Religious influences on Russian Pop Culture

Religion played a central role in the everyday life in Post-Kievan Rus’.  The church was still what bound the people together in a very much separated society.  Much of what was happening with pop culture in this time was directly affected by the church.

During this time, the provisions of wills was distributed by the church due to the fact writing was not wide spread.  It is seen in the last will of Patrikei Stroev, that church plays a big part in the will itself.  The first line reads, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” (KM 130), showing that this is a religious document from the very first line.  Later on in the will we see that he donates an entire village and three beehives to the Holy Trinity monastery (KM 130).

The church was also very critical of minstrels.  These groups of entertainers were able, “to flourish in the northwest…” (KM 135), where Novgorod was located.  However, the northeast proved to be tough for the minstrels as the church capital and Grand Prince lived in Moscow.  The prince strictly forbids any minstrels to enter any land belonging to the monastery (KM 135).  To the church these entertainers demonstrate satanic rituals and witchcraft.

Literature and art were extremely influenced by religion and some cases they really had a monopoly over both.  Icon painting became very popular as seen with the development of schools specifically for painting icons.  Andrew Rublev became famous with icon works such as, the Old Testament Holy Trinity, that were created for the church (RS 121).  Church literature was being developed on a considerable scale as well (RS 116).  The teachings of saints was also an important educational tool being used at the time.

Did the involvement of the church in pop culture have a more negative or positive effect for Post-Kievan Rus’?

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