Medvedev, Sylvester Agafonikovich

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(16411691), author, poet, and polemicist.

Simeon Agafonikovich Medvedev (monastic name: Sylvester) began his career as a secretary (podyachy ) in one of the Muscovite chancelleries. In that capacity, he participated in diplomatic missions, until in the early 1670s he became a monk. A student of Simeon Polotsky, he acted as his teacher's secretary and editor, and acquired connections in the court of Fyodor Alexeyevich (r. 16761682). After Polotsky's death, he assumed the mantle of his teacher as the court poet, first of Fyodor, and then of Sofia Alexeyevna (regent, 16821689). After 1678, he also worked as editor (spravshchik ) in the Printing Office. During the 1680s, he was occupied with three main activities: working in the Printing Office, authoring polemics on the moment of transubstantiation (Eucharist conflict), and teaching in a school in the Zaikonospassky monastery. He repeatedly urged Sophia Alexeyevna to establish an Academy in Moscow, based on a plan (privilegia ) that Polotsky may well have drawn up. When such an Academy was established in 1685 (the Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy), it was the Greek Ioannikios and Sophronios Leichoudes, and not Medvedev, who were chosen to head it. This, together with the Eucharist conflict, created enormous animosity between Sylvester and the Greek teachers. Patriarch of Moscow Joakim (in office 16721690) gradually but systematically undermined Medvedev, a monk who refused to obey him in the Eucharist conflict. While Sofia was in power, Medvedev felt well protected. After Peter I's coup in August 1689, Medvedev fled Moscow. He was arrested, brought to the Trinity St. Sergius Monastery, tortured, and obliged to sign a confession renouncing his previous errors regarding the Eucharist in 1690. Joakim's victory was complete. After a year of detention, Sylvester was also accused as a collaborator in a conspiracy against Peter the Great, Joakim, and their supporters. He was condemned to death and beheaded in 1691. Author of several polemical works on the transubstantiation moment, he also composed orations, poetry, and panegyrics. To him are also attributed works on Russian bibliography and an account of the musketeer rebellion of 1682.

See also: fyodor alexeyevich; joakim, patriarch; orthodoxy; slavo-greco-latin academy


Hughes, Lindsey. (1990). Sophia, Regent of Russia, 16571704. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Nikolaos A. Chrissidis