Orthodox tradition teaches that icons have their origin in the first portraits painted of the Mother of God the Virgin Mary and child. Tradition states that this was first done by Saint Luke. The tradition of painting icons started in Russia following the conversion of the Kievan Rus' to Orthodox Christianity in 988AD.
In Russian Orthodox Church there is a tradition of believe in the intercession of saints. Every person who was baptized was named in honor of a specific saint, it is considered that this saint is a patron for the whole life. There are patron saints of occupations and activities, patron saints of ailments, illness and dangers, patron saints of places.
In all times family icons where the largest treasures for family members, the icons were passed from parents to children, each newly formed family got icons (at least two icons - the icon of our Lord Jesus Christ and icon of the Most Holy Mother of God - were given by parents in wedding day for the church wedding ceremony). So this is naturally that people tried to get well painted and well decorated icons but families that could not allow to get expensive icons acquired copies - in the end protection of God, Theotocos, angels and saints depends on faith.
Here are short articles that describe life of some saints who are most respected in old and present Russia, descriptions of some Russian icons.
Collected and edited by Michael Terletski