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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 7

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

The Story of the Ukraine
by Clarence Manning

published by
Philosophical Library
New York,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 9

 p106  Chapter Eight

The Spread of Kievan Culture in Moscow

At the very moment when Moscow was pursuing its consistent policy of reducing Ukraine to the level of a Muscovite province, it was falling just as steadily under the influence of Kievan culture. The monks and scholars of Kiev flowed in a steady stream to the northeastern capital and prepared the way for the formation that was to be brought to their full fruition by Peter the Great in the early part of the eighteenth century. It is not too much to say that every scholar or literary man of Moscow during the eighteenth century was of Ukrainian origin or had been largely trained in the Academy of Kiev.

The reason is not far to seek. During the period of subjection to the Tatars, the culture of Moscow and the general mode of life came under a marked oriental influence. After the liberation of the country, conditions changed little, despite the marriage of Tsar Ivan III with Sophia Paleolog of the royal house of Byzantium. Now and then there might be some slight influence from the west brought in, as was the case when an Italian architect was employed to remodel the Kremlin, but such cases were relatively rare and for all practical purposes there was little interchange of goods or ideas with Europe.

The Muscovites of the day were not desirous of opening their country to foreign influences. Their national pride had worked out the theory of Moscow as the Third Rome, the capital of the Christian Orthodox empire par excellence, and they stubbornly believed that any contact with the outside world or the new learning could only lead to  p107 the development of heresy and the marring of the pristine virtue of their Orthodox religion. The Patriarch of Moscow was forbidden to dine at the same table with foreigners, even of the highest rank, and the example was followed by all classes of the population.

Within the country formal education was at a low tide. Education had never taken root at Moscow as it had in Kiev. There were not the direct connections with the outside world that had made the Grand Princes of Kiev part of the European family of nations. Moscow was a closed centre and the ideas of intellectual regimentation had gone so far that in the religious disputes of the sixteenth century, it could seriously be advanced that the writing of a book on theology was prohibited by the Seventh Oecumenical Council and that the preparation of any work was necessity heretical.

The Muscovites despised the Greeks, even though they were Orthodox, and they had little more respect for the scholars of Kiev. There are very few records of attempts made by the Tsars of Moscow to secure Greek scholars from Constantinople during these centuries, at the time when the Ukrainian princes and brotherhoods were only too willing to have Greek teachers in their schools and were trying to raise the intellectual level of the clergy and the other classes of the population. It goes without saying that Moscow regarded Poland and Lithuania, with their Catholic culture, as worse than pagan and refused to have any relations with them.

The outstanding example of an attempt to secure a scholar from abroad was the case of Maxim the Greek, who was invited to Moscow to correct the Church books in the reign of Tsar Vasily III. The attempt was disastrous to the poor Greek, for even the slightest change in the books seemed to be ominous to the Muscovites and Maxim found himself in prison for many years.

 p108  The only city included in the Muscovite Tsardom in which there was any attempt to develop independent thought was Novgorod, which as a trading centre had maintained connections with the Hanseatic League; but even the efforts of the Archbishops of Novgorod were received with little favor in the self-satisfied Moscow.

Yet everyone in Moscow who went from one Church to another was well aware that during the ages there had occurred mistakes in the Church books, errors of copying, slight interpolations, even cases of corruption which destroyed the sense of the passages. What was to be done? The recognition of the need for some correction of the books was blocked by the impossibility of accepting any standard for the work. For nearly a century there went on a sterile debate on the subject and at the end of that time there was still no agreement as to the texts which should be taken as models. The nationalistic Muscovite leaders absolutely refused to accept any Greek texts, even though it was generally agreed that the Church Slavonic services had been translated from the Greek, for in their eyes the fall of Constantinople had seriously damaged the Orthodox character of even the oldest Greek texts and it was beneath the dignity of the Third Rome to learn from outsiders. As the last and greatest of these leaders, Avvakum, proudly declared at his trial before the Eastern Patriarchs in 1666, it was their duty to come and learn from Moscow rather than to pass judgment upon any Muscovites, for they alone possessed the true faith and a Christian and Orthodox autocrat.

It is impossible to overemphasize this ingrown character of Muscovite culture and thought in the sixteenth century. Xenophobia was the order of the day and even such a tsar as Ivan the Terrible who allowed Germans and other foreigners to come in small numbers to Moscow could not  p109 defy the will of the boyars and the masses and accept foreign ideas.

