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The 2017 Clifford Symposium will explore some of the key questions that surround the Russian Revolution.

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One Hundred Years after the Russian Revolution, Symposium Looks at Its Lasting Effects

September 14, 2017

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The Russian Revolution helped shape the 20th century and continues to have resonance today. Why do interpretations of it vary so drastically? Experts from Middlebury and other institutions will explore some of the key questions that surround this important event at a symposium, “The Soviet Century: 100 Years of the Russian Revolution,” on September 21-23 at Middlebury College. Marking the centenary of the revolution, the symposium activities include talks, a museum exhibit, film screening, and concert. Events are free and open to the public.

“The Russian Revolution was a watershed moment in modern history,” said Rebecca Mitchell, assistant professor of Russian history and one of the symposium organizers. “It is of continued interest today because of its complex and contradictory legacy: the revolution was built in part on utopian dreams of creating a better and more equitable future society, but instead, in many cases, it ushered in Communist regimes that came to symbolize the horrors and abuses of a modern police state.” 

Susan Buck-Morss, distinguished professor of political science at CUNY Graduate Center, and Jan Rock Zubrow ’77, professor emerita of government at Cornell, will kick off the symposium with a discussion titled “Revolution Today” on Thursday, September 21.

“The Russian Revolution as Utopian Leap” will be the subject of a talk by Mark Steinberg, professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on Friday, September 22. That evening, pianist Matthew Bengtson will give a concert, “Music in Revolutionary Russia: Rachmaninoff, Medtner, Scriabin,” interspersed with comments by Mitchell.

Events on Saturday, September 23, begin with a lecture, “The Black Vanguard of Internationalism: C. L. R. James and the Black Radical Response to 1917,” by Minkah Makalani, associate professor of African and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas at Austin. 

The symposium wraps up later on September 23 with a talk on “The Soviet Economy, 1917–1991: Its Life and Afterlife” by Mark Harrison, a professor in the department of economics at the University of Warwick.

Through December 10, an exhibition at the Middlebury Museum of Art will offer highlights from the museum’s holdings of Russian art, including photographs, luxury items by the firm of Fabergé, and a recently acquired Soviet poster. There will also be an exhibit of Soviet-era posters in the Davis Family Library Atrium from September 18-25.

Events are free and open to the public. (One event that includes dinner in the dining hall requires a fee for faculty, staff, and members of the public.) A full schedule is available on the symposium website. For more information, contact Judy Olinick at or 802-443-5532.

The Clifford Symposium

The annual Clifford Symposium is named after College Professor of History Emeritus Nicholas R. Clifford, who taught history at Middlebury College from 1966 to 1993 and who in his many years as a member of the faculty and administration cultivated critical inquiry. Clifford will participate in this year’s symposium as a panelist in a discussion titled “The Revolution Abroad” on September 23.