In this paper I explore the religious iconography of the Inochentite movement in 20th century Romania and Moldova. The Inochentite movement emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century in the Russian Province of Bessarabia and the neighbouring Governorate of Podolia, on the territory of contemporary Moldova and Ukraine. The intensely apocalyptic and charismatic movement, which was inspired by the Moldovan Orthodox monk Ioan Levizor, was soon portrayed as both religiously heretical and politically subversive and as such was seen as a challenge to the authority of both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Tsarist regime. As a marginalised and persecuted minority during the Soviet era, the movement went underground. However, Inochentism has proved a tenacious presence on the religious landscape, gradually re-emerging into the public domain in the post-Soviet era. Today, various Inochentite groups operate on the margins of mainstream Orthodoxy.
The Inochentite revival gave rise to a rich and varied ‘folk’ or naïve iconographic tradition reflecting the significance of its charismatic leader and revealing the universal cosmological claims of Inochentie’s followers. The images, produced by followers, are displayed in homes and circulated in Inochentite manuscripts and small scale publications. This paper will focus on two aspects of Inochentite iconography that transgress canonical norms: representations of the imperial and of the divine. The hagiographic tradition will be discussed in relation to the transformative power of the material ‘presence’ of icons to silently critique political and social realities and contribute toward the transformation of subject positions.