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Art and Politics at the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches, 1917-45

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image of Russian History

In the period 1917-45, the Roman Catholic Church vacillated in its views of Russian Orthodoxy and the Russian Revolution. Some forces in the Vatican focused on the “consecration” of Russia, connoting support for Orthodoxy. Others preferred to push for the “conversion” of Russia to Roman Catholicism. The tension between these competing views can be seen in the Vatican's patronage of the arts. From 1925-1945, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches commissioned works by four artists—Leonid and Rimma Brailowski, Pimen Sofronov, and Jérôme Leussink. Collectively, their work illustrated the changing mixture of politics, piety, and aesthetics that characterized Rome's view toward Russia in the first half of the twentieth century.


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