Russian Easter Postcards of the Early  20th Century

Russian Easter Postcards of the Early 20th Century


Alina Yartseva

Palm Sunday

A  willow is all fluffy, spreading its branches around

«In the evening, in crowded churches, pussy willows are blessed… How much poetry is in this touching branch with white-gray catkins, next to a burning wax candle <…>. A willow lives, it conceals a special power of life: put it in a jar with water, you will make it bloom, and fresh green petals will blossom quickly on it. A willow is a symbol of life in the grave, and a symbol of joy with which people welcomed Jesus in Jerusalem after the resurrection of Lazarus, at the same time, it is a symbol of grief, and its catkins are so similar to the frozen tears…»
E. Poselyanin. «Willow Saturday» («Dusha pered bogom (Soul before God)»)

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, which celebrates Christ's glorious entry into Jerusalem in the days before his execution. The people greeted him as a winner of hell and death by waving palm branches. In Russia, palms are not available in cold climates, and the first trees that bloom in the early spring is pussy willows. That is why, the feast is called Willow Sunday by the Russian Orthodox Church, and at Willow Sunday services, people hold cmall bundles of pussy willows instead of palm fronds.

Thoughts sneak quietly…
Branches of willow are depicted on postcards of Lyubov Endaurova, a sister of the noted artist Elisabeth Boehm. Like her sister and mentor in art, Endaurova often included poetic texts in her compositions. One postcard shows the initial strophe of the poem «Spring» (1844) of the famous author Afanasy Fet (1820-1892), another contains lines of Leonid Afanasiev (1863-1920), a fruitful poet whose works were widely published at turn of the century (by the way, his heritage includes a cycle of three poems «Flowers», dedicated to Lyubov Endaurova)

Though branches of willow are associated with a certain feast, cards with their images are used for Easter greetings. This is proved by publications of the Kiev typolithography «Progress» – «Happy Easter» and «Christ is risen!». By outward appearance of postcards issued in 1917, one can judge about the difficult economic situation in the country: modest designs, pale and battered print, low-quality paper.

Christ is arisen! Happy Easter

«Ahead, where is the willows, the candles are lit up.<…> The lights streamed through the church, and that's - everybody have willows. <…> Clear faces glow through the willows, all the lights, the lights behind the branches, and lights in the sight are flashing, shining both on the foreheads, and on the cheeks, and in the windows, and in images on garments. On the walls and above, under the dome, dark shade of willows go».
I. Shmelyov. «Leto Gospodne [The Summer of the Lord]»


Lyubov Endaurova
A willow is all fluffy, spreading its branches around; Again, wafts are carrying a fragrant breath of spring. A. Fet : open letter. - [Saint Petersburg? : between 1904 and 1914] (Partnership of R. Golike and A. Vilborg). - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 14х9 cm
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Lyubov Endaurova
Thoughts sneak quietly … Emotions to the heart gently cling … - This means willows blossom magnificently At the dawn of spring L. Afanasiev : open letter. - [Saint Petersburg? : without publisher, between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 9х14 cm
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Christ is risen! : open letter. - Kiev : Typolithography "Progress", [1917]. - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 8,7х13,4 cm

Happy Easter : open letter. - Kiev : Typolithography "Progress", [1917]. - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 8,5х13,5 cm