The painting “Russia, Awaken!” is imbued with a sense of deep tragedy. Ilya Glazunov once mentioned casually in an interview that he considered himself a tragic pessimist, because an optimist was simply a poorly informed pessimist. Nonetheless, millions of visitors come away from his exhibits invigorated and filled with renewed faith in Russia. To the accursed question of our times – “What can be done?” – the artist replies: “Believe and fight! God is with us!”
Each of Glazunov’s works, besides possessing an intimate and mysterious simplicity, is also provocative in nature. In his paintings one can study the terrible years of upheaval and national suicide which ended with the destruction of the once indivisible and great Russian empire. Many of our country’s various peoples, including, first and foremost, the Russians, have been the victims of an insidious and criminal genocide aimed at erasing the words “Russia” and “Russian” from the face of the earth. Tsar Alexander III’s words that Russia has only two allies, her Army and Navy, are well known. Today, however, we are well aware of the worrisome state of affairs in our nation’s armed forces. The elderly are doomed to an existence of semi-starvation, and those who are employed do not earn their rightful wages. Vices such as drug addiction, debauchery and prostitution are on the rise. The media informs us of children who are being sold for their body parts, of slave trading networks set up by violent criminals with immunity under Russian law, and of brothels in Europe and America filled with prostitutes from Russia. That is why this work, painted in 1994, rings out like a warning bell, calling for decisive acts to stop the dark forces of evil that rage at liberty over our land. Today the Russian people, diminished and divided as the result of fratricidal war, starvation, pestilence, humiliation and treachery, have been forced onto their knees.
“Foreign voices lecture us on the radio. Foreign faces appear in our homes on our television screens. How much more of a beating do we need before we are finally cognizant of our perilous situation? Let us turn our gazes to the heaven, to the One who said: ‘Call on me on your day of sorrow, and I will deliver you….’” Such were the words of the great modern day pastor, Ioann, Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga.
This is a large work measuring 3 x 2 meters. Depicted in the center is a youth raising an appeal to the heavens, with the New Testament in one uplifted hand, and the famous Kalashnikov rifle in the other. Faith and Strength! As with Glazunov’s other works, every inch of the canvas is laden with deep significance. The ideas expressed in the work resound with especial acuteness in these times, when genocide against the Russian people is again being committed. On the belt of the bare-chested youth are inscribed the famous words of Suvorov, who became a symbol of the Russian Army: “God is with us!”
The artist does not limit his depiction of the spiritual life of Russia to the image of Christ – he reminds us of ancient Slavic mythology with a unique portrayal of the god Perun who was worshipped by Rurik and his retinue. The image of Archangel Michael, the age-old enemy of Satan, involuntarily brings to mind the Arkhangelsk Cathedral in the Kremlin, where the Russian tsars and grand princes who created our great nation are buried. A young warrior and a young woman dressed in military attire seem to rise up from the cracked, blood-stained earth
Behind them are depicted Russian holy saints, among whom we can recognize St. Sergius of Radonezh and Patriarch Germogen (Hermogenes). An elderly veteran of the Great Patriotic War prepares to do battle for his homeland – Glazunov has aptly modeled his image after that of a commander who led an attack on the Germans during the difficult period of 1941. At the bottom right is depicted a Russian family that has been put out for sale. In the bottom left corner the prostate bodies of drunken “bomzhi” or homeless people introduce a chilling modern theme into Ilya Glazunov’s passionate appeal: “Russia, Awaken!”