My first reaction was to buy as many icons as I could afford. Reality took hold. My money would not hold out, and even if it did the icons would he confiscated at the airport the Russian government has imposed strict export regulations to curb the flow of antiques and other cultural valuables to the West.
I then reacted with anger. Many of these icons were stolen from churches. Others were sold by impoverished Muscovites seeking hard currency to purchase much needed commodities. Russias patrimony is being sold for a pittance by those who should jealously defend it her youth I thought. And if the icon is the symbol of this nations soul, is her youth selling out, or is the cry to find the Russian soul a pedantic exercise in self-pity?
Recreating Russia is difficult. Will this task simply employ a romantic yearning for Russias pre-Revolutionary past or will it entail an honest self-examination? Will it be imposed by the authorities, religious or secular, or will it sprout from the populace?
I have no answers. I offer no clues, just plenty of questions.
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Michael La Civita is the editor of Catholic Near East.
Tags: Russia Communism/Communist Icons Soviet Union