Morozova, Feodosya Prokopevna

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(16321675), aristocratic martyr of the Old Believers.

Feodosya Morozova, one of the most remarkable characters of the seventeenth century, was born on May 21, 1632, to Prokopy Sokovnin, a relative of Tsaritsa Maria Miloslavskaya, and his wife Anisya. In 1649 Feodosya was married to Gleb Morozov, brother of the famous Boris Morozov, favorite and tutor of Tsar Alexei Mikhaylovich.

In 1650 Morozova's only child Ivan was born. When her husband died in 1662, one of Muscovy's largest properties came under her control. It is not clear when Morozova first made contact with the Old Believers, who refused Patriarch Nikon's church reforms of the middle of the century. Nikon's most ardent opponent, Archpriest Avvakum, returned in February 1664 from his banishment in Siberia to Moscow and took up residence in Morozova's home. Tsar Alexei ordered the confiscation of her possessions in August 1665, but on the insistence of the tsaritsa they where returned in October 1666.

During the second exile of Avvakum after 1666, Morozova continued her correspondence with the Archpriest and made her house a meeting place for the Old Believers. She prepared writings against the "Nikonian heresy" and missed no opportunity to raise her voice against the official church. Besides the exiled Avvakum, a certain Melanya was of great importance to Morozova. She put herself under the authority of Melanya, whom she regarded as her spiritual "mother," and sought her teaching and advice. At the end of 1670 Morozova took the veil and chose the religious name Feodora.

With the death of Tsaritsa Maria Miloslavskaya in 1669, the Old Believers lost a valuable protectress. When Morozova refused to attend the wedding of the tsar with his second wife Natalya Naryshkina on January 22, 1671, she deeply offended the sovereign. In November 1671 she was arrested along with her sister, Princess Evdokia Urusova. Morozova's estate and landstocks were distributed among the boyars, while all the valuables were sold and proceeds paid into the state treasury. Her tweny-one-year-old son died shortly after her arrestof grief, as Avvakum noted.

The tsar tried repeatedly to convince Morozova and Urusova to return to the official church, but both refused categorically, even under severe torture. As long as Morozova was imprisoned in or around Moscow, she was able to maintain communication with the Old Believers. A strong, proud, and impressive personality of highest rank, she attracted many noblewomen, who flocked to the monastery to see her. Although she was relocated several times, her numerous admirers persisted in visiting her. Finally, at the end of 1673 or in the beginning of 1674, the alarmed tsar had her transferred to the prison of Borovsk, some 90 kilometers away from Moscow, where she was soon joined by her sister. The two women were held under severe conditions in an earthen hole. In April 1675 the situation worsened, as they were put on starvation rations. Urusova died on September 11 that year, and Morozova on November 1.

Soon after her death, Morozova's life and martyrdom were described by a contemporary, possibly her elder brother. This remarkable literary document is known as the Tale of Boyarina Morozova.

See also: avvakum; nikon; old believers


Michels, Georg. (1995). "Muscovite Elite Women and Old Belief." Harvard Ukrainian Studies 19:428450.

Ziolkowski, Margaret, ed. (2000). Tale of Boiarynia Morozova: A Seventeenth-Century Religious Life. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Nada Boskovska