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Visual Culture, Piety and Propaganda: Transfer and Reception of Russian Religious Art in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean (16th to early 20th Century)

Project description

Defining the aesthetic and socio-political significance of Russian relics

EU-funded RICONTRANS explores the thousands of Russian icons and other religious art objects, brought from Russia to the Balkans from the 16th until the 20th centuries, preserved in monasteries, churches and museum collections in the region. The project maps the historical process of transfer and diffusion as well as reception of religious art from Russia and examines its multi-dimensional impact (political, ideological, aesthetic) on the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. It raises questions concerning the interrelationships between artistic form, visual culture, personal piety, political and ecclesiastical propaganda and ideology, bringing the transfer of art objects to the spotlight as a new field of study in contemporary Southeast European scientific research.


The Russian religious artefacts (icons and ecclesiastical furnishings) held in museums, church or monastery collections in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean constitute a body of valuable monuments hitherto largely neglected by historians and historians of art. These objects acquire various interrelated religious/ideological, political and aesthetic meanings, value and uses. Their transfer and reception is a significant component of the larger process of transformation of the artistic language and visual culture in the region and its transition from medieval to modern idioms. It is at the same time a process reflecting the changing cultural and political relations between Russia and the Orthodox communities in the Ottoman Empire and its successor states in the Balkans over a long period of time (16th-20th century). In this dynamic transfer, piety, propaganda and visual culture appear intertwined in historically unexplored and theoretically provoking ways.
The aim of RICONTRANS is to investigate, for the first time in a systematic and interdisciplinary way, this transnational phenomenon of artefact transfer and reception. Applying the cultural transfer approach in combination with the recent challenging openings of art history to visual studies, this project aims to: map the phenomenon in its long history by identifying preserved objects in the region; follow the paths and identify the mediums of this transfer; analyse the dynamics and the moving factors (religious, political, ideological) of this process during its various historical phases; study and classify these objects according to their iconographic and artistic particularities; inquire into the aesthetic, ideological, political, and social factors which shaped the context of the reception of Russian religious art objects in various social, cultural and religious environments; investigate the influence of these transferred artefacts on the visual culture of the host societies.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 662 100,00
70013 Irakleio

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Νησιά Αιγαίου Κρήτη Ηράκλειο
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 1 662 100,00

Beneficiaries (2)