Date of Award

12-17-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Hugh D. Hudson, PhD

Second Advisor

Denise Z. Davidson, PhD

Abstract

Visual archetypes from Russian Orthodox iconography shaped a widely understood visual vocabulary with politically important cultural meaning. Icons derived their symbolic authority from their status in Orthodox doctrine as divinely revealed sacred truth. Although the Bolsheviks who seized power in 1917 officially denounced organized religion, revolutionary artists nonetheless recycled iconic archetypes in political posters. These recycled Orthodox symbols legitimized the revolution and its leaders, idealized new heroes and social behaviors, and promoted Soviet utopia. Russian Orthodox archetypes thus became important elements of the new “master fiction” underpinning the Soviet regime’s exercise of political power.

Other authors have noted stylistic similarities between icons and posters but have tended to overlook icons’ deeper cultural significance. In contrast, this study applies elements of visual, semiotic, and cultural theory to explore icons’ symbolic cultural meanings, the dynamics of their transfer from Russian Orthodoxy to the Soviet context, and their implications for Soviet political power.Russian icon, Soviet poster, Political culture, Cultural idiom, Visual perspective, Cultural recycling

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