Russian Icon as Part of Russian Religion
A Russian icon is more part of religion, than part of Russian culture. However, even though it is rare to see a Russian icon of (let's say) Christ the Savior in a house of a Russian atheist, for a long time icons have also been considered unique artwork and historical relics.
During the soviet period when religion was prohibited in Russia, icons were wrapped in cloths and kept safe in people's homes. Famous Russian Orthodox icons were considered antiquities and were kept in historical museums. Now there are numerous Russian icons, frescoes and religious paintings on the walls of multiple Russian churches and cathedrals. Visitors of Moscow can see amazing works of art and ancient Russian icons in St. Basil's Cathedral, other cathedrals in Kremlin, and especially in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which by itself can take anyone's breath away.
A common ritual in Russia is the consecration of icons. A consecrated Russian icon is believed to have a stronger power as it becomes holy. In a Russian Orthodox church the procedure of consecration is performed with the help of special prayers and holy water. Most consecrated icons are of higher value and can be put on a more important place on an icon shelf.
The icon shelf is a special place almost in a every traditional Russian Orthodox home where people keep their icons to pray for. It can be two wooden carved shelves or a beautiful cabinet that consists of two shelves placed in the sunniest, eastern corner of the house. People can keep holy water, candles, Easter eggs or even books with prayers and the bible on one of the shelves. There should always be an icon lamp on it too.
A Russian icon can never be simply hung on the wall. It is placed on the shelf and often decorated with embroidered cloth that may covers the edges but never cover the faces of the Saints. There is a particular order in which Russian Orthodox icons should be placed on an icon shelf. For example, an icon of the Holy Spirit or an icon of the Holy Trinity is placed in the middle. Then an icon of Christ the Savior is placed on the right, and an icon of the Mother of God is placed on the left. Then go the icons of Apostles.
By worshiping a Russian icon, people worship the one who is depicted on it. There are icons which depict numerous Saints, Apostles and even priests in Russia. Since some Saints and Apostles have always been known to provide help in certain situations, their icons serve a particular purpose. For example, an icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker is supposed to provide guidance and help to somebody on the road or traveling. So when one of the family members is about to leave for a long trip, they pray to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. Likewise, some other Saints are believed to grant good luck in trade, protect from theft or fire, or ward off envy and the evil eye.