The 17th Century 'Renaissance' in Russia: Western Influences on Art and Architecture

According to Lindsey A.J. Hughes, Peter the Great's programme of Westernisation was neither as unheralded nor such a break with the past as has sometimes been suggested.

Russian culture underwent a series of changes in the seventeenth century that some historians have described as a delayed 'Renaissance' that preceded the dramatic Westernisation of his country by Peter the Great. Echoes of Western art and culture had, of course, reached Russia long since: for example, elements of classical antiquity inherited from Byzantium; a style akin to Romanesque to be found in the architecture of the twelfth century; and the late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Kremlin cathedrals and palaces built by Italians. But a number of factors, not least the 250-year long Mongol occupation and adherence to the Orthodox faith, had served to isolate Russia from the mainstreams of European culture, The result was that at the beginning of the seventeenth century Muscovy not only lagged behind the West in intellectual and scientific matters, but also had a more limited repertoire of art forms, most of which were harnessed to the service of the Church.

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