Art as prayer in the Soviet Union: A comparative approach

Sarah Valentine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a fairly large literature on how art functions as a form of prayer. In these cases it is understood that an individual's decision to engage in art as prayer is a personal choice that does not preclude the practice of other forms of religious worship. Using literary analysis and drawing on recent applications of cognitive poetics, this paper compares the experiences of artists in the Soviet Union with the subjects of the American studies to examine how and if the practice of art as prayer changes in a context where religious activity is banned. The paper focuses on three areas: (1) artistic activity as a means of connecting with the spiritual or divine, (2) the role of the social group in the practice, and (3) art with spiritual or religious subject matter. The paper finds that there are more similarities between these groups than one might expect: artists give similar reasons for how art functions for them as a form of prayer, and the social group plays a key role for both groups. Producing art with religious subject matter in the Soviet Union has complex consequences, but in the American context as well non-traditional religious art can be controversial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-475
Number of pages14
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Oct 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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