Showing secret words: the representation of sacramental confession in Orthodox Russia and Ukraine

Event time: 
Friday, March 1, 2024 - 12:30pm to 2:30pm
Humanities Quadrangle (HQ), 136 See map
320 York Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

The Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Program presents Nadieszda Kizenko, Professor of History, University of Albany; Yale ISM Fellow, on “Showing secret words: the representation of sacramental confession in Orthodox Russia and Ukraine”

In its emphasis on the spoken word, the rite of sacramental confession seems to resist visual representation. In Orthodox Christian Russia and Ukraine as in the rest of Europe, confession tends to appear in literature more often than it does in images. But there are some exceptions. This lecture looks at how confession was depicted in frescoes of the Last Judgment, illustrations of the seven sacraments, and intercessory icons. Because confession in the Russian empire was a legal requirement as well as a religious one, it also examines the political context of its representations. Late imperial images of convicted criminals refusing confession gave way to even more critical representations after the revolutions of 1917—and re-emerged and changed after the fall of communism, in forms ranging from porcelain figurines to Maidan photographs to memes.

Lunch at 12:30pm ET, talk at 1:00pm ET
Location: HQ, Rm 136, 1st fl, 320 York St.
Part of the European & Russian Studies Community Lunch Seminar Series

BIO: Nadieszda Kizenko researches and teaches Russian history, with a focus on religion and culture. She explores the history of Orthodox Christianity, saints’ lives as a historical source, lived religion, political liturgy, women’s written confessions, and depictions of religion in film. Her first book, A Prodigal Saint: Father John of Kronstadt and the Russian People (Penn State University Press, 2000) examined the cult of a charismatic priest whose cult spanned the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A Russian edition appeared as “Святой Нашего Времени: о. Иоанн Кронштадтский и русский народ» (Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2006). Her history of confession in Russia spanning four centuries, Good for the Souls: A History of Confession in the Russian Empire, was published with Oxford University Press in 2021. She has now begun a new project exploring the intersection of women, devotional practice, and writing.

Prof. Kizenko’s courses and seminars cover Russian history, East European history, religion and film, and European history in general. Recent dissertations supervised by Prof. Kizenko include: “Science and Culture on the Soviet Screen: Russian and Member Republic Biographical Films during the Early Cold War, 1946-1953,” “Promiscuous Pioneers of Morality: The Code of Ethics of a Secret Service Functionary in Communist Poland as Set by Law and Practice, 1944—1989,” “Sacrifice in the Name of Sacred Duty: The Representation of the Decembrist Wives in Russian Culture, 1825-Present,” and “Striving for Salvation: Margaret Anna Cusack, Sainthood, Religious Foundations and Revolution in Ireland, 1830-1922.”

Nadieszda Kizenko, Professor of History, University of Albany; Yale ISM Fellow