Hot Takes by Holly

Everybody Doesn’t Use a Protestant Cross!

This might seem like a weird hill to die on, but I honestly cannot with the little, gold, Protestant crosses in all the fan art of Ilya Rozanov of Heated Rivalry fame. 


Okay, Reid doesn’t specifically describe the appearance of the cross, but we’ve got some pretty clear indicators of what we’re dealing with here. In the first place, Reid specifically calls the item that Ilya wears a crucifix. 

A gold chain hung crookedly around Rozanov’s neck, the shiny crucifix resting on his left clavicle just above the famous (ridiculous) tattoo of a snarling grizzly bear (“For Russia! I had it before playing for Bears!”) on his chest. (P. 8)

I could add more citations, because “crucifix” is used a lot, but the first instance (within the first ten pages) is probably sufficient. 

By definition, a crucifix is “a representation of Christ on the cross” (thanks Merriam-Webster), so the plain Protestant cross is not it. 

A plain, Protestant cross. This is not a crucifix.

If you grew up in the West, you are probably familiar with the Catholic crucifix, which is typically not plain and simple. 

Catholic crucifix

Bare minimum, that’s what I would expect to see for Ilya. But no. Plain gold crosses all over the place.

If we’re really going to do our homework, though, we need to acknowledge that the Great Schism (a.k.a. The East-West Schism) occurred in 1054, less than two hundred years after the Christianization of Russia began, and only about a hundred years after the first ruler converted to Christianity. Russia was Christianized by eastern Christians, so Russian churches became Eastern Orthodox, not Roman Catholic. If you go to Russia in January, you will see Christmas trees because Christmas is celebrated on January 7, and the new year is celebrated the week after that. 

The present-day composition of Russian religion according to a relatively recent poll cited by the U.S. State Department indicates 63% of the population identifies as Orthodox Christian, 7% as Muslim, and 26% as unaffiliated (which the CIA factbook notes is a legacy of decades of Soviet promotion of atheism). The Russian government recognizes Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism as traditional religions. Ilya’s dad worked for the Minister of Internal Affairs, and knows the minister personally. He’s not some nobody, and the Russian government is still influenced by the Soviet government, in which success relied a lot on who you knew and how good a citizen you were. The probability of Mr. Rozanov marrying a woman who wasn’t a good Russian Orthodox woman is not high, both socially and just as a matter of basic statistical reasoning.

Ergo, Ilya wears a Russian crucifix.

The most noticeable elements of an Orthodox cross are the extra beams, one above the main crossbar and one nearer the base of the cross. So Ilya’s necklace should really look something like this:

Russian Orthodox crucifix

But if drawing a full-on crucified Jesus in the fan art is too much (which…okay), then can we at least get the more basic version right?

Orthodox cross

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16 thoughts on “Everybody Doesn’t Use a Protestant Cross!”

  1. FWIW, Ilya Rozanov and his gold crucifix are almost definitely, uh, inspired by Alex Ovechkin, who has always worn a gold crucifix (and #8 pendant) in the catholic style you describe above, not the orthodox one 🤷‍♀️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fair enough! As with most things, there’s a possibility that the statistical probability is not the reality. And people acquire things from all over – I have a Coptic cross that I used to wear all the time, and I’m not Ethiopian – and the Roman cross is the most recognizable symbol of Christianity because of its common use. I have to say, approximately 100% of my hockey knowledge is from romance, so I know nothing about Ovechkin except from what infrequent Caps news I’ve heard over the years, and so I pictured Ilya’s cross as pretty loud and ornamented, kinda like a medieval pope’s because 1) it’s an heirloom and 2) Ilya’s pretty ostentatious himself. lol. But since you pointed this out, I went and looked, and maybe my quibble is: just look at the percent of Ovie’s chest occupied by that cross! It’s huge! Protestant crosses are not very huge. So, I guess, fan artists, alternative recommendation: make your crosses huge! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the fan art is definitely still wrong! 😂.
        Also consider that religion was essentially banned during the Soviet Union so for the older Russian players like Ovi whose parents were very Soviet-entrenched the particular symbolism probably doesn’t mean much to them. You do see some of the younger players identifying very openly as Russian orthodox so your point still stands. I haven’t quite done the math on when Ilya was born in relation to the fall of the USSR 😂.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Erin! It’s really cool that you noted there might be a difference b/c there is. However, irrespective of the type of cross/crucifix an Orthodox Christian wears (and I am one), the key to it is that it’s an Orthodox Christian’s baptismal cross/crucifix, which is the moment at which you “officially” enter the Church. So, technically, this character would wear whatever was put on him at his baptism by his godparents. (I, for one, love a variety of crosses/crucifixes and rotate them: not canonical, but hey, I like my outfits and accessories to match. I figure all is good as long as I’m wearing a cross/crucifix).

