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Feofan Prokopovich, church and statesman born

18 June 1681

On June 8 (18), 1681 in Kiev, in a family of merchants was born the future Novgorod archbishop, church and political figure, faithful associate of Peter I in issues of the Russian Orthodox Church reformation, writer and scholar Feofan Prokopovich (Eleazar Prokopovich).

His parents died when he was a child and Feofan was elevated by his uncle, the chancellor of the Orthodox Kyev-Mohyla College (from 1701 the Academy). In this educational institution Feofan was given the primary education. At the end of the course he moved to Poland, became an adherent of the Greek Catholic Church and went to Rome with a view to continue his education. There, in the St. Athanasius College he had studied Romanian and Greek classics, philosophical and theological literature.

On his return to Kiev Feofan returned to the Orthodoxy and started to lecture in Kyev-Mohyla Academy at first the poetics, then rhetoric, philosophy and theology. Prokopovich wrote poems in Russian, Latin and Polish languages. In these three languages he composed ‘Epinikion’ in honor of Poltava victory (1709). In 1705 Foeofan wrote the tragicomedy ‘Vladimir’ the topic of which was based on the story of introduction of Orthodoxy in Russia by Kiev count Vladimir. Feofan also was a theoretician of literature and oratory. The ‘Poetics’ (1705) by Feofan was issued posthumously in 1786; the ‘Rhetoric’ (1706-1707) remained unissued until 1982 and was known just by extracts and in summary. Both works written in Latin were composed of lectures given by the author in 1705 and 1706-1707 in Kyev-Mohyla Academy.

In 1711 Peter the First assigned Feofan the Academy chancellor and the Father Superior of Fraternal Monastery in Kiev. In 1715 the Tsar summoned him to Petersburg.

In Petersburg Feofan Prokopovich became one of the highest hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, the right hand of Peter in realizing his reformatory politics. Prokopovich was the upholder of distribution not just of the Holy Writ but also of secular knowledge.

Instructed by Tsar, Feofan Prokopovich wrote introductions and commentaries to the translations of foreign books; composed textbooks, theological and political treatises. He was also the author of some official documents. He composed the ‘Spiritual Regulations’, wrote an introduction to the Naval Regulations as well as the ‘Praising Song to the Russian Fleet’, a brief manual for preachers, ‘Declaration’ on monkhood (1724), a treatise on patriarchate, dissertation on marriage with adherents of a different faith, christening, dissidence, detailed commentary for the ‘Regulations on the succession to the throne’ titled ‘The truth about monarchial will regarding the assignment of the heir of his state’ and many other works where Feofan explained the problems of the civil and church law, the succession to the throne proclaiming the principles of the educated monarchism.

In 1720 Feofan was elected to the archbishop. When the Holy Synod was formed in 1721, Prokopovich became its first vice-president.

After the death of Peter I on January 28 (February 8), 1725 Feofan joined the party of Empress Catherine and contributed to her ascent to the throne.

On June 25 (July 6), 1725 Prokopovich was assigned the archbishop of Novgorod; and from July 15 (26), 1726 had been the primary member of the Holy Synod.

Archbishop Feofan contributed to the foundation of the Academy of Science; as a historian he had a great impact on V. N. Tatishchev, as a poet satirist – on A. D. Kantemir.

Feofan Prokopovich died on September 8 (19), 1736 in Petersburg and was buried at Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod.

Lit.: Пигарев К. В., Фридлендер Г. М. Феофан Прокопович // История всемирной литературы. Т. 5. М., 1988. С. 363-365; Семененко-Басин И. Новое религиозное сознание на рубеже XVIII века: архиепископ Феофан Прокопович [Электронный ресурс] // Доклад на конференции «San Pietroburgo 1703-2003. Una citta, un idea, i suoi uomini», Сериате (Италия). 2003. Октябрь; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://www.sedmitza.ru/text/407089.html; Феофан (Прокопович) [Электронный ресурс] // Древо. 2005. URL: http://drevo-info.ru/articles/3899.html; Феофан (Прокопович) [Электронный ресурс] // Русское православие. 1996-2014. URL: http://www.ortho-rus.ru/cgi-bin/ps_file.cgi?2_3856.

From the Presidential library materials:

Морозов П. О. Феофан Прокопович как писатель. СПб., 1880;

Памятники новой русской истории. Т. 1. СПб., 1871;

Пекарский П. П. Наука и литература в России при Петре Великом. СПб., 1862;

Регламент Духовной коллегии и прибавления к нему. СПб., 1720;

Самарин Ю. Ф. Сочинения Самарина Ю. Ф. Т. 5. М., 1880;

Феофан Прокопович. Краткая повесть о смерти Петра Великаго, Императора и Самодержца Всероссийскаго. СПб., 1831;

Чистович И. А. Решиловское дело СПб., 1861;

Чистович И. А. Феофан Прокопович и его время. СПб., 1868.