The idea of writing a picture “In Russia” from the author arose 10 years before and was originally called “Christians.” The artist reflects on the fate of the Russian people and on the fate of their country. Not for nothing in the plot there are peripeteias that develop, from antiquity to modernity.
Here we see the division of Rus, and Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky, the Tsar with the Patriarch, a blind soldier and a sister of mercy. Against the backdrop of the Russian landscape, directly to God Himself, they all move in the procession of the Cross. Everyone has his own way to God, but all go in one direction, some do it in a hurry, fussy, others – not so fast, but confidently. A 12-year-old peasant boy is ahead of such a multifaceted procession. The artist wanted to show it as the most perfect embodiment of the people’s soul.
First, the master planned to write Jesus, who would lead the crowd into the Kingdom of God. But, it was necessary to take into account modern criticism, so in the latter version, he abandoned the image of Christ. Nevertheless, his presence in the picture is still depicted, but in the image of the old, time-worn-out Savior.
As a consequence, it is the peasant boy who is the central ideological image of the work. Nesterov, with his painting, along with folk philosophy, tried to translate the idea of justifying the suffering of the people in the name of redemption. He wanted to show that the introduction of Christianity in Russia was a very difficult and painful stage.