As stamps on the sacks indicate, the Turkmen camel-driver has brought sacks of cotton to the Russian Tsar’s Murghab estate near Bairam-Ali, in the Merv oasis. The Tsar’s estate was an experimental economic zone—a pet project of Alexander III—on the shores of the Murghab River. The Tsar spent one and-a-half million gold rubles trying to breathe new life into the ancient oasis of Merv, an area that had completely declined after its war with Bukhara.

In 1909, the Russians built a large hydroelectric station on the Murghab River near Bairam-Ali to provide power to the Murghab estate. Equipped with the latest technology, the cotton mill at the Murghab estate processed raw cotton from the nearby fields, yielding abundant crops.