The Troublous Times that followed the death of Boris Godunov and saw the occupation of the Kremlin by a Polish army showed, however, to some of the intelligent Muscovites that all was not well at home. They realized that Moscow would sooner or later be compelled to accept some elements of Western and contemporary culture or the state would be in serious danger. They realized that it would be impossible to make progress at the expense of Poland and Lithuania, if they maintained this deliberate exclusion of all foreign ideas, and a steadily increasing number of men determined in one way or another to change the situation.

The leading spirits of this group was Nikon, who was destined in 1652 to become the Patriarch of Moscow. No less overbearing and haughty than had been his predecessors, Nikon was intelligent enough to know that something had to be done and done rapidly, if disaster was to be averted and in this he had the sympathetic backing of Tsar Alexis.

It was only natural that they should turn with sympathetic interest to Kiev, for the revival of Ukrainian culture appealed to them in various ways. They were well aware of the bitter feud that was going on in Ukraine between the Orthodox and the followers of the Union and they had hopes of bringing Ukraine under their own domination. There was something attractive in the Orthodoxy of Kiev and they could dream of Moscow as an Orthodox Slav state accepting support from other Orthodox Slavs when it galled them to appeal directly to the Greeks. Besides that, there was a group of the Orthodox in Kiev whose religious antagonism to the Catholics overshadowed any questions of Ukrainian patriotism. As early as 1626, some of these monks had broached the idea of a union with Moscow, and  p110 exactly as they in a later time tended to facilitate the submission of the Kozaks to Moscow, so they dreamed that they might tap the more abundant resources of that state for intellectual accomplishments and perhaps for personal aggrandizement.

Yet there was no doubt that any such rapprochement would be stubbornly contested by the masses of the Muscovite population and by many of the boyars and nobles. It required all the power of an autocratic monarch and ruthless force to carry through even the slightest correction of the books and the introduction of any ideas that were at variance with the traditional Muscovite way of life. Throughout the entire seventeenth century, the Old Believers, as they were called, adopted the most desperate methods of opposition. Mass suicides of people who objected to living under the regime of Antichrist took place. The streltsy, the guards of the tsar, rose in armed revolt and the Don Kozaks burst out in several waves of destructive fury as they demanded the preservation of the old faith and the beard. It was undoubtedly this furious attitude of fanaticism that prevented any close relations between the Kozaks and the revolt of Stenka Razin or between Mazepa and the revolt of Bulavin in the days of Peter the Great.

It was probably more than a coincidence, however, that the first serious invitations to Kievan scholars to come to Moscow concluded with the beginning of the revolt of Khmelnitsky. In 1649, Tsar Alexis, under the influence of Nikon, invited the Metropolitan of Kiev to send Arseny Satanovsky and Damaskin Ptitsky to Moscow to translate the Bible. Ptitsky went later, but he was replaced on this mission by Epifany Slavinetsky who remained in Moscow to the end of his life. Nikon and his friends were undoubtedly as much aware of the possibilities of securing control of Ukraine, if Poland were to be disintegrated, as they were  p111 of the aid that they would receive in intellectual matters from the Kiev scholars.

A year before this, in 1648, there had appeared in Moscow an edition of the grammar of Melety Smotritsky, which had been first published in Kiev in 1619. This work, entitled The Correct Construction of the Slav Grammar, represented an attempt to purify the Church Slavonic language from some of the more glaring elements of popular speech which had been absorbed during the past years, and so represented exactly that attitude of the Kievan school which was working against the acceptance of the ordinary speech as the written norm. Yet it gave the general Ukrainian system of pronunciation and when it was taken to Moscow, it was used almost exclusively for over a century as the standard grammar, not only for Ukrainians but also for Muscovites and Southern Slavs, with notes carefully added so that the Muscovite scholars could make the necessary corrections to make the language and teachings of Smotritsky fit Great Russian. The work continued in popularity and was one of the main models in the eighteenth century when Lomonosov arranged his grammar.

A little later Pamva Berinda published in 1627 a Slavenorossianº Lexikon and Interpretation of Names, which after the work of Lavrenty Zizany marked the best attempt at a dictionary.

