The Influence of Religion on Russian Culture

As we have seen multiple times throughout the readings, the influence of the Church was able to penetrate nearly every aspect of Russian life. Popular culture was definitely not immune to the domination that the Church had. The strict social hierarchy that included the high social classes and the Church were very prevalent in Russian society, they were essentially in control of what would be passed down generation to generation. Since most of the literate population was somehow involved with the Church, their damnation towards minstrels and their performances led to very little historical record of them, and what remained is never very positive.

The minstrels mostly entertained local villagers, who held their performances in the highest regard. “Surviving village inventories from around the year 1500 list minstrels just as they might some priest or smith, indicating not only a tolerance for such entertainers, but also a recognition of their social station and value.” (Kaiser 131) However, since the Church disapproved of them and their, “bawdy songs”, and how they “caricatured the world around them.” (Kaiser 128) Therefore, the Church was able to end the passing down of performances since they controlled a majority of the literate population. In some cases, princes would seek to have minstrels banned, in order to preserve their social order. (Kaiser 132) Minstrels did have an effect both on the lives of the average person and they upset the elite culture.

When observing the will of Patrikei Stroev, the presence of the Church and fear of God is evident immediately. He not only begins his will with a prayer, but he also gave a village and three beehives to the Church. Meanwhile, he gives his descendants animals or money.  (Kaiser 130)

The paintings of Rublev are very similar to the paintings that would have been found in Italy during the Renaissance due to their religious nature. Art was a market that was driven by the patron, and often times, the artist themselves were deeply religious. (Kaiser 142)

Was pop culture truly representative of the people living during that time? Or is it purely whitewashed by the Church?

Works Cited

Kaiser, Daniel H. and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994

2 thoughts on “The Influence of Religion on Russian Culture

  1. Considering the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church opposed a practice (skomorokhi) which was widespread at least for a time, some form of whitewashing was definitely involved. That being said, your question of how much pop culture was truly representative of the people living at that time is a loaded one. Russell Zguta’s writing seems to indicate that there was a disconnect between what was popular in pop culture and what was religiously pious.

  2. The Russian Orthodox Church has been influencing the people of the Russian lands since the middle ages and it is astounding that they still have that influence in today’s world. It’s not as prevalent today as it was back then, but you still see this today in, for example, when the patriarch of Moscow sits behind Putin when he makes his addresses. This strong identity with the Church is probably rooted in the fact that it did influence a lot of Russia’s culture and that was the only culture they had with which to identify.

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