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The Khata Icon in Ukrainian Civilization

 The Ukrainian folk or khata icon is a powerful phenomenon in the context of East and, possibly, Central European civilizations. Its uniqueness is predetermined by the peripeteias of domestic history and extremely complicated structure of religious and ideological orientations, as well as by mosaic landscape of Ukrainian ethnoculture. The khata icon study is an emerging branch of science due to a number of factors; the main of them are as follows: making khata icon a separate domain of investigation, creation of a solid base for studies by collectors and separate museums, developmnet of first approximation scheme of real domestic history, current progress of a complex of branches of learning related to religious life of Ukrainian people.

The iconology of the whole scope of khata icons in Ukraine, including the collection of Mr. Babak, should determine their role and value as an intermidiary complex of symbols establishing the format of relations / co-operation of an Orthodox believer and God. In most cases the description of khata icons, unlike church ones, shows neither stylistic continuity from the 18th c. and until now, nor unique theological substantiation, nor predetermined ideological motivation. In the first place, the works of domestic icon-painters intended for certain customers or groups of users reflected folk perception of dominating orthodoxy in concrete historical contexts. They are rather clusters of phenomena diachronically conditioned by cultural and civilizational challenges.

One should also bear in mind that the process of analysis of presentational symbolism must take into account the circumstance that, unlike a church icon, which was foremost oriented toward ideology of word or artistic logogram, the khata icon to a greater extent employing certain proto- and archetypes concentrated on religious and existential feelings of anonymous author and believer. The khata icon, unlike the church one, depended not so much on the Holy Writ in local interpretation, as on the church tradition, apocryphal texts and folk perception of confessional domain. It symptomatic even of the orthodox area of Ukraine, where a number of orthodox confessions operated simultaneously, and often as not in olden days the christian topics were spread in a vernacular not from canonized sources, while we know that the reading of an image depends on recognition of traditional patterns in the first place. It may well be explained by exmple of deiparous themes and interpretation of St. Nicholas. Therefore in analysis of khata icon the consideration of the patterns of symbols is more important, than ivestigation of technical details of painting, which is nevertheles of great value for dating, sociological inferences etc.

Therefore the conclusions of Claude Lévy-Strausse that the value of signs depends on their logical intercommunication and of Ernst Cassirer that signs provide conceptual means of cognition of reality couldn’t be applied to church icon, as is usually done by our western colleagues, and even more so to khata icon. Because what matters is not the cognition of, say, transcendental domain, but a special case of emotional / religious activity in connection with a sphere transcendent, outside all known categories.

Khata icon would rather be examined as a symbol of spirituality, spiritual communication, interpreted from the point of view of sociology of spiritual prferences in diachronic and synchronic aspects up to the time of modernism and post-modern virtualizations of public relations, when basic changes took place in Ukraine both in the character of civilization and in the codes of our superethnos. Another eloquent testimony to the recent radical changes is the displacement of traditional orientation of icon shelf in modern habitation and, which is especially important, the involvement of icon in the sphere of real aesthetics and social policy despite its basic role in the past. In the past, before a person ventured to do something or estimate something, s/he needed to formulate her/his feelings about an event; in this case a complex of symbols of icons stepped in, or, in some cases, art. Only the latter established standards and models, while communication with God or the saint mediator through an icon in a state of spiritual intimacy braced up soul and mind of man at the world view choice level. Thereafter the choice was made at level of codes of national / local culture. Today the pattern of choice and decision during communication with an icon is characterized by separation of the world of spiritual and pragmatic domains up to typical parallel existence with minimized taboo threshold.