All these books served as a basis for the work of Slavinetsky and his companions when they appeared at Moscow, for they represented at least an effort on the part of the Kiev Academy to provide the Church Slavonic language which they were teaching and using with the same kind of material aids that existed for Polish and Latin and the other languages of the West. Nothing of the sort existed in Moscow. It was not desired by the Muscovite bookmen, who devoted themselves to an unintelligent repetition of already known data from a purely religious training.

 p112  Year by year Slavinetsky and the other Kievan scholars toiled on in Moscow against the steadily repeated accusation that their Orthodoxy was suspicious because they knew Polish and Latin. When Nikon appointed a Kievan scholar to a commission for reforming the Church books and it was discovered that the man had once studied at Rome, there broke out an open torrent of denunciation of Kiev and even of Patriarch Nikon, for daring to employ for Orthodox purposes a person who had actually been in a Catholic atmosphere.

Nikon understood that he could not carry through his reforms of the Church books with the aid of the Kievan scholars, and he made every effort to attract more and more of them to Moscow. Practically the entire increase in theological writing there was due to their assistance, and they colored with their ideas and the Orthodox scholasticism which had been developed at Kiev all the intellectual outlook of the Great Russians.

At first these Kievan monks busied themselves in Moscow only with purely religious writings. Thus Epifany Slavinetsky prepared over 150 works, most of which consisted of translations from the Bible and the writings of the Church Fathers and also of short introductions to various sacred writings which he translated. This was all that could be developed at first in view of the prejudices of the Muscovites.

It was not long, however, before these Kievan scholars gradually undertook to introduce to the court of Alexis all the various forms of literature which were practiced in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine. As we have seen, the Kiev Academy had a very limited theological outlook. It was more interested in maintaining the Orthodox faith and in carrying on polemical disputes with the Polish Catholics than it was in building up a high and widely varying secular  p113 culture. It imitated and put into Orthodox form the already antiquated scholasticism of Poland, which was itself all too often a pale reflection of what had been done in western Europe a few centuries earlier. The old miracle plays were reworked, comic and sometimes coarse scenes were added to suit the manners of the time, little interludes were composed, and there sprang up a rather uninspired but still active school of drama illustrating biblical themes and filled with moralizing and didactic teaching. It was in general a picture of the European literatures in the late Renaissance, without that spark of life and genius that had lifted English, French and Italian literatures to the heights of the sixteenth century and it was far below what had been achieved by the Polish writers of the same century, and then neglected.

All this literature forms a dreary period but it was infinitely more advanced than was anything that was found in Moscow. As the various genres were made available in that capital, they seemed daringly novel to the younger Muscovites, who were bliss­fully unaware of how far Western Europe had advanced in recent decades. As a result there developed in the latter half of the seventeenth century a craze at Moscow for the Ukrainian literature of the day and Ukrainian monks and laymen who made their way to the Russian capital found themselves in constant demand. Ukrainian scholasticism dominated the reigns of Alexis and the following tsars, and students of Russian literature and history have often failed to emphasize the importance of this period as the first step in the Europeanization of the country.

We can take for example the career of Simeon Polotsky as typical of this era. He was born in White Ruthenia in 1629 as Simeon Emelyanovich Petrovsky-Sitnyanovich. Like most of the leading students of the day he was educated  p114 at Kiev and then became a monk in the city of Polotsk, whence his usual name. In 1664 he went to Moscow as a teacher and there he won the favor of the Tsar, was appointed tutor to the various children of the monarch and became practically the court poet of Moscow. Here he poured out a long and never ending stream of works, usually destitute of any real inspiration and all based on the models with which he had become acquainted in Kiev. He even used that peculiar Ukrainian adaptation of the Polish system of verse in which, after the French system, more attention was paid to the number of the syllables than to the accent of the metre or the words. Simeon also produced various mystery plays, as the Story of the Prodigal Son and the Tale of Nebuchadnezzar and the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace. The very titles give us a good picture of the contents and show us how far the drama and the poetry of the Kiev Academy were removed from the average life of the day. The interest in the poems and dramas of Simeon soon passed but we cannot over­estimate his importance in awakening the minds of the Muscovites, for it was the reading of these poems well into the eighteenth century that inspired the first of the native born Russian poets, Mikhail Lomonosov, to undertake his work.

