Russian Easter Postcards of the Early  20th Century

Russian Easter Postcards of the Early 20th Century


Alina Yartseva

Easter Sunday

At Matins : Blessing of Easter Cakes

«Great Saturday, the evening. <…> Few people carry Easter cheesecakes and cakes in pasteboard boxes <…> Easter cakes, in flowers, – are dotted with raisins. Widely spaced candles. <…>
– The procession with crosses is now <…>. We can hardly make our way into the crowd. <…> A fire serpent shot up, exploded into a lot of snakes, soared to the cross on the dome… and there melted away. The scarlet Cross erected in a black sky! Glowing crosses are on the wings, at the eaves. On the white church, there are gently shining dull-white, like milk, cube lampions, pink crosses between them, green and blue stars. The letters "C.R." are blazing. <…>And all is drowned out by a great roar, wonderful ringing of silver and copper bells.»
Ivan Shmelyov. «Leto Gospodne [The Summer of the Lord]»


Easter Vigil
«At last Easter has come… It came in the silence of the calm concentrated night, where it was waited by thrilled hearts. <…> It has come - and all the countless bell towers, all silver bells started to toll at once … from Moscow to Arkhangelsk and the Crimea, from Peterburg to the Amur, and from the outskirts to the very heart of the country<…>». A village responded to the nearest village, the villages – to the cities - all merged into a single chiming of the bells <…>».
E. Poselyanin. «Paskha [Easter]» («Dusha pered bogom [Soul before God]»)


Christ is risen!
Illustrated postcards of many publishers show a variety of views of Easter night: churches beautifully decorated with the multitude of lights, a solemn religious procession etc. Some of the cards are reminiscent of the festival in Saint Petersburg. The early 20th century Easter services in the capital city of the Russian Empire are described in F. Raevsky's publication «Petersburg with its Environs» (1902), 'The whole Petersburg gathered in all the churches to listen to the morning service.


Easter religious procession around the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg
Especially solemn matins are in St. Isaac's and Kazan Cathedral, besides, – in the Winter Palace which attracts the all eligible for arrival to the court. After three cannon shots, which are produced in the fortress, the first – at 11 am , the second – at 11.30, and the third – exactly at twelve, the first stroke of the huge bell in St. Isaac's Cathedral is heard, and the entire capital is immediately illuminated with lights of festive illuminations and resounds with ringing of the bells of all the churches. Billions of lights of the candles in churches, gas panels in the streets – in panels, electric lights on tall poles in Nevsky Pr[ospekt], B[olshaya] Morskaya and others streets, the Palace Square and Embankment, – form a very spectacular view.».

An engraving of the publishing house «Eau-forte» shows the distinctive feature of light decoration of the main city temple for Easter: 'In St. Isaac's Cathedral, gas is burning in lamps that are held by angels fixed to the cathedral corners. This spectacle is very affecting, as a large gas flame is lit and presents a kind of a fiery column of light', is said in S. Svetlov's memoirs «Petersburg Life in the Late 19th Century (in 1892)».

At Matins

«Easter has become a landmark <…> It is a sort of sound memory ("Easter!"), I have from childhood. In those days, there was the joy of cmoky flares of St. Isaac's Cathedral, on the sacrificial tripods, ascended to heaven.<…> Anything can happen when is the spring - when you are 18 years old, and when the tripods on St. Isaac's Cathedral are burning with Easter flame at the matins. <…>Bells are tolling, grumbling, telling of something to each other<…>
S. Gorny. «Saint Petersburg. (Videniya [Visions])»


People's Feast on Easter

«In the morning, I woke up, and the first, yet unconscious impression is the large - no! - great joy which seemed to have permeated the whole world: people, animals, things, heaven and earth. <…> It's the irresistible call of the street, full of light, motion, noise, cheerful shouts and ringing of the bells.<…>
A. Kuprin. «Easter Bells»

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After Matins
Return home from church service and customs of the festive day are also depicted on postcards. The authors of some of them are now almost forgotten, as, for example, Filaret Miloslavin , a teacher of drawing in one of Moscow's primary women's schools and book illustrator who created the postcard «After Matins». There is also scant information about Iosif cmukrovich: he illustrated books since the 1900s, the collection of anticlerical fables «Black Pastors» with his drawings and a cover was issued in 1924. At the beginning of the 20th century, cmukrovich's Easter cards «At Matins» and «Happy Feast» with scenes from rural life were in great demand. They first appeared in 1901 and then were republished by the St. Eugene Community. Very popular were works of the outstanding graphic artist Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942): for instance, the expressive historical miniature «Joyous Morning of Christ's Resurrection», also was released by the Community in 1901 and subsequently ran into at least four editions.

Happy Feast : Easter in the countryside Joyous Morning of Christ's Resurrection Christ is risen! Happy Feast of Christ's Resurrection!

A large number of greeting cards for the Russian market were produced by major Swedish firms: the E. Svanstrem Publishing House and the Granberg Joint Stock Company. Boris Zworykin (1872-1945), a famous master of graphics who created a variety of cards for Easter, often worked for Granberg.

Christ is risen Christ is risen

Iosif cmukrovich
[At Matins : Blessing of Easter Cakes] : open letter. - [Saint Petersburg : St. Eugenia Community, 1901]. - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 14,2х9 cm
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Mikhail Germashev (1867-1930)
Easter Vigil : open letter / M. Germashev. - Riga : Lenz and Rudolf publishing house, [between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9х13,8 cm
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Feofanov
Christ is risen! : postcards / Feofanov. - [Without place : without publisher, between 1904 and 1912]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 8,7х13,9 cm
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Ivan Gavrilov (1878-1962)
[Easter religious procession around the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg] : open letter. - [Saint Petersburg? : without publisher, between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 8,8х13,9 cm
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At Matins : open letter. - [Saint Petersburg] : Eau-forte, [between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : etching ; 8,5х13,9 cm
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Filaret Miloslavin
After Matins : postcards / Miloslavin. - [Without place :without publisher, between 1904 and 1912]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 8,8х13,8 cm
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Iosif cmukrovich
[Happy Feast : Easter in the countryside] : open letter. - [Saint Petersburg : St. Eugenia Community, 1901]. - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 14,1х9 cm
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Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942)
[Joyous Morning of Christ's Resurrection] : open letter. - 4th edition. - [Saint Petersburg : St. Eugenia Community, between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 14,4х9,1 cm
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Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942)
Christ is risen! : open letter. - [Saint Petersburg : St. Eugenia Community], passed by the censor in 1902 (Typolithography of A. Ilyin). - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 14,2х9 cm
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Mikhail Germashev (1867-1930)
People's Feast on Easter = Volksfest zu Ostern : open letter / M. Germashev. - Riga : Lenz and Rudolf publishing house, [between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9х13,9 cm
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Boris Zworykin (1872-1945)
[Christ is risen] : postcards. - In Stockholm : Granberg Joint Stock Company, [between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 8,8х13,9 cm
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Boris Zworykin (1872-1945)
[Christ is risen] : postcards. - In Stockholm : Granberg Joint Stock Company, [between 1904 and 1916]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 8,8х13,9 cm
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[Happy Holy Feast] : [postcard]. - [Stockholm] : E. G. S. i. S., [between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 13,9х8,9 cm
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