Understandably, a concrete image, complex of iconic symbols is made of some material and has some kind of peculiar visible form intended for this spiritual, religious process; however, the material, form and character of the process in the case of khata icon is only a way of zeroing in on the domain of transcendent, which is a subject of other disciplines. What is at issue is a sanctified / saint image focusing mental abilities of a believer on transcendences. Because it is not an icon that discources containing divine information, but God speaks through an icon as God addresses us through the texts of Holy Scripture. And therefore the sense needs to be looked for not in an icon as depository of concrete events, but in the context of divine revelation that had been created through it. Because St. Basil or Basil the Freat to whom St. John of Damasus alludes in the known 16th section of the fourth book of his treatise On the Holy Spirit wrote that «reverence of an image change over to the archetype.» And God is this very archetype. Meantime the advantage of khata icon consists in the fact that it is not in a temple there, but in a marvelous imaginary realm of khata here. Herein is its another difference from a church icon, where such factors as society and its traditions, church tradition, temple, symbols of temple topology etc. are also taken into account. A khata icon does not incarnate, but generates intimate spiritual discource.


Such concept of khata icon has become possible due to the fact that, following the careful new fact-finding about the Ukrainian world, one can pass over to comprehension of its specific structure against the background of European and world cultural landscapes. There are already interesting studies in the field of comparative study of religion, consideration of the picture of the world, folk art, etc.; however, there are still no publications on detailed investigation of historical mentality of believers, role of the complex of symbols in communication of ordinary people with God of Bible in different historical contexts. At the same time the divine inspiration made everybody seeking spiritual guidance a conscious participant of politeia discourse in Ukraine and Europe. To my mind, such is the transition from the history of masses to the history of people after the end of history.


The work of Oleksandr Naiden is the first approximation of Naddniprianshchyna icons corpus created by selfless efforts of tireless gatherer and artist Mr. Babak, whose collection is the most representative presentation of khata icon as a new experimental domain. The researcher tackles the most important task: he outlines preliminaries for subsequent classification and a system of co-ordinates bringing out the theme for the first time.

This post-modern scientific investigation should cast a new light on this wonderland showing its attractions and rivet attention of researchers and collectors, everybody who takes interest and is not indifferent to the centuries-old spirituality of Ukraine.

Therefore, Oleksandr Naiden starts with the history of khata icon gathering and post-war collection of Ivan Honchar in the first place, which for decades had to be protected against shattering anti-Ukrainian ideology. I remember how as a young man I heard discussions which he conducted defending the perspective of gathering rural domestic relics of 19th and 20th centuries that wasn’t comsidered expedient only few decades ago.

The first generation of collectors-patriots included Cherkasy artist Ivan Kulik and art critic, director of Poltava Art Gallery Kim Skalatskiy. The former collected icons in the villages of Zvenyhorod, Lysiansky, Shpoliansky, Talnivsky regions of Cherkasy Oblast, and the latter did the same in villages and townships of Poltava Oblast. The folk icons, collected by Ivan Kulyk (now a part of collection of Nicholas Babak) and Kim Skalatsky, allowed bringing out this special, relatively independent type of icon-painting. Later on the study of icons of the collection of Nicholas Babak confirmed this conjecture; Mr. Naiden even believes that a kind of historical poetics is present in all varieties and genres of folk icons. The regional icons make up a sort of conglomerate: mutual attraction (sometimes mutual repulsion) within the limits of the system of collection became discursive. The researcher thinks that khata icons, withdrawn from their natural environment, i.e. khatas, where they were components of interiors, acquired new quality criteria and sacral religious symbolism partly gave way to painterly and graphic vividness.

The popularity of icon was an alternative to the respectable worldly outlay. The folk icon and its environment were part and parcel of reality and rural cultural space not long ago. The objective, sometimes subjective reasons pushed them out of the village which began to collapse and lose cultural traditions.

