In this erudite study, iconography scholar Yazykova maintains that Russian iconography might have gone underground during the Soviet period, but it has hardly disappeared, or, as conventional wisdom has it, withered away; instead, it not only has retained its robust form but now stands on the threshold of a new era. She discusses the history and symbolism of iconography before turning specifically to the Russian iconographic tradition, the great Russian medieval cities and their iconographic schools, and, ultimately, the decline of Russian iconography when the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917. She then discusses how emigration from Russia served as the salvation of Russian culture by helping to preserve many of the country’s intellectual and spiritual treasures, especially those artists (such émigrés as Dmitry Semyonovich Stelletsky or Julia Nikolaevna Reitlinger, aka Sister Joanna) who revived iconography after leaving their native land as well as subsequent generations who continued to contribute to Russian iconography’s modern rebirth. In addition, she offers portraits of contemporary Russian artists of the twenty-first century, some of whom who create “auteur-type” icons. –June Sawyers
A true story–told for the first time This dramatic history recounts the story of an aspect of Russian culture that fought to survive throughout the 20th century: the icon. Russian iconography kept faith alive in Soviet Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. As monasteries and churches were ruined, icons destroyed, thousands of believers killed or sent to Soviet prisons and labor camps, a few courageous iconographers continued to paint holy images secretly, despite the ever-present threat of arrest. Others were forced to leave Russia altogether, and while living abroad, struggled to preserve their Orthodox traditions. Today we are witness to a renaissance of the Russian icon, made possible by the sacrifices of this previous generation of heroes.