    Moreover, also a tiny note on the whole calendar controversy: some Orthodox Christians, for example, yours truly, celebrate Pascha (Western “Easter”) with the “Old Calendar”, of which the Russians are one). The rest of our holidays pretty much more or less “match” with the West, Christmas especially. We are talking splits within splits within splits within the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, so it’s complicated. Without a centralizing figure like the Pope, each autocephalous church, while in communion with the others, goes its own way at times, but never deviates doctrinally. There is strife, however.

    As a final note, I appreciate seeing a post like this: the romance genre’s default Christianity remains evangelical. And when authors throw in even a Catholic character, they name them as such, but have near-nil knowledge of doctrine, theology, or practice.


    1. Neat! I appreciate this information; it’s good to learn what I don’t know so I can better direct my questions to learn more. 🙂 I do tend to be more aware of doctrine than probably the average person because I’m a history person who went to a Lutheran college, so my religious studies were in the history department instead of the religion department. 😂 But I’m not a religious studies person – I leave that to Holly. I sometimes get to discuss doctrine with my mostly Catholic book club, which is fun, but of course it’s also Western. Most of my Russian studies coursework focused on modern history, so it’s been a while since I studied Imperial Russia, which holds the bulk of the religious history. (I recall this harrowing painting I saw in Moscow that depicted a woman being carted away for doing the old two-fingered cross instead of the three-fingered cross, and that moment of religious controversy from the 17th C. has stuck with me for going on 20 years.) (I looked it up – it’s Boyarina Morozova by Vasiliy Surikov.) I’d like to go back and reread some of my old texts now, because as I was doing some research for this post, I found that my recollection of the movement of the Patriarch following the fall of Constantinople doesn’t seem to jive with what I recently read, and of course non-Western Christianity doesn’t really get touched on in school they way students might be introduced to other large world religions (at least in the US). But as you say, there are differences within the umbrella, er, categories, which we shouldn’t be surprised by because they exist in Western Christianity as well.

      Anyway, yes, the default cultural expectation that it seems most people don’t even realize exists is very WASPy. I have the benefit of having traveled to many places where it’s easy to be reminded that my cultural experience is only one of many (Old Jerusalem is a great one for really sitting with a lot of different Christian (and also non-Christian monotheistic) traditions), but a lot of people haven’t had that experience. And, as I mentioned, I went to a Lutheran college, so we were all very aware that our Catholic friends wouldn’t take communion in the chapel (and why). So, I like it when authors who know their stuff incorporate a little pushback in their books. K.D. Casey’s FIRE SEASON was great in this way. It would be awesome if I had more examples! I’ll keep looking. 🙂

      Sorry for being sort of aimlessly chatty – some days I wish this were an active discussion instead of a blog so I could talk to people about interesting things!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not chatty: geekdom rules!! (I have a secret wish to write a contemporary, or historical arranged-marriage romance with an Orthodox seminarian hero. In the Orthodox Church, you must marry before being ordained…cool, eh?)

        Liked by 2 people

      2. P. S. Not only will the Orthodox Christians not take communion, they won’t give communion to anyone not baptized Orthodox Christian. We’re one up on the Catholics…LOL! Hence, the “ortho”…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s a serious business! 🙂 One of those conversations with my Catholic friends was shaking our heads about people in a non-Catholic church telling visiting Catholic congregants to take communion regardless and we all shook our heads in disappointment. 😂 It’s nice to talk to people who really understand their religion.

        Liked by 1 person

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