Naiden came to a conclusion that systematization of icons by such charatcteristics as style, genre, plot, image, model, and decoration to name a few could be productive if cosmological and folklore character of rural environment or peasant cultural space was determined. He maintains that such direction of research enables bringing out elements of folklore in folk icons, and, on the one hand, to establish their folklore origins (unlike traditional church icon), and, on the other hand, in comparison with the objects of traditional domestic folk art (embroidery, weaving, pysanka or Easter egg painting etc.), to treat them as interpretations of old schools and styles of icon-painting. However, the folk icons are interesting for their folklore traits; the researcher believes that this is the source of their image-making potential. Icon’s folklore and image-making factors are homological to those in old religious chants and psalms of Kobzars and Lirnyks (Ukrainian lyrists) as well as old magic charms.

Certainly, we are far from believing that Ukrainian village remained homogeneous for the period of almost three hundred years: the spatial, economic, social, and confessional structure of the village was different and heavily depended on the level of civilization contacts. The stormy history of Naddniprianshchyna makes the latter trait especially important. One should take into account that Ukrainian village became a refuge of different dissidents who often counteracted dominating social and church structures and dissociated from them. Many villages became centers of important historical intellectual movements.

Moreover, the character of village changed dramatically under the influence of world cataclysms, primarily WWI, WWII and Bolshevist para-religious system with all signs of messianism. The village, which intellectually and spiritually survived, stands in marked contrast to the old-time village. Naiden is right maintaining that the semantics of space of peasant’s house loses former expressiveness notedly; in many cases there is a revision of semantics. This destruction as well as decline of traditional rural trades, handicrafts is the result not only of display of somebody's ill-will but also the result of objective historical processes, change of social and cultural tendencies. The intervention of history into ceremonial-and-cyclic semantically ontological rural spatiality, as a rule, has traumatic character. However, the concentration and effective intensity of tragic factor may be different. These circumstances should be accounted for while considering structural features of Naddniprianshchyna civilization: the orthodox dominant under conditions of influence of many cultures and different confessions.

Our researcher has an interesting concept of dichotomy of folk icon in the everyday life of Ukrainians: temple and domestic. The functional attachment of some saints to vital domestic necessities as patrons, grantors, defenders led to their sacral desemantization, partial removal of inaccessibility and severe asceticism. Meantime, the «professional» (church) orthodox icon keeps the metaphysical explication of holy evangelic tradition about God among people, about sacrificial torment and suffering for the sake of humanity, for the sake of faith, and also about victorious absolute power of represented events and phenomena, images and models, allegories and characters, updates and strengthens the mediated existential reflection of individual / collective involvement.

The individual opinion of folk icon-painter, icon-dauber was more liberal and independent of rules and canons than that of professional icon-painter; that is why his icons are richer in taste factors of vivid image-making.

The image on a professional orthodox or Byzantine icon is a timeless representation of absolute faith and divine immortality. The icon-painter incarnates the earthly, corporal hypostasis of that which attained immortality and consequently entered the spheres of eternity and divine timelessness.

At first the khata icon followed the pattern––iconography, subject, image, decoration, painting, design et al.––of church icon created by professional icon-painters of high or good level on the average. The factor of imitativeness translated into khata icon as a kind of professionalism of the icon-painter. The device of imitativeness is intended to use minimum means of expression to produce impression of picturesque and decorative richness of depicted subject, create metaphorical iconic immage, and make an icon attractive and understandable concerning its topical and plot messages. The faces of saints on such icons didsplay little details, but are clear and expressive, their their two-dimensional vestment with conventional adornment and drapery featers a pattern of dots and lines. On the whole such icon formally imitates and metaphorically reproduces the temple icon decorated and skilfully painted by a professional icon-painter.

M. Babak’s collection features many such icons, which Oleksandr Naiden conventionally names imitational and which by all signs are Ukrainian khata icons. There are many such icons in the collection of Museum of Ivan Honchar, in the funds of Museum of Architecture and Domestic Life of Ukraine, especially among icons, which were collected from rural houses of Kyivshchyna (including a part of Polissia and Eastern Podillia), Cherkashchyna (including the adjoining part of Kirovohradshchyna and downstream villages along Dnipro), and Poltavshchyna (including the adjoining lands of Sumshchyna and Chernihivshchyna).

