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(Avvakum Petrovich). Born 1620 or 1621; died Apr. 14, 1682. Archpriest and one of the founders of the sect of Russian Old Believers; writer. Son of a village priest.

In 1646–47, while Avvakum was in Moscow, he was connected with the “circle of zealots of piety” and became known to Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich. In 1652 he was archpriest in Iur’evets Povol’skii; later he became priest of the Kazan cathedral in Moscow. Avvakum sharply attacked the church reforms of Patriarch Nikon; as a result, in 1653 he and his family were exiled to Tobol’sk and later to Dauria. In 1663 the tsar summoned Avvakum to Moscow in an effort to reconcile him with the official church. But Avvakum did not renounce his views; he persisted in his struggle against church innovations. He accused Nikon of heresy in a petition to the tsar. His inspired addresses against Nikon brought him numerous followers, including some of the high nobility, among them boyarina F. P. Morozova. In 1664, Avvakum was exiled to Mezen’, and two years later he was summoned to Moscow. Unfrocked and anathematized at the church council, he was banished to the ostrog (fortified settlement) of Pustozersk in 1667. During his 15–year confinement in a damp earthen cell, Avvakum never ceased his ideological struggle. It was there that he wrote his main works, including The Book of Discourses, The Book of Interpretations, and his Life (1672–75). By an edict of the tsar, Avvakum was burned at the stake along with his closest comrades.

Defending the old faith in his writings, Avvakum sharply denounced the vices of the representatives of the official church—gluttony, drunkenness, debauchery, self-interest, and so on—and the cruelty with which they introduced church reforms. In his struggle with the supporters of Nikon, Avvakum denounced tsarist power, the tsar himself, and the tsar’s servitors (the voevody and others). Avvakum enjoyed great popularity; his accusatory preaching found a broad response among the peasantry and lower townspeople, and even in his prison the guards participated in the dissemination of his works. By standing up for the “old faith,” they expressed their protest against feudal oppression. However, the forms of struggle which Avvakum offered—self-immolation, religious fanaticism, and the preaching of the end of the world—were reactionary.

Avvakum was the most outstanding writer of his time. His Life is one of the remarkable works of Old Russian literature. He was able to turn the traditional genre of the Life into an autobiographical narrative. Avvakum captivates the reader with his striking imagery and characterizations of people and by the richness and immediacy of his vivid Russian style.


Zhitie protopopa Avvakuma, im samim napisannoe, i dr. ego soch. Moscow, 1960.


Istoriia SSSR: S drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, vol. 3. Moscow, 1967.
Gudzii, N. K. Istoriia drevnei russkoi literatury, 7th ed. Moscow, 1966.
Malyshev, V. I. “Bibliografiia sochinenii protopopa Avvakuma i literatury o nem. 1917–1953 gg.” Trudy Otdela drevnerusskoi literatury, [vol.] 10. Moscow-Leningrad, 1954.
Gusev, V. E. “Zhitie protopopa Avvakuma—proizvedenie demokraticheskoi literatury XVII v.” Trudy Otdela drevnerusskoi literatury, [vol.] 14. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958.
Robinson, A. N. Zhizneopisaniia Avvakuma i Epifaniia. Moscow, 1963


References in periodicals archive ?
The seventeenth-century Russian priest Avvakum, one of the most eloquent speakers and critics of his era, burned at the stake for his words, becoming a symbol of freedom of expression for centuries of Russian intellectuals.
Arguably, the earliest autobiography of a popovich was written not in 1802 (9) but in the 1670s by the defrocked Archpriest Avvakum Petrov (1620-1682), a leader of the Old Believer schism, while he was in an underground prison in Pustozersk.
During those fifteen years Avvakum wrote all his main works.
And into this group came the Protopopes, Ivan Neronov, Daniel, Avvakum, Loggin and Nikon, who was then the Archimandrite.
Avvakum himself, though he took the view that they ought to purify the books from the mistakes of translators and scribes, protested against blindly following the Greek forms.
literature began with autobiography: Byzantine Vladimir Monomaith's personal Instruction of 1117 and the highly original, confessional, vernacular Autobiography of 1672 by Archpriest Avvakum, a native of Nizhny Novgorod.
Moreover, most dissenters (apart from leaders like Avvakum and deacon Fedor Ivanov) did not identify themselves as Old Believers and espