Wonderful New Book: 'Miraculous Architecture of The Russian North'

A unique cultural treasure: magnificent structures mainly built from wood

The extraordinary William Brumfield has done it again with another great book about Russian architecture. Brumfield is a legend and, despite living in New Orleans where he is a professor at Tulane, a Russian national treasure.

The book came out in late June, and is available on Amazon.

The first 20 pages of the book are available online from Duke University Press.

Here are some blurbs:

“The Russian north lies beyond the American imagination; and is imagined by Russians more than it is known. William Craft Brumfield has done more to uncover this vast and culturally rich area than nearly anyone of his generation either American or, for that matter, Russian. Brumfield reveals a region of vast cultural wealth and natural beauty that has suffered more than its share of history’s vicissitudes. His homage to the region’s architecture proclaims to the world that no one can understand Russia without beginning in the north.”

New book by William Brumfield reveals the miraculous architecture of the Russian North New book by William Brumfield reveals the miraculous architecture of the Russian North
“In this combination of travelogue, diary, and history, William Craft Brumfield brings to life a northern territory which, in many respects, subsumes the ancient Russia of hallowed tradition, harsh winter, and human steadfastness. Driven by a passion for things Russian and a rare aesthetic sensitivity, Brumfield embarked upon an arduous journey towards the White Sea and, with luminous photographic skill and deft description, has rediscovered and represented a vast cultural stratum of ecclesiastical architecture, iconostases, cemeteries, and simple wooden huts.”

(John E. Bowlt, author of Moscow & St. Petersburg 1900-1920: Art, Life & Culture of the Russian Silver Age)

“William Craft Brumfield’s intrepid explorations of European Russia’s remotest northern region and their photographic record are a humbling reminder that the pursuit of scholarship takes physical fortitude as well as intellectual curiosity. It’s an adventure to journey with him—by text and image—and discover the astounding variety and quality of the extant architecture heritage in this sometimes nearly trackless zone. As he scans the frozen horizon for onion domes, we owe him immensely for his tireless labors.”

(John Beldon Scott, author of Architecture for the Shroud: Relic and Ritual in Turin)


Following is a pre-review, which appeared at RBTH in April:

New book by William Brumfield reveals the miraculous architecture of the Russian North

The Arctic Circle, the White Sea and lonely villages spared by time – William Brumfield, professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans, has spent years traveling through these most isolated regions of the Russian North photographing the beauty of traditional Russian architecture.

Brumfield’s latest book, Architecture at the End of the Earth: Photographing the Russian North, contains some 200 glorious color photographs of legendary centuries-old structures and documents various aspects of Russian architecture, from log houses to grand cathedrals.

In his photographs of onion-domed wooden churches in Varzuga, the massive walled Transfiguration Monastery on Great Solovetsky Island and the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Vologda, Brumfield outlines the region’s significance to Russian history and culture. For decades Brumfield has collected material on the art of building in the Russian North, from ancient times to the end of the Soviet era.

“It is especially important to preserve the region’s vulnerable achievements of master Russian carpenters,” says Brumfield, “all the more so because a number of the wooden churches also contain remarkable paintings – either icons or wall art. It is also important to remember that the architecture of the Russian North is more than just wooden buildings. Working under the most difficult conditions, skilled masons built large cathedrals and monasteries with massive stone and brick walls. The style is always boldly distinctive.”

Scholar Blair Ruble, former director of the Kennan Institute for Russian studies in Washinton, DC, writes in a review of the book, “The Russian north lies beyond the American imagination; and is imagined by Russians more than it is known. William Craft Brumfield has done more to uncover this vast and culturally rich area than nearly anyone of his generation either American or, for that matter, Russian. Brumfield reveals a region of vast cultural wealth and natural beauty that has suffered more than its share of history’s vicissitudes. His homage to the region’s architecture proclaims to the world that no one can understand Russia without beginning in the north.”

* * *

William Brumfield, professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University, is a historian specializing in Russian architecture, a photographer, a tireless defender of monuments, and the author of 35 books and dozens of articles on the problems of preserving the architecture of Russia, primarily in the Russian North.

Russia Insider

8/21/2015

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