Now, the problem is as follows: who, where and when created these icons? How were they circulated? How did they appear in Ukrainian khata?

Numerous prohibitions imposed by church administrations tell us indirectly about special poetics of folk trends in religious painting, about coexistence of professional icon-painters and so called bohomazy or clumsy painters or daubers, which tended to evade established canon, added elements of individuality inherent in folk painting.

Olexandr Naiden quotes, V. Otkovych maintaining that the «wide spread of folk icon in Muscovy in 16th c. disturbed spiritual administration and the issue of «icon daubers» was examined by the Council of the Hundred Chapters in 1551; the Council resolutely condemned the daubers.»

The official church reprobated the art of folk icon-painters, called khata icons «clumsily daubed», and from time to time persecuted painetrs and banned folk icons. In this case Olexandr Naiden reminds of L. Reviakina’s reports that in Ukraine in 18th-19th c. the persecution of folk icon by official pro-government church was targeted and especially rigorous. «The Pereyaslav-Boryspil spiritual consistory set up persecution of folk icon painting: responsible persons were appointed to find icons «clumsily painted», special lists of prohibited works were compiled, and found icons were expropriated, and folk icon-painters were prosecuted. In 1809 the Chernihiv spiritual consistory sent round to lower consistories, townships and private persons orders to look after folk icon painting and prohibit it, and in May 1858 it returned to the issue of trading in folk icons and gave an order about prohibition of folk icon painting.»

Olexandr Naiden refers to K. Skalatskiy who in his interesting and observative original book Searches. Finds. Discoveries (2004) reminds the poesy of Ukrainian scribbler, priest and obscurant of the end of 17th and beginning of 18th c. Klymentiy Zynoviyev, in which the author calls the icons of folk painters or handicrafters / daubers as «dissolute undertaking». K. Skalatskiy, mentioned above, maintains that icons created by folk icon-painters by their «artistic features and level of skill differed from works of trained artisans; however, they were very popular with people (moreover, they were much cheaper)». The in-absentia conflict among trained guild painters and average daubers was not only about economic matters and etiquette of icon-painting canons, but about creative issues as well. The quoted author is in favor with non-guild painters «which left heartfelt plump, flowered and embellished Barbaras and Catherines, old bee-musters in the likeness of apostles Peter and Paul, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, and devil-may-care Zaporozhian Kozak as St. George the Slayer of the Dragon. All of them differed from official Byzantine style like a colorful folk song or duma differed from official lofty bookish language.»

Olexander Naiden follows K. Skalatskiy and expressly divides amateur artists into artisans and painters-outworkers. In the case of craftsmen it is an order-controlled painting (churches, monasteries, private customers, and public establishments), outworkers paint for sale, i.e.  for a market, shop, and other forms of retailing. According to K. Skalatskiy, the outpainters produced popular pictures for markets and fairs. However, at the markets, fairs, shops and outlets icons were sold as well; consequently, there were painters-outworkers making such icons. They worked alongside non-guild daubers who had nothing to do with the fairs. Among K. Skalatskiy’s reproductions there are a few samples stylistically and poetically akin to the «market» kind, or imitation icon, which actually makes a core of collection of M. Babak. However, these reproductions are but akin to the «market» or peasant khata icons, and not equal them. Their painterly input dominates over graphic and decorative ones: three-dimensional faces elementaryly sketched with a few colors, three-dimensional folds of vestments are brought out with plastic means.

The book of Lidiya Lykhach and Nicholas Kornienko The Icons of Shevchenko’s Places (Kyiv, 2000), who support Naiden’s concepts, are more specific on the origin (process, technique) of folk icon and ways and methods of its introduction into the world of Ukrainian khata. Therefore, late in 19th and early 20th centuries in the villages of Middle Naddniprianshchyna worked a host of amateurish icon painters and daubers. Some of them were icon-painters-artisans, which worked to order only (churches, monasteries, local peasants, townies); another part painted for sale and is classified as outworkers. There was a group of daubers painting by accident; for example, icon dauber Ivan Khodos (b. 1879), according to his daughter (b. 1913), painted custom-made icons: «People knew him. And place orders with him, especially, if a girl was led to the altar; he used to paint a pair of icons: the Mother of God and the Savior.» P. M. Bezkorovaina (b. 1912) tremembered that «beautiful icons were painted by Afanasiy Hirniak. He painted and (his wife) brought the icons to the market.» Another respondent recollected: «There were no icon-painters in our village; nevertheless, there were traveling daubers painting to order. He either had already painted icons or got down to work and painted on the spot… I came across some such: he comes to the village and he was a free marketeer himself.»

Acording to the concept of Olexandr Naiden, the imitational folk icon is the phenomenon of collective and personal (even intimately personal) aspirations, as well as collective artistic and individual creative results. The creators of such icon, its images and decorations, were not peasants, at least not those peasants which combined icon painting with tilling, and not rural deacon-painters; they were rather professional icon-painters without standard professional training, or bits and bobs of the trade; they made up for it thru individual training and finally got their hand in it. The majority of them had a rural background; however, there were also townies and commoners. Naiden believes that there is every reason to surmise that they developed the iconographic and decorative and ornamental type of icon, which we will attest as an imitation. This type was later repeated and interpreted by a host of rural domestic icon painters and artisans in many localities of Middle Naddniprianshchyna, as well as Polissia, Podillia, Sumshchyna, and Kharkivshchyna.

A blob (red, red-brown, dark orange, dark green, yellow, dark blue and so on) of thinned paint and shallow relief of texture and marks of elaboration in the form of long vertical stripes and furrows showing through the coat of color produce an original ornamental interplay; together with vivid graphic imitation of vestmental folds, semicircles of white dots, yellow stringes, and starry flowers they form a showpiece icon. Such is an appearance of quantity-produced icons on gessoed boards, icons made by guilds in Kyiv, budget icons affordable by peasants and provincial townies, prototype icons for locals and provincial icon-painters all-over Ukraine.

The folk icon simultaneously belongs to religious cosmology of ethnic culture, and Christian church. The researcher maintains that the folk icon makes is the object of prayerful and confessional revelation and folklore factor of patronage.

Olexandr Naiden concludes that the most widespread subjects in collection of M. Babak and nomenclature of folk icon in general are icons of Christ and Mother of God with Christ child. No wonder. In fact, the peasants loved these images in the first place; however, there was also a practical side: they were used to bless a bride and bridegroom. Therefore they were highly demanded. The statistics of M.Babak’s icons in decreasing order is as follows: icons of Christ, Mother of God, St. Nicholas, St. Barbara, St. George the Slayer of a Dragon, Christ the Everwatchful Eye, Christ the True Vine, Beheading of St. John the Baptist, the Laying in the Tomb, Resurrection, St. Charalampias and Blasias, Feast of Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, Coronation of the Mother of God, Icon of the Mother of God of the Burning Bush, St. Parasceva, St. John the Soldier, St. Archangel Michael, St. Mary Magdalene and others.

The ornaments of folk peasant icon together with painterly and decorative coloration create a typically Ukrainian pattern with its implicit discourse. As a result we have an iconic decorative pattern, the ethnic origins and traits of which bring out national poetics. According to Naiden, this poetics is characterized by festivity and non-standard artificiality. It is a live ornament devoid of classic academicism and formulary. However, such ornamentation is not a sort of artyistic goal for a folk icon-painter; it is rather an organic requirement of self-expression.

