that this woman belonged to the Teke population. Prokudin-Gorskii took this photo near the Mugrab Oasis in Bayramaly, or present-day Turkmenistan. After looking at a map, it became clear that this was a hot and arid region.
I became curious about how Russian conquest influenced the cultural and social structures in terrain so far from Moscow. Prior to Russian takeover in the 1880s, the people were largely Muslim in this region whereas the Russian Empire was mainly Eastern Orthodox. The Turkmen were comprised of several different tribes (CountryWatch Incorporated 2001). Finally, the land was fertile, but only near major water sites (called oases). Moscow’s landscape was vastly different.
Nevertheless, the differences did not stop new settlements. According to a country report, the settlers brought a wave of modernity, and even a railroad was built (CountryWatch Incorporated 2001). However, the native people found many grievances with the Russian Empire and the mass migration. Despite this, native people took great issue with the Russian Empire. As mentioned on the LOC site, people were expected to adapt to the demands of the Russian Empire. This partially led to a Muslim uprising in 1916, shortly before the infamous February Revolution (CountryWatch Incorporated 2001). This region would eventually gain independence, but not until late 1991.
With this understanding, the colors in this image are brighter. They depict a woman holding her traditional clothing, in spite of an Empire desperate to assimilate.
CountryWatch Incorporated. (2001). History. Turkmenistan Country Review (p. 9). Retrieved from http://login.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=5239310&site=eds-live&scope=site