The first essay is a sustained reflection on and response to the question of why the notion of collectivism and collective coexistence has been so deeply entrenched in the Russian society and is still pervasive in today's Russia. It examines the development of ideas of collectivism and individualism, focusing on the cultural aspects based on the examples of selected works from Russian literature. It also searches for the answers in the philosophical works of Vladimir Solovyov, Nicolas Berdyaev and Vladimir Lossky. As well, it investigates historical concepts put forward by Nikolay Karamzin, Vasily Klyuchevsky, and Dmitry Likhachov, and the ideas found in literary works by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Boris Pasternak, and Zakhar Prilepin. This essayilluminates several of the historical roots of the ideas of collectivism and individualism that may have influenced the writers. Special attention is paid to the historical development of folk culturein the Proto-Slavic society, the influences that the Russian Orthodoxy had as well as on the contradictory interaction between the modernizing proposals of Westernizers and the utopian collectivistic ideas of the Slavophiles in the XIX century Russia. The second extended essay examines one particular form of spiritual exercise that aims at creating contact between Orthodox Christians and an icon. The present study focuses on dogmatic and metaphysical aspects of this contact where the icon represents not just an object of religious worship but rather a tool or a portal enabling mental union with the divine. The essay pays special attention to the technical feature specific only to Byzantine and Russian icons: the reverse perspective that allows the viewer to reach a higher state of spiritual concentration.Another component of this essay is an attempt to look into the philosophical concepts of the sublime, the personality and the symbol, their interrelation, and the influence they had on the development of Medieval Russian iconography and church architecture. The essay illustrates the major differences between Western rational approach to pictorial art and that of Russian Orthodox iconography, the latter being an idealistic symbolic form of art subordinate to higher spiritual purposes.
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