Among other icons of Babak’s collection Naiden singles out the image of St. Justinian holding in his hands a child (his son) before the icon of Mother of God with Christ child. The sanctuary veil is on the upper right. Flavius Anicius Julianus Justinianus was the Byzantine Emperor, codifier of Imperial Christianity, consistent persecutor of dissenters and nonconformists, which built the temple of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Another image of St. Justinian is on the icon from the Village of Yasnozirya, Cherkasy Region, end of 19th c. Its vertical composition is like that with saint Emperor, Mother of God of Okhtyrka, St. Nicholas, St. Pantaleon, and St. Metrophanes. Other multi-subject icons have horizontal composition with panoramic-frieze (Deesis) arrangement of images. On the average such icons (oil on canvas) are almost 200cm long and 60-55cm wide. The arrangement––according to their content­, symbolism, and iconography––may vary. Anyway, the central part featuring Jesus Christ, Mother of God or both is a backbone of composition. The central subject is always hierarchically accentuated, if Jesus Christ and Mother of God are present in other subjects. For example, an icon from Cherkashchyna (first half of 19th c.) includes such subjects: «St. Archangel Michael, Annunciation, Mother of God of the Burning Bush, Christ's Resurrection, and St. Barbara. Therefore, the hierarchically accentuated is the central subject of the Burning Bush. However, it is difficult to guess the logic or system of subject selection and their pattern––the centerization principle. An icon from Left-Bank Cherkashchyna (historical Poltavshchyna, mid-19th c.) places the Mother of God of Pechersk in the center and archangels Gabriel and Michael followed by St. Barbara on the one side and St. Pantaleon on the other; however, the presence of archangels Gabriel, announcer of good news, God’s Word, and Michael, celestial warrior-defender, seems logically motivated, while the presence of St. Barbara and Pantaleon is a more liberal decision. On other icons-friezes instead of St. Barbara we see Mary called Magdalene or St. Parasceva, and St. Nicholas instead of St. Pantaleon. A refreshingly original in its imaging and ornamentation of subjects is a 170cm-long icon from Chyhyryn Region (Dumantsi Village), early 19th c. The single icon field includes three large medallions featuring three subjects: Coronation of the Mother of God in the middle and St. Barbara and Parasceva and St. Basil the Great and Nicholas on both sides. Among medallions there are ornamental inserts of artificial flowers and apples. The restrained colors, clear drawing, soft and tasty coloristic, rhythmic and plastic elements testify to author’s professionalism based upon primitive.

The same is true about the above icon from the Left-Bank Cherkashchyna, on which subjects are embedded in elongated oval medallions. The icon from Dakhnivka Village, Cherkasy Region (early 19th c.), structurally matches the icon from Dumantsi Village: the same medallions, flowers and apples, painterly and coloristic mood. They might be painted by the same author, or at the same workshop. This icon features St. Barbara and St. Nicholas on either side of the central subject of Coronation of the Mother of God. Another icon of this master or from this workshop with the same central subject of Coronation of the Mother of God with St Nicholas and St. Parasceva on either side with analogical medallions, flowers and apples and similar coloring concept, as well as three-figure Deisis (Chyhyryn Region, mid-19th c.) allows to sutmise that somewhere near Cherkasy or in Cherkasy or in Chyhyryn in the early or mid-19th c. there was  a school of icon painting, the icons of which were marked by high taste both in relation to iconic images and decorative, folklore-ornamental components of framing.

These long multi-subject icons were found in villages and regional towns; however, there is no background to them.  Olexandr Naiden puts over a suggestion: on one photo from M. Babak’s collection (end of 19th and early 20th c.) he saw an iconostasis of a rural church compiled of such elongated multi-subject icons. He surmised that some well-to-do farmers had rooms spacious enough to order and to fix such long icons on the wall.

