Hidden and Triumphant: The Underground Struggle to Save Russian Iconography sounds like it could be a political thriller or a theological treatise. While it happens to be neither, it does incorporate elements from both, creating a piece of art that explains the tempestuous history of icons in the Russian Orthodox Church, despite upheavals in governmental systems and economic crises. Irina Yazykova (as translated by Paul Grenier) paints a beautiful picture of just how, when all seemed beyond hope, God’s people persevered.
As a Church History teacher, iconography is an academic concept. Growing up in a decidedly American, Protestant family situation, I never understood icons (nor was I encouraged to do so). Thankfully, as my understanding of the rich culture of Christianity has expanded, I have sought out mentors from other rooms in the House of God. And His House is large indeed. Two aspects of this work caught my attention that are worth noting.
Firstly, the “Introduction” is perhaps the most clearly laid out explanation of iconography’s role in Christianity that I have ever read. It does not settle into platitudes, nor does it makes logical leaps that might discredit it. Yazykova’s perspective is illuminating, and greatly appreciated by this reader. If you are interested in icons, or are confused by what they are, this is the book to put the puzzle pieces together for you.
Secondly, the oppressive tactics of the Soviet regime are continually mind-blowing. But more important, the ability of the Body of Christ to persevere in the face of total annihilation is encouraging beyond measure. And no matter how hard it may become “to catch a glimpse of the light from this other world – the light from the kingdom of heaven that inspires people to stand in the light and resist the darkness,” Yazykova reminds us that there is always a remnant soaking in that light for all it’s worth.
If you’re interested in art, history, Christianity, or any combination of the three, then I recommend this book. It’s easy to read (and even has has beautiful pictures to boot!), which is hard to come by in a good history book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.