Religion and Pop Culture in Post-Kievan Rus’

Religion had a very prominent role in pop culture in Post-Kievan Rus’, influencing the social structure, everyday life,  and art as well.  Churchmen and high officials were easily threatened of the toppling of the social structure throughout Rus’ and were highly cautious of the entertaining minstrels. The Rus’ minstrels were looked down upon by the church because their performances “caricatured the world around them,” ((Kaiser and Marker 128)) no doubt making fun of the church at times.  But because the church was a part of the elite society, they were able to “[prevent] the minstrels from bequeathing these performances to subsequent generations,” ((Kaiser and Marker 128)) thus displaying the church’s power to the people of Rus’.

Religion was also important in everyday life for the people of Rus’ as displayed by The Last Will and Testament of Patrikei Stroev.  Stroev introduces himself as a “slave of God” ((Kaiser and Marker 130)) and mentions the Holy Trinity throughout his will.  Interesting to note is how the first sentence of the document is as if he were saying the sign of the cross, and beginning to pray “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” ((Kaiser and Marker 130)).

Beyond influencing social structure and everyday life, religion also heavily impacted the art in Rus’, especially the artwork of Andrei Rublev.  Rublev painted to decorate the churches because his “faith overflowed from him, and inspired him in his creative achievement” ((Kaiser and Marker 142)).  Because the themes in his paintings were heavily religious, they were able to “silently [take] part in Orthodox liturgy” ((Kaiser and Marker 142)).  Rublev’s work provides evidence of a cultural awakening in the fourteenth century, after the destruction of the Mongols.

Question to consider:

Why does Stroev begin his will as if he were about to pray by using the sign of the cross?

Works Cited

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