In autumn of 2020, a large mural appeared at Rogozhskoye settlement, depicting the main churches of the Old Believers. This art project – “Old Believer Rus” has a lot of positive feedback. The author and artist Dmitry Gusev shared his thoughts on initial idea and creation process:
The main idea was to create a picturesque map of the Old Believer churches in Russia and I’ve been dreaming about it for a long time. Mikhail Buzhinsky, a parish clerk and lector of the Church of Saint Nicholas on Tverskaya Zastava in Moscow, inspired me for the mural’s creation. I love interesting tasks, so I wanted to make a visually rich, colorful and interesting painting of the Old Believers’ Russia.
In order to bring this idea to life, the artist had to work hard on collecting necessary information, create a sketch and then paint it directly on a large wall. During this art project, Dmitry researched history of local and foreign parishes and churches of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church:
There were and are so many churches of the Old Believers! Most often, the church is a crown of the long path of the community, the concentration of faith, prayers and work. Perhaps, as a result of my thorough research on history of churches, a grand mosaic of human fate was formed in my mind. This amazed and delighted me. What a quiet achievement of millions of people!
It was impossible to show all existing churches, even on such a large wall. From an artistic point of view, the drawing would be visually fractional. The task of this map is not so much about accurate depiction of geography, it is meant to give a vivid figurative impression of the Old Believer churches. Metropolitan Korniliy actively participated in this creative project. Based on his suggestions, the final sketch was made for the mural painting.
As noticed by Dmitry Gusev, Vladyka Korniliy has a real understanding of essence of art, which is almost impossible to find outside of practicing artists’ environment – “For a second there, I even imagined that if Vladyka is given a bush or a paint spray, he could create his own masterpiece.”
The Metropolitan’s opinion was decisive in determining of the mural’s location. Following discussions of possible options, the choice fell on a not remarkable but very large, utility, electrical substation building. Right next to it, there is a walking path connecting public transport stops with Rogozhsky churches.
Dmitry Gusev: I heard a lot of jokes about regular visitors of nearby wine boutiques, who often walk by this building. We actually thought about the fact that if we improve this space, it will change people.
After approving the final sketch for the mural, it took about two years to agree on its’ location and financing with local authorities. In September 2020, Dmitry Gusev, joined by Vladimir Spiridonov and Mariya Shadchneva, began to work on painting of 100 sq. meter façade. Dmitry recalls on difficulties and funny moments of this process:
First of all, the wall had to be prepared. An employee of the Metropolitanate – Pavel Dushkevich has helped us with his friend. After this, we simply projected our precisely made sketch and transferred it to the wall. The work was carried out at night via a projector in the pouring October rain. One morning, we discovered that the church of Izhevsk was painted in several places twice. How this has happened, it is known only to God and the Photoshop program. Later on, a certain honorary citizen of Izhevsk Dmitry T. came up to us and conspiratorially asked “… not to erase the double from the face of the Earth, so that the glory of Izhevsk would grow and strengthen…”
Due to constant rains, the work was delayed for two weeks.Very useful in this experience are warm clothes, prepared by Dmitry for plein air in Siberia, and hot tea, kindly offered by local refectory. The team of artists is satisfied with their work on mural and they are making future plans already:
Surprisingly, “Old Believer Rus” project has a lively feedback not only among the Old Believers. Many passers-by begged us to add cities, towns and villages of their small homeland on this map, which proved close genetic ties of Muscovites with the Northern Urals, Bishkek and Zhitomir. In this work, we focused on churches of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer community, showing how they are evenly spread across the vast Russian land. The map of all Old Believer agreements is a matter of future very interesting work.