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Forum “Comments on "Stalin icon appears in Strelnya church"”

Martin Veart (Sunday, December 28, 2008 16:53)

The Iconising and suggested cannonisation of the mass murderer Joseph Stalin is nothing short of a blasphemy before God. I never in my life thought I would ever use that phrase but I cannot think of any other way to express it. The politics here are obvious: a reintroduction of the cult of personality. God help Russia.

Kevin (Friday, February 13, 2009 08:47)

I think the association quite appropriate, considering the history of Christianity. Stalin's hero and role model Ivan the Terrible used to consult frequently with his favorite priests on how best to torment his many captives, a consultative service I'm sure uncle Joe would have appreciated.

Barbara (Thursday, February 19, 2009 13:11)

I can't help feeling that Uncle Joe was not listening to what the Blessed lady said to him!

Galja S. (Thursday, February 19, 2009 22:38)

I came to this URL expecting to be shocked by a depiction of Stalin as a saint. Instead, what the iconographer has here is Mother Matrona of Moscow in her cell. Moscow's most famous cathedral, St. Basil's is out her window. She, a humble monk, is at the center of power in Russia. Her icon corner has three icons of which one is Christ blessing, one is the Mother of God Vladimir and one unknown. Matrona sits on her cot, fully dressed, her head covered. Her hand is toward herself, not outward in blessing. Stalin is turning his back on her, the icons, on the cathedral, and Moscow just as he attempted to pervert the Church to his own purposes, turned his back on the Russian people, and was responsible as a monster in ordinary dress for the death of millions of souls. Matrona's cell is in full view and her curtain is open for all to view. Stalin is in his typical woolen coat. Mother Matrona has a halo. Stalin has none. Evil is depicted in many traditional icons. We see, for example, Joseph being tempted by the words of the evil stranger in the Nativity icon, and yet the devil doing the tempting is not beatified. He is depicted as an ordinary person in ordinary dress, evil hiding in plain sight, so to speak. Quite to the contrary of evil being glorified in the Nativity icon, when teaching about the icon we point out to children and others that they must be careful to kiss the feet of the Virgin when venerating this icon and to be especially careful not to mistake the Tempter of Joseph for someone holy and to accidentally kiss that part of the icon. Sometimes mythological elements are in iconography. This does not suggest that mythology is holy. For example, the River Jordan is personified as if a mythological river god in the icon for the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan, and we see mythological elements pouring out water. This does not mean that we glorify Greek or Roman ancient deities. Rather, we signify that something once pagan is transformed through Christ, as the waters of the Jordan, once ordinary water, is sanctified for holy water through Christ at Epiphany. We must be careful not to characterize images as reality in the first part while viewing and venerating icons, and we must also be careful not to condemn what is instructive. The Blessed Matrona endured Stalin, a dictator who rejected his Orthodox theological training and the Church at the beginning of his evil. She worked hard to turn his heart to good. Ultimately, we are all alone in our choices of good and evil, however, and Stalin turned his back on good and chose evil with terrifying consistency. In short, I feel the icon instructive and well placed in a corner just as the icon corner in the Blessed Matrona's cell is protective of Matrona against all who would dare enter her private prayer and sleeping space.

V Vic (Friday, February 20, 2009 16:59)

Galja S. Thank you for explaining the iconography of this work. Very informative. I am going to bookmark this page for future classroom use. It is very difficult to teach something like Iconoclasm to students who grew up in religions, like most protestant sects, that have no icons. I'm afraid the rehabilitation of Stalin is playing to leftover Cold War sentiments here, with no real discussion of underlying issues, at least not in mass media. Vic

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