Friday, December 7, 2018

The South Needs a Pavel Ryzhenko . . .

 . . . to awaken within her people an appreciation and a re-adoption of the good and heroic things from her past.  This is exactly what the painter Mr Ryzhenko has done in Russia.  His exceptional life is recounted below. 

Paul Ryzhenko (1970-2014) was a peculiar artist, especially for our times. He was staunchly realist—he believed that realism was the only ‘real’ art and scoffed at modernism as the result of a morally deteriorating world—yet he was also an unabashed Christian and a deep idealist.

Intensely, rebelliously, Pavel definitely did not believe in art for art's sake.

Instead, he believed in art for God's Sake and for Russia's sake.

For God's Sake: 

Ryzhenko always said that he became Christian 'very late' ( he was 23!), but when he did, he embraced it with characteristic fire:

Everyone person, but especially the Russian, in the depths and mystery on one's heart,  gravitates to the light - to Christ.

To me, faith in Christ came very late, but, once I believed, I wanted to run after him, hoping sometime to come near to that light.

But it to speak of people, those who have left and those who are still alive, who are the carriers of the faith and spirit of the Russian Empire… is necessary for me - I must.

He credited his conversion to his grandmother, who though senile, crippled and uneducated, would always turn towards the window and exclaim "Mother of God!" He would later say:

Grandmas - are windows to that other Russia, a Russia where the phrase "that's your problem" did not exist

Indeed, after he was baptized at age 23, Pavel immediately decided to leave the world and become a monk. He spent some time as a novice in the great northern monastery Valaam, but realized that monasticism was not his path. 

His family, later, became his 'promise of paradise' on earth, as he would say. 

But Pavel Ryazhenko still drew monks very often, always in a misty, peaceful quiet. Some people even teased him, despite the obvious fact that he had a wife and children, that he was like a monk himself.

His love and awe for monasticism lends a luminous light to most of his canvasses, a haunting ideal of a contemplative life of prayer and peace.

For Russia's Sake

People were also always surprised by how quickly he worked, a hurricane of paint and activity that resulted in huge, colorful canvases in days: perfect in their furious, mute motion. 

Those who knew him often say that he gave all his energy, physical, emotional and spiritual, to his expansive paintings, so massive that they didn't even 'fit into normal museums'. The Russian Revolution, the topic of many of his later paintings, especially pained and tortured him. 

Many say that it was this furious, untiring habit of work that led to his premature death at age 44. 

Perhaps, the sharp sense of immediacy he worked with came from Pavel's deep personal conviction that his work was necessary, now, for his country and the salvation of the souls of his countrymen, to reawaken the Russian, the Christian in each person who came to look.

To speak these things on canvas--because that is my duty before the great truth of Russia.

It’s my duty to allow the still-not-fully-broken city dweller. see, how, again and again, these strict and loving faces of our ancestors reappear, those who spilled their sweat and blood for Christ and each one of us.

He believed that artists often veered into lives of passion and sin, wasting their creative potential to awaken the passions in people or please people. Meanwhile, he believed that the artist must approach his art like service.

Rizhenko was notoriously unmaterialistic, only getting himself a 'normal' car two years before his death. Supposedly, he didn't really advertise his exhibits either, believing God would send the right people anyway. 

He was right; the tickets to his exhibits always sold out quickly.

He was often upset about how Russians forgot their own heritage and looked to the West for direction.

I don't identify with the common-European culture, cosmopolitan culture, but with the culture, which threads back to the centuries of the apostles, through Byzantium into Russia." 

The Past

Most obsessively, Paul Ryzhenko drew scenes from the past—battlefields, saints and criminals—endowing it with a spiritual chord that gives the historical images a new dimension.

For this, he was often criticized by his contemporaries as too 'backward.' But he would just say: 

I think, the most relevant genre of historical comprehension...there is nothing more relevant.

In order to answer the question “how can we go on?” I bring in examples of history.

Its a movement neither forward, nor backward, but towards the soul, towards your own history.

Moving towards an Orthodox monarchy, which, in my opinion, is the only honest form, absolutely free in the margins of the law of God.

The future

Paul lived with an expectation that the Russian people would reawaken, by returning to the truths of Orthodoxy, and he thought of his paintings as 'steps' into the church. 