As the Russian hold upon Ukraine grew tighter, the number of educated Ukrainians who went into the service of Moscow steadily increased. They formed the overwhelming majority of Russian officials whose position required something more than dry and formal duties. They rose to high rank in state and church and it is interesting that the three outstanding clergymen of the reign of Peter the Great were all of Ukrainian origin and graduates of the Kiev Academy. They differed in many ways among themselves and also in their attitude toward Peter but they represented different sides of the Ukrainian and Kievan development.

 p115  The oldest of the three was Dmytro Tuptalenko, who was born in 1651. After receiving his education at Kiev, he spent several years in various monasteries, especially those which were the most rigid in upholding the autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It was during this period that he conceived the idea of writing a book on the lives of the Saints and of preparing a work to take the place of the older editions of the Chetyi Minei. After the forced submission of the Ukrainian Church, Dmytro became friendly with the Patriarch Joachim and undertook to secure the publication of his work. It was a very difficult task for there were many troubles with the ecclesiastical censors, which were not fully settled for over half a century. Finally he was called to Moscow and in 1703 he was made Metropolitan of Rostov, where he died in 1709. The writings of Dmytro Tuptalenko, who was later canonized by the Russian Church, were among the most attractive of the Kievan School. They included the Lives of the Saints, chronicles, and Christmas and Easter plays and they reveal their author as a sincere and deeply spiritual man, earnestly trying to do his best for his people.

The second of the three, Stefan Yavorsky, (1658‑1722), was one of the men who were less interested in the Ukrainian problems and found it relatively easy to assimilate himself to the new situation which was confronting him. As Metropolitan of Ryazan and later the locum tenens for the Patriarch, Yavorsky opposed the reforms of Peter and his efforts to turn the Church into a mere department of the state; he even dared to criticize him for divorcing his first wife. On the whole, Yavorsky defended the traditional teachings of Orthodoxy as it was understood in Kiev and he represented that stalwart but narrow Orthodox scholasticism that had been developed by the school of Mohyla.

The third of this group was very different. Teofan Prokopovich, who was born in 1681, received his entire education  p116 after the Ukrainian Church had been forced to acknowledge the Patriarch of Moscow as its canonical head.​a After graduating from the Academy, Prokopovich became a Uniat and thus secured the possibility of a course in the College of St. Athanasius in Rome. This was an institution aiming to prepare talented young men for energetic propaganda on behalf of the Catholic Church among the Greeks and the Orthodox peoples. It gave Prokopovich a good acquaintance with the classical world and also with the post-Renaissance developments in Western Europe, and fitted him to take the lead in breaking from the older scholasticism. On his return to Ukraine in 1702, Prokopovich left the Union and became an Orthodox monk and a teacher in the Academy of Kiev. Here he commenced his writing with a drama on Volodymyr. The work was dedicated with the greatest compliments to Mazepa and was perhaps one of the first attempts to introduce the later pseudo-classic style. Yet it was intended also to be a glorification of Peter the Great. As soon as Mazepa rose in revolt and the battle of Poltava had been won by Peter, Prokopovich turned to him with new compliments and with the most unsparing denunciations of his former patron.

This naturally brought him into favor with Peter, who constantly relied more and more upon him, and finally made him Archbishop of Novgorod. It was in this capacity that he faithfully served the Tsar in drawing up the constitution that was to govern the Orthodox Church after the abolition of the Patriarchate. Prokopovich, whether from his experiences in Rome or otherwise, had become a bitter foe of the entire Catholic position and he turned with considerable ardor toward the Protestant theologians of northern Europe and especially of Germany. It was due to him that Peter was able to find ways of suppressing most of the activities of the Church through his control of the Holy Synod.

 p117  It is no exaggeration to say that from the period of the revolt of Khmelnitsky to the final triumph of the Western pseudo-classicism under Peter, a period of more than half a century, every sign of intellectual and progressive life in Moscow and the later Russia was the direct product of the scholars of Kiev. At the moment when Ukraine was losing its political rights and independence, it was taking cultural control of its conqueror. The youth of Moscow were being trained by Ukrainians, they were being taught for the most part in Ukrainian, they were learning to read Great Russian from Ukrainian texts and grammars, and they were learning to think along the lines that had been developed in Kiev. It was an amazing phenomenon and we can only wonder what would have happened, had the Kievan Academy early in the seventeenth century adopted a broader attitude toward worldly knowledge and toward the national cause.

