Sociopolitical Mess ages in Eastern Orthodox Church Buildings of the Era of Alexander II in Pärnu County


  • Linda Lainvoo



Linda Lainvoo: Sociopolitical Messages in Eastern Orthodox
Church Buildings of the Era of Alexander II in Pärnu County
Keywords: Orthodox Church; Livonia, Russian Empire; conversion
In Estonian historiography, the topic of Orthodoxy and Orthodox churches has mostly been treated in connection to the Russian Empire and the Russification policy, rather than the local Estonian Orthodox Christians. Yet in the aftermath of the extensive religious conversions of the 1840s the number of Orthodox believers among Estonian peasantry in some regions rose to eighty percent or more of the population during the second half  of the nineteenth century. Because of the active religious
conversion, building of churches accelerated in Livonia during the
1860s and 1870s, covering some regions with an extensive network of Orthodox churches. This article surveys the Orthodox churches that were built in Pärnu county during the 1860s and 1870s, focussing on the iconostases of these churches, their iconographic setup, and sociopolitical significance. The construction of Orthodox churches was a clearly conceptualised
process that on the one hand served the interests of the local Orthodox converts but on the other, new churches functioned as landmarks that called attention to the presence of the Orthodoxy in the region. Exceptionally telling and important messages were also conveyed by the iconostases installed in these churches, as well as their iconic programs. Frequently, a central feature of the sociopolitical situation was the antagonism between manors and Lutheran congregations. Correspondingly, the iconostases of the Orthodox churches clearly reflect the prevailing situation in the congregation during the church construction, adding to the written sources a viable and attractive supporting source that facilitates
the study of the period.
Linda Lainvoo has graduated from the University of Tartu with degrees in art history and theology. In 2011, she defended her master’s thesis titled The Iconostases of the Orthodox Churches in Pärnu County in the 1860s and 1870s in the Institute of History at Tallinn University. Her main research field is Eastern Orthodoxy and Orthodox art in Estonia and Livonia during the 19th century. Lainvoo works as a programme manager at the Kadriorg Art Museum (a subdivision of the Art Museum of Estonia). She has participated in the exhibition working teams at the Art Museum of Estonia as well as curated exhibitions. Since 2013, she is a lecturer in the Department of Art History at the University of Tartu.


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