Stalinist Icon

22 03 2009


St. Matrona of Moscow with good ol’ Uncle Joe. This icon actually hangs in a church somewhere in Russia. My former Trotskyist sensibility is incensed!

Expect a broader post on Eastern Orthodoxy later this week.



7 responses

26 03 2009

Sorry to spot out the obvious, but that’s not an icon of Stalin (he does not have an aura, in case You haven’t noticed that already by now). Only St. Matrona has an aura. It is no more an icon of Stalin than an icon of St. George killing the Dragon is an icon of the Devil.

25 03 2009

Actually, the Church is explicitly represented in the Ikon as well, by the cathedral outside the Saint’s window…

25 03 2009

Looking at this again (and apart from the question of those poor Russians who allegedly want to canonize Stalin), I see that not only does Uncle Joe sport no halo, but he also has his back to the Saint, and is walking away, as if to reject what she is saying and to reject her God, reprsented by the ikons in the beautiful corner. IOW, Stalin is shown here as literally having turned his back on God, the Saint, and by extension of course, the Church.

25 03 2009
Lord Peter

So-called Stalin icon is outrage!

22 03 2009
Christopher Orr

“An icon depicting Soviet leader Joseph Stalin has appeared in a church of Leningrad district’s city of Strelnya, Novaya Gazeta reported Wednesday.

The church’s Beneficiary Evstafy Zhakov said the legend has it that Stalin would often hold discourse with Blessed Matrona of Moscow. And that is the scene depicted on the icon. However, church visitors didn’t think it was a good idea and the icon was placed in the church’s remote corner.

Beneficiary Zhakov explained that he sees Stalin as one of the nation’s fathers, no matter how bad he was. He does not believe Stalin was an atheist.”

Zhakov’s personal opinions on Stalin’s religiosity aside, if it is true there is a tradition that Stalin would meet with St. Matrona, than an icon depicting him with her would simply be a panel of her life. Significantly to those that know something of the language of iconography, Stalin does not have a halo meaning he is not considered a saint. There are many examples of unbelievers and persecutors in icons, so this is not shocking, e.g., icons that depict Arius being slapped by St. Nicholas; Soviet persecutors of New Martyrs, etc.

Of course, the fact that some small group in Russia wants to canonize Stalin should be taken into account when deciding if it is wise to have any image of the man in any church in any context.

22 03 2009

I think that the tradition in Soviet Russia of people carrying big posters of Stalin, Lenin, Marx, and sundry other communist leaders during marches or parades comes from the Orthodox iconographic tradition. If you look at photographs or film footage of protests during the late Czarist period, the marchers are often carrying reproductions of famous icons. Once the Soviets came to power, they swapped one set of images for another. The same thing happened in China, where the personality cult of Mao became a real-life religious devotion, with peasants worshipping the Chairman as an actual god. One thing I’ve always wondered is why the Orthodox Church and religion in general in Russia never managed to be as subversive under communism as in China, where all sorts of religions and cults manage to proliferate, despite governmental disapproval.

22 03 2009


I thought you were a recovering Maoist.

Either way…

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