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Prokopovich, Feofan (1681–1736)

PROKOPOVICH, FEOFAN (16811736)

PROKOPOVICH, FEOFAN (16811736), was the most influential ecclesiastical official of Russia's Petrine era, who rose to the position of archbishop of Novgorod and vice president of the new Holy Synod, from which he exercised immense authority on behalf of Peter the Great's reforms. One of several prominent Ukrainian clerics (he was born in Kiev) in Peter's service, he first came to Peter's attention as an engaging sermonizer in 1708, and he orated a dramatic panegyric to Peter after the victory at Poltava in 1709.

Feofan is best known for his panegyric sermons and his definitive tracts in defense of Petrine reforms, most famously his justification for Peter's new law on succession of 1722, The Right of the Monarch's Will, and the statute setting up the Synodal church, the Spiritual Regulation. Although doubts have been raised about Feofan's authorship of these and several other works, most historians attribute them to him. After the incarceration of Peter's son Alexis for treason and his subsequent death in 1718, the tsar was left with no adult male heirs. In response he modified the law to permit the sitting monarch to name a successor. Feofan defended this decision as being consistent with Orthodox principles, the will of God, and common sense.

The Spiritual Regulation codified the new administrative structure for the church, the elimination of the patriarchate (which had been vacant since the death of Patriarch Adrian in 1700) and its replacement by a collegial body, the Holy Synod, composed of a mix of clergy and laymen appointed by the tsar. The Spiritual Regulation explained what this change meant to the body of the church and to the clergy, especially parish priests, who now became de facto functionaries of the state, and monastic clergy, who saw their numbers and resources dramatically curtailed.

Feofan is also associated with catechization of the parish and parish clergy through the circulation of his booklet, A Child's First Lesson. Intended as a literacy primer and a catechism on the Ten Commandments, A Child's First Lesson was prescribed for use in the church service, replacing other non-obligatory texts such as those of Efraim the Syrian. This text bore the hallmarks of Feofan's approach to language. Here, and to a lesser extent in his sermons, he consciously adopted a simple and straightforward tone in place of the decorative baroque of high Church Slavonic prose. Writing in the vernacular, he endeavored to employ the language of everyday speech, so that whether spoken aloud or read, the meaning of the text would be accessible directly to the laity. Although it remains unclear whether A Child's First Lesson was widely used for literacy instruction, it did circulate very widely in the eighteenth century, running through over a dozen printings and tens of thousands of copies.

During Peter's last years and after his death Feofan played an instrumental role in court politics and may have been crucial in facilitating the elevation of Peter's wife, Catherine, to the throne, thus inaugurating a long period (until 1796) in which female rule was the norm rather than the exception in Russia. Feofan composed the official account of Peter's death and succession, elegies, and the primary panegyrics extolling the post-Petrine political arrangement. He also worked behind the scenes among Russia's fractious court parties and guards' regiments, on behalf of political stability.

See also Autocracy ; Orthodoxy, Russian ; Peter I (Russia) ; Russian Literature and Language .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cracraft, James. The Church Reform of Peter the Great. Stanford, 1971.

Lentin, A., trans. and ed. Peter the Great: His Law on Imperial Succession: The Official Commentary. Oxford, 1996.

Muller, Alexander V., trans. and ed. The Spiritual Regulation of Peter the Great. Seattle, 1972.

Gary Marker

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Prokopovich, Feofan

PROKOPOVICH, FEOFAN

(16811736), prelate, philosopher, writer, and liaison between the Russian Orthodox Church and Protestantism.

Born to a merchant family in Kiev but orphaned early, Feofan received an education at the Kiev Academy, one of the few institutions for ecclesiastical education at the time. Like other gifted students of the time, he nominally converted to the Uniate (Eastern Catholic) faith in order to qualify for studies in Romein his case, at a Jesuit institution, the College of St. Athanasius. In 1701 he left Rome, imbued with a profound animosity toward Catholicism and, his critics would later charge, uncritical fondness for Protestantism. In any case, in 1702 he returned to Kiev with an exceptionally strong training in philosophy and theology. After repudiating his Catholic faith of convenience, he embarked on a brilliant career in the Russian Orthodox Church. He first made his mark at the Kiev Academy, where he became not only its rector but also a prolific writer, his works including a five-act "tragicomedy" Vladimir that ridiculed paganism and superstition. In 1709, in the presence of Peter, he delivered a sermon celebrating the Russian victory at Poltava; such perorations caught the emperor's eye, earned him a summons to St. Petersburg, and led to his elevation to the episcopate (first in 1718 as the bishop of Pskov, and then in 1720 as archbishop of Novgorod).

During these years Feofan became one of Peter's more erudite ideologists and propagandists. Drawing upon European political theory and exalting the just and creative power of the ruler, Feofan was a principal architect of Peter's new conception of dynamic autocracy. Feofan played a key role in composing a number of state documents, from the "Preface" to the Naval Charter (1719) to the famous Truth about the Monarch's Will (1722), defending Peter's rightand dutyto override custom and designate the most qualified person as his successor. Feofan also served as a key liaison with the Protestant world, reinforcing the suspicions of contemporaries and impelling Orthodox historians to dismiss him as a mere "Protestant." By far his most important work was the Ecclesiastical Regulation (1721), drafted at Peter's behest. Significantly, this critical documentwhich served as the institutional charter of the Russian Church until 1917contained much more than a mere justification of Peter's decision to replace the patriarchate with a collegial board (first called the Spiritual College but renamed the Holy Synod). Namely, the Ecclesiastical Regulation adumbrated an ambitious program to bring enlightenment and extinguish superstition in the Church, chiefly by improving ecclesiastical administration, establishing seminaries to educate parish clergy, and extirpating superstition among the laity. Feofan played a key role in the new Synodal administration and, simultaneously, authored several important works, including a treatise on the patriarchate, a catechism, and a tract critical of monasticism.

Peter's death in 1725 initially left Feofan vulnerable to a concerted attack by conservatives, but in 1730 the astute prelate once again gained favor by siding with the new monarch, Anna, against a coterie of magnates seeking to limit her authority. He thus enjoyed considerable influence in church affairs until his death on September 8, 1736.

See also: holy synod; peter i; protestantism

bibliography

Cracraft, James. (1973). "Feofan Prokopovichy." In The Eighteenth Century in Russia, ed. J. G. Garrard. Oxford: Clarendon.

Cracraft, James. (1975). "Feofan Prokopovich: A Bibliography of His Works." Oxford Slavonic Papers 8:136.

Della Cava, Olha. (1971). "Feofan Prokopovich: His Life and His Sermons, 16811736." Ph.D. diss. Columbia University, New York.

Gregory L. Freeze

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Prokopovich, Feofan

Feofan Prokopovich (fāəfän´ prəkəpô´vĬch), 1681–1736, Russian churchman. He was appointed bishop by Czar Peter I to carry out his ecclesiastic reforms and wrote Spiritual Regulation (1721), which helped strengthen state control of the church. Made archbishop of Novgorod (1724), he implemented Peter's policy, working against scholasticism and clerical ignorance and expanding the rights of Protestants. Prokopovich, a highly cultured man, wrote theological works and fiction and founded the Greco-Slavonic Academy.

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