A Concise History of Russian Art

A Concise History of Russian Art

A Concise History of Russian Art

A Concise History of Russian Art

Excerpt

Although the decorative arts had flourished in various sections of what is today Russian territory from as early as the third millennium B.C., and some tomb constructions of architectural interest had been produced there during the first millennium B.C., it is, nevertheless, customary to associate the beginnings of Russian art with the country's conversion to Christianity in the year 988-89. Indeed, monumental art in the true sense of the term had not existed prior to that date, for it was not until the Russians experienced a need for churches that they discovered within themselves a genius for architecture. If Peter the Great set out to provide Russia with a window facing towards Europe when he founded St Petersburg in the eighteenth century, Vladimir, Grand Duke of Kievan Russia from 978 to 1015, similarily, though unknowingly, opened wide the door which was to lead the Russians to a new world of visual and spiritual creativeness when he adopted Christianity as his own and his people's religion.

The motives which induced Vladimir to become a Christian are today far less important than the consequences which resulted from his decision, yet it is impossible not to wonder whether he was not to some extent inspired by a desire to keep · pace with the times rather than because of any very profound religious conviction; or perhaps he was also moved by his desire to marry Anne, sister of the Emperor of Byzantium--a wish which, in its turn, may just as well have been the outcome of a romantic attachment as of any purely political consideration. Vladimir's conversion had no doubt been fostered over the years by Byzantine statesmen in an endeavour to spare the Empire, already weakened by Moslem incursions on its borders and by Iconoclast dissensions at home, from the danger of continued Slavonic attacks. The first of these had occurred as far back as the year 860 . . .

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