William Brumfield to Speak on “Lost Russia:

Photographing the Ruins of Russian Architecture”

Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University

William Brumfield will talk at Middlebury College on “Lost

Russia: Photographing the Ruins of Russian Architecture”

on Monday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. in 304 Johnson on campus.

Professor Brumfield has spent two decades traveling

in Russia to photograph many of the neglected buildings, especially

wooden churches. Many of these magnificent churches sit outside

the bustling industrial cities of modern-day Russia, large ones

and small ones, churches that no longer collect much notice from

locals, or tourists for that matter. These abandoned edifices,

majestic in their heyday, now bear silent witness to the neglect

and abuse they have suffered throughout a century of turmoil,

war and cultural obliteration. Professor Brumfield has taken on

the task of preserving, at least on paper, this magnificent architectural


Brumfield became fascinated with Russian architecture,

particularly church buildings, while traveling extensively in

the country in the 1970s and ’80s as a graduate student and research

scholar. He was struck by the lack of Western scholarship of Russian

architecture, although his extensive study of Russian history

and literature in graduate school had given him a sense of cultural

heritage that helped direct his knowledge of what should be photographed.

Sadly, many of the architectural masterpieces he sought were damaged

during World War II, targeted by the Communist regime, or just

left alone for time to take its toll. “The photographer can

only work with what time has left and, over the past quarter of

a century, I have recorded much of the remaining legacy of Russian

architecture,” Professor Brumfield said.

A new world was opened in the early 1990s when the

Communist government collapsed and Brumfield was granted open

access to the Russian countryside. “I was able to witness

a landscape that had for me acquired the aura and remoteness of

legend,” Brumfield said. “The silence of the Russian

countryside creates a still moment in which the photographer can

capture the nobility and pathos of an abandoned church or estate

house. Even on the verge of ruin, they retain their monumentality

with striking effect.”

Professor Brumfield’s lavishly illustrated book,

A History of Russian Architecture, received high praise

in The New York Times Book Review.

The public is cordially invited to attend the talk.