Art historians consider the artistic manifestations chronologically included between the century as strictly Russian. X, the time of the adoption of Christianity in Russia, and the XVII which, with the reform of Peter the Great, saw Russian art contaminated by Western styles. With the conversion of Kijev’s principles to Christianity (988), in fact, cultural relations with the Byzantine empire became intense and, through Ukraine, Byzantine art reached the Russian territory where it constituted the substratum of subsequent artistic manifestations, well identified and original, typically Russian. The first cities (Novgorod, Pskov, Vladimir) were entirely built in wood, like the fortresses (cremlini) around which the town developed. The first known cathedral, St. Sophia of Novgorod (989), was also originally made of wood; rebuilt in 1045-50, it is the oldest preserved stone building to date: with five naves, three apses and five domes, it clearly shows the influence of Byzantine architecture. The interior is frescoed and the paintings, almost certainly the work of Byzantine workers, show a mystical and severe style. It seems that during the century. XI all the major artistic achievements were due to Byzantine workers and that the first Russian artists (at least in the field of stone architecture and its decoration) began to operate only in the following century, when the chronicles mention a Peter of Novgorod architect. There are numerous buildings erected during the century. XII. The churches generally have three naves; on the facades there are decorative motifs and pilasters, while the side walls have an arcade decoration, both elements derived from the Romanesque architecture. In the Vladimir area, the churches are characterized by a cubic structure, with a domed roof and decorations with blind arches. In Novgorod, which remains one of the centers of major artistic importance, they belong to the century. XII the cathedral of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (1113), the churches of the Antoniev and Jurev monasteries (1117-19), of the SS. Peter and Paul (1185-92) and the Savior (1198).
According to Thereligionfaqs, the oldest have three or five domes and a tower on the facade; the others are simpler and more collected. They are frescoed by local craftsmen who, in the greater coarseness and simplicity of the figures, indicate the birth of a school that from the very beginning reveals that popular tone that characterized much of ancient Russian painting. The churches of Pskov are similar in structure and decoration: that of the Ivanovskij monastery (before 1243) and of the Morožskij monastery (before 1156). TO Smolensk remarkable the churches of the SS. Pietro e Paolo (1146) and Michele Arcangelo (1191-94), with a complex structure with three porticoes and three apses. Also important are the architectural monuments of Vladimir, among which the Cathedral of the Dormition (1158-89) and the church of St. Demetrius (1193-97), both of which are decorated with remarkable sculptural reliefs and frescoes of the Russian school, are of particular importance. Similar decorative reliefs and frescoes can also be found in the area surrounding Vladimir, in the cathedrals of St. George in Jurev Polskij (1230-34) and in Suzdal (1222-25). In Bogoljubovo there are also the remains of a castle from the 13th century. XII, residence of Prince Andrei Bogolijüboskij, the main architect of the architectural flourishing in the region. While throughout this period sculpture remained limited to wall decoration, painting also extended to the creation of icons, of an almost popular taste, both in Novgorod and Vladimir, and to miniature (Gospels of Mstislav, 1103-17, and of Jurev, 1120-28). Remarkable craftsmanship in wood and metal. If during the century XII, through the elaboration of the different regional schools, Russian religious architecture reached its own autonomous typification in the central plan structure (Greek cross) with bulbous domes on high drums, the 12th century. XIII, marked by the Tatar invasion, was very poor in artistic achievements and seems to mark a suspension of cultural life in the nation. The connection with the Balkans, Byzantium and Western Europe was suddenly broken. Of some importance are the church of St. Nicholas in Lipno (Novgorod, 1292), small in size but characterized by a notable decoration on the facade, according to a taste that spread in the following centuries.
The general difficulties on the one hand caused the disappearance of the great monumental painting and on the other favored the increase of iconostasis and tables, which indicate a progressive departure from the Byzantine prototypes. Unlike Kijev, Vladimir and Moscow, Novgorod did not suffer the ravages of the Tatars and had an important period of artistic and cultural flowering. Richly decorated churches were built: S. Teodoro Stratilate (1360-61), the Savior (1374). The fresco decoration of the churches of this period demonstrates a greater attention to realistic motifs and a progressive detachment from the original, severe asceticism of monumental painting (except for the superb, dramatic frescoes of the Holy Savior and the Transfiguration, works by Theophanes the Greek, 1378). Theophanes was the first great artist who profoundly influenced Russian art. Vigorous in conception and realization, heir to the school of Constantinople, still tied to an ascetic conception of art, he was an expert in tonal painting and his portraits with impetuous brushstrokes have a modern form that detaches over time until they believe they are recent paintings. Also noteworthy are the icons and products of metal craftsmanship. In the field of civil architecture, while the houses remained in wood, the first large stone fortifications were built, such as that of Porhov (1387-1430). In Pskov the churches (Trinity Cathedral, 1365-67) are distinguished by their simple structure, both from an architectural and a decorative point of view, although they are complemented by chapels, bell towers and arcades in front of the entrances. The only important group of frescoes is that of the Snetogorskij monastery (ca. 1310), characterized, like the painting of icons, by a sober chromatic setting. At the end of the century the rise of Moscow began, whose oldest constructions show evident derivations from the art of Vladimir (cathedral of the Kremlin of Zvenigorod, 1399).