Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Exhibition: For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland Opens in St. Petersburg

On 25 July, the Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg opens a major exhibition, "For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland", timed to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War — one of the largest armed conflicts in history. More than 120 unique items of the museum's collection will reveal a hitherto unknown page of military history — the activity of "spiritual front" in force in all European armies in the early 20th century.

The exhibit contains authentic items that belonged to soldiers and officers of the Entente — the military-political bloc of Russia, Britain, and France — and the Triple Alliance (German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires) as well as unique icons, paintings, sculptures, and graphics (posters, postcards, flyers), military medals, military uniforms, and photographs from the museum collection.

The unconventional solution of the exhibition space illustrates not the military but the ideological and spiritual confrontation between the two military-political blocs held both at the front and in the rear, as well as the role of the clergy of the Russian military in maintaining the spirit of the army.

One of the sections of the exhibition is devoted to military clergy — a part of the Russian clergy involved in the pastoral care of servicemen of different arms of the Russian empire. Martial and spiritual feats of Russian priests are depicted in a number of paintings and graphic works of 1910s ("A Christmas Prayer for the Position", "Prayer at the Battery Box", "Feat Russian Priest", etc.). The exhibition is also complemented with documents and photos showing the awarding of orders  to chaplains.

A special section of the exhibition features memorial icons with inscriptions on the back.

A semantic center and the completion of the exhibition will be the jewel of the museum's collection — a makeshift church of His Imperial Majesty of Consolidated Infantry Regiment (late 19th–early 20th centuries) with a set of special items, including details of military priest vestments and church furnishings, and an original candlestick made of bayonets from rifle No. 2.

The exhibition "For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland" runs until 18 September 2014 at the Museum of Religion in St. Petersburg. 


  1. Fascinating! Too bad it is running for such a short time, July 24-Sept 14. More exhibition details at

  2. I'm surprised that so many of these artefacts and anecdotes survived the communist era. It must be the ultimate in cynicism for Putin, the ex-KGB officer who must have spent his early career arresting Christians, to now use religion as a way of inspiring the population. But religion is always useful as a way of uniting a nation.