This portrait of a Kyrgyz woman in traditional dress is contained in Turkestan Album, one of the richest sources of visual information on the cultural monuments of Central Asia as they appeared in the 19th century. This multi-volume work was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of Konstantin P. von Kaufman, a Russian army general and the first Governor-General of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire's Central Asian holdings were called. Kaufman held that position from 1867 to 1886, during which time he played a major role in establishing Russia's dominant position in Central Asia. The forces of conquest were followed by administrators and entrepreneurs, as well as scholars interested in documenting the region's cultural heritage. The primary photographic compilers for the Turkestan Album were Aleksandr L. Kun (1840-88), an orientalist attached to the army, and Nikolai V. Bogaevskii (1843-1912), a military engineer. The Kyrgyz are a Turkic ethnic group widely spread over the area of eastern Turkestan. Their conversion to Sunni Islam is attributed to Arab merchants traveling the Silk Road in the eighth century. The quality of the dress (with what is referred to as an "everyday headdress") and the size of the rings worn by the woman pictured here indicate elevated social status.
Place: Central and South Asia; Kyrgyzstan
Institution: Library of Congress
Physical description: 1 photographic print : albumen