- Project Runeberg -  Impressions of Russia /
160

(1889) [MARC] Author: Georg Brandes Translator: Samuel Coffin Eastman - Tema: Russia
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Although Russian scholars like Strogonof and
Martinof have zealously fought against Viollet-le-Duc’s
theories about the Tatar and Indian influence in Russian
architecture and ornamentation, he seems to me to be
right in his view that the Russian art of building is
composed of elements which are almost wholly borrowed
from the East.

Russian art has been essentially religious, because the
religious sentiment in Russia (as in Poland) has been
fused with love for the fatherland and the place of birth.
The question with the clergy was how to fasten the
attention of the people upon religious subjects, and, since
the common people could not read, religious painting
was employed as a kind of figurative language; and, in
order that this language should be understood at all
times, all changes were avoided. A hierarchical canon
was borrowed from the Byzantine masters, and in the
lapse of centuries nothing whatever has been changed
in the form and stamp of the images. The holy icon
was a national symbol, like the flag in later times,
revered and unchangeable as a coat-of-arms; it
represented a grave, thin, ascetic person in a long garment,
which was the ideal of the stalwart, carnally minded
men of the earlier days.

But it was only in this domain that Russian art was
stationary. Especially from the moment when Constantinople
was no longer a Christian city, but in the hands
of the Turks, the Russians ceased to seek there for
artistic forms, and in the fourteenth century their
original production reached its climax. With a prudent use
of their natural materials, they erected churches and
houses which exactly answered to their needs; they
manufactured leather and ornamented it; they wove cloths
and embroidered them in a manner which exactly

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