Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Reed Johnson


Of Russia's cultural and religious icons, the holy fool (iurodivy) is quite possibly the most significant one of contemporary times. The holy fool – a historical and cultural character that feigns insanity to produce moral and spiritual reflections and hide the purity of their souls – has left its traces over a significant portion of Russia's literary history, postmodern tradition, and socio-political thought. In its uniquely positioned role as a powerful form of institutional critique, today taking shape in modern-day political protest performance culture, the holy fool has often been utilized to interrogate the intertwined relationship of the Russian state and the Orthodox Church. This analysis reviews the scholarship on holy foolery and how it has manifested in various fields of study. Although scholarship on this subject is significant, there exists a lack of research into representation of the holy fool in contemporary Russian cinema. Cinema is uniquely positioned to portray holy foolery, thanks to the unique form of spectatorship the film camera allows. This thesis analyzes several case studies of 21st-century Russian cinema that feature characters representing qualities of iurodstvo and its related models. In doing so, this work traces the history and development of iurodstvo through the lens of cinema and suggests new ways of understanding holy foolery's manifestation as a political tool.