As it was, the greater men of the Kievan school never came into contact with the world as it had developed in the West after the fall of Constantinople. They made no attempt to understand what was going on in England, France, and Germany, and they rested content to remodel their culture merely on the lines of the Polish-Jesuit schools. On the other hand, their ardent defence of Orthodoxy made them blind to the situation that was developing at home in the political field. It was undoubtedly not only a desire for personal aggrandizement that rendered them incapable of understanding the thoughts and the desires of their own people. It was not only deliberate selfishness that threw them into the arms of Moscow with the resulting confusion at home and the loss of those things which the intelligent part of the population valued so highly. It was rather a curious blindness which was perhaps inseparable from the circumstances under which the  p118 cultural revival had commenced in the sixteenth century.

Yet for the most part Moscow did not welcome their assistance. The native spirit of Moscow continued to regard the Kiev scholars not only as men of doubtful Orthodoxy but as foreigners in the full sense of the word. Even the extension of Russian rule over Ukraine did not reconcile the Muscovites to the giving of good positions in Church and state to the people of Kiev. The gap in the mentality of the two races was too complete. The gibes of the conservative Muscovites were answered by equal attacks from these scholars that the Muscovites were barbarians with no culture and no civilization and it was a long while before the mutual dislike was even toned down on the surface. It was to crop up again years later when Kotlyarevsky and his associates began the use of the Ukrainian language in literature, at the end of the eighteenth century.

It was in the field of theological education that Ukrainian and Kievan influence continued longest, for it was in this that the Academy of Kiev had found its chief interest. Elsewhere there was a speedier end, for the reforms of Peter called for the introduction of large numbers of Germans, Dutch and French into the service of Russia. They brought with them a new attitude toward life, new styles of dress and living, new manners of thinking which were alien to both Kiev and Moscow. St. Petersburg was from the beginning a place apart, where the old Muscovite traditions were securely hidden by the Western European facade.

Nevertheless, all through the eighteenth century, one is surprised by the number of talented Ukrainian gentlemen who appeared in the newly developed Russian literature. Those men, who had been able to move by reasons of their wealth and influence in the higher circles of life in the old Ukraine, found themselves attracted to the new learning at St. Petersburg. They joined in the steady outflowing  p119 of the new literature and even though they no longer had the monopoly of learning, they formed a by no means negligible group in the life of the northern capital.

Yet it is to be noted that at the same time, the Holy Synod, like the preceding patriarchs, was constantly on the lookout lest the Kievan school show too much independence of thought and action. The leaders of Moscow and later of St. Petersburg still cherished too much of the old xenophobia that had characterized the Muscovite past. They made every attempt to limit the publications of the Kiev Academy and of other schools in Ukraine. They even held up for decades the printing of the works of St. Dimitry of Rostov (the Ukrainian Dmytro Tuptalenko). He might be declared a saint but that was no reason why his writings should not be regarded for style and language as something alien to the new regime. The situation was worse with lesser men and once Moscow had taken over the scholar­ship of Kiev, it was only eager that that source should not be available to create a new generation of independent thinkers that might re‑Ukrainianize their own land and spread a new influence abroad.

The cultural successes of the Kievan scholars form a striking parallel and contrast to the failure of the Kozak Host to maintain and strengthen the political position and independence of Ukraine. The lack of political interest on the part of the scholars was as dangerous to the normal intellectual development of Ukrainian culture as were the unbridled dissensions of the men of action. Had the two groups worked together along the same lines and toward the same goals as they had done at the end of the sixteenth and in the seventeenth centuries, it is quite likely that the history of Ukraine would have contained more bright and fewer gloomy chapters, for the intelligence and the ideas which might have made the state modern and progressive  p120 were all torn away. The Ukrainization of Muscovite thought was a startling phenomenon. It could only be of passing importance in the great drama of history, but it remains as one of the great achievements of the work of the Ukrainian lords and the Brotherhoods, and it certainly strengthened those factors which enabled Ukraine to pass through the dark night of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Thayer's Note:

a The Patriarch of Constantinople's ruling transferring his jurisdiction over the Kievan Orthodox Church to Moscow was in 1686. The Patriarchate of Constantinople reversed the ruling in 2019, and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is now once again autocephalous.

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