Among icons belonging to M.Babak there are such rarities as a corner icon (Right-Bank Cherkashchyna, end of 18th c.), icons of venerable Martyr St. Eudocia (Smiliansky Region, Cherkasy Oblast, end of 18th––19th c.) and two-subject icon from Chyhyryn Region, early 19th c. Olexandr Naiden considers the former a unique icon, because it combines the subjects of Christmas and Resurrection, which are marked by naivety and unite the beginning and end of earthly life of Jesus Christ; the author treats the concept as the first earthly birth of the Savior for his stay among people for 33 years and his second birth for eternal stay in heaven. To my mind, such contamination of interpretation of theology of Resurrection and Ascention is a unique concept indeed.

The corner icon is done of a hollowed-out barrel of old willow and is semicircular. It is made to fit into a corner spot in a front room. Thence the compilation and arrangement of miraculously appearing saints: St. Charalampias in the center, Pantaleon and Joseph on the right and left and St. Demetrius and St. George the Victorius on the edges.

The most frequent pairs of saints on icons are St. Charalampias and Blasius; there are also icons with the image of St. Barbara and Archangel Michael, St. Nicholas and St. Mary called Magdalene; there are also many combinations of saints in one icon field. The most part of naïve icons can be ranked among works of imitational or folklore decorative style.

Olexandr Naiden maintains that the icon of venerable Martyr Eudocia is a rare work, because it is not an iconic, but secular image; it is rather a portrait, than parsuna painting. The image combines naïve folklore principle and Baroque traits. Therefore the venerable martyr has a face of Ukrainian lass; her attire is rich; she is sitting at a table covered with embroidered cloth.

The researcher thinks it is significant that among over five hundred icons of M.Babak’ collection there are no icons of Transfiguration; at the same time there are many variants of Meeting of the Lord, Annunciation, Last Supper», even one rare copy of the Circumsision. The latter icon is from Cherkashchyna; on the back there is an inscription: «Donated by Kozak Sydor Khrystych in September 1889.» This subject (Lk., 2:21) is known to be first codified during Italian Revival and later it was picked up by Jesuits.


Due to this research carried out by Olexandr Naiden we understand that all existential scope of Naddniprianshchyna depends on the icon. Naturaly, every civilization has its own chronologic, geographical and collateral reference points. And if in our environment every church is a sacral temple, the old khata was an existential temple, and the khata icon was the dominant of this wonderworld of khata. And the problems of life <-> of otherness zero in on an icon as a subject of a mental model of civilization. Therefore the pattern of spiritual realization may be as follows: for a school of icon-painting––temple &harr; state &harr; Holy Jerusalem of Above; for an icon-dauber––khata. Probably the complete comprehention of folk icon is possible only after the reconstruction of all synchronous contexts and their interaction.

We should also bear in mind that toward the end of post-modernism the meaning and functioning of khata icon underwent drastic changes, because at the level of individual the secularization takes a form of privatization of religion, which becomes a private affair of a man. Many researchers understand that as a result of interference of the state in the life of state-run and politicized book religions and subsequent advance of the market of religions, a man develops consumerism in relation to religion the traditions of which the social structure treats from the point of view of earning capacity. The intimacy in relationships with the sphere of transcendence disappears, and an icon, for most every exception of the temple one, transforms either into a charm or an element of interior design. Such is an inescapable offering to the necessities of the social modernization: intimacy disappears for the benefit of group catharsis and emotional compensation. The iconic principles migrate away from complexes of symbols and toward the topical celebrities or hieroglyphs of current communication. Therefore the researches still have to comprehend the role of khata icon, either anonymous or of unknown authorship, in the 21 c.

The church icon is characterized by higher level of structural order. It is  determined by discrete semantic orders. At the same time the khata icon as a system of occasional symbols has closer links with the individual / group subconsciuos interacting with conditional and temporal concept of the Absolute.

Meanwhile, in the post-secular society of Ukraine the khata icon revives (!), but already not as an element of divine ontology, but as historic component of Ukrainian civilization and Ukrainian mentality. The study of Ukrainian khata icon using representative material can lead to direct documentation of national mentality, like studies of church icon bring out the development of the state-oriented Christianity.


Les Herasymchuk