In my blog of May, 2010, I described my experience at the D'Orsay Museum in Paris and the special exhibit of Russian Impressionism. It made me aware of the influence of the French Impressionists on Russian artists.
Russia's art history was very much linked to the rest of Europe - until the Soviets came to power. Prior to that, Russian nobility preferred the realism and representational art works - just as the rest of Europe before the French Impressionists.
With the rise of Impressionism, Russian artists found new inspiration and direction. Like some of the French anarchist artist of the Industrial Age (Archive: Luce, Feb. 2010), Russian artists not only painted landscapes but also the poverty and suffering of the people.
When the iron curtain fell, Russian artists were prohibited from painting modern art for the "elitist." Instead, they were required to paint realistically so that it was understandable to the masses.