It's honorable to be "a step, a servant of God. And beyond Church, there's already Eternity

One of his last works was a huge, unconventional fresco of the Last Judgment.

At the center of the composition is Pavel himself - a sinner awaiting, with trembling, the moment of Judgement.

More about his life:

More of his paintings are shown at the first address (the Liza Ivanov article) as well as at this site:

May God grant rest to the soul of His servant Pavel, and may He grant the same ghost that he possessed to one of our Southern kinsmen very soon.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

American Nationalism or Southern Patriotism?

The Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin once pleaded with his readers to make a distinction between nationalism and patriotism.  His words are still worth heeding today. 

It is not difficult to see which of the two he discusses that the South falls into.  Though she does suffer from a fair amount of pride, she ne’ertheless has always been able to appreciate and learn from other countries, whether the Spanish chivalry of the 16th century or the French poems of Froissart, or the classical literature of Greece and Rome, or the histories of ancient empires in China, India, and Egypt.  The Southerner is the patriot.

However, the ‘chosen’ Puritans/Yankees of New England, with their vision of creating a new and better society based on a new revelation given them and them alone by their God, have tended to exalt their own culture over all others, to sneer at other societies past and present as backward, ignorant, oppressive, unprogressive, stuck in the past.  The Yankee is the nationalist.

Sadly, it is all too obvious that a fair amount of the Yankee ghost has invaded the Southern soul, where much Red State, Make American Great Again, America Is the Greatest Nation Ever fervor is usually never far from eye nor ear.

Southerners have much to repent of, so let us read Mr Ilyin’s words with great care (translated by Nicholas Kotar):

True Patriotism is in no way self-delusion. The true patriot avoids all illusions about his own country. On the contrary, he is called to realistically look at things, to assess them and then act according to that assessment. He looks at things realistically, sees them as they are. The patriot sees both the strong and weak aspects of his people. He also sees the triumphs and mistakes of other nations.

 . . .

Love cannot be blind. On the contrary, it must make the eye of the lover clear and piercing. There is no need to naively idealize one’s beloved people. After all, the patriot doesn’t need that! A true service to his people is found not in a demagogic glorification of the nation, nor in lies and nationalistic arrogance. The opposite is true. Love for country is a sober, objective assessment, especially a clear analysis of the nation’s mistakes and shortcomings.

 . . .

There is a line of demarcation between national demagoguery and national prophecy. The demagogue is a poisoner of wells. The prophet is a mentor. National arrogance begins at the moment when the people have become stuck in the level of primitive self-consciousness, where their vices, ideologies, and instructors are not capable of illumining it. This primitive self-consciousness is seen when a person is chained by his own self-perception and can see nothing else.

His personal wants or needs take up all his attention and love. His “I” becomes a living and only center of his desires, his will, his efforts, and his joys. He has no doubt in his own reality… A psychologist might call it a kind of autism or even autoeroticism, while the philosopher calls it solipsism.

The national arrogance of the demagogue comes from being drunk with oneself. Once it appears, it feeds on two otherwise healthy sources–the instinct of self-preservation and the instinct of vanity.

 . . .

If I love my people, I must know in detail their historical development, the uniqueness of their national character. I must learn the territorial, political, economic problems besetting my country. To study the structure of its spiritual “act.”  In short, all its national virtues and vices, its accomplishments and its backwardness, everything that is proper to it and that it lacks. I must know all this thoroughly and assess it fairly.

I must hide nothing, nor must I aggrandize anything. The positives are good–they must grow and flourish. The negatives are evil–they must be overcome by a new education of my countrymen. Having come to know my people, I will not hide anything from them. I will justify the good, so that the people will know what is necessary to preserve. I will not remain silent about the evil.

More than that, I will uncover it, I will describe it and indicate it. After examining its reasons and sources, I will call my people to wake up, to begin self-purification, to start on the path of overcoming the evil.

 . . .

Then the arrogance turns into real hubris. If the people and its prophets don’t have enough of a sense of moderate and cleansing self-deprecating humor, then they’ll swagger right over a cliff.

That’s the moment when you start to hear teachings about the historical exceptionalism of a nation and its mission in the world. And in comparison with this nation, all others are merely a series of obstacles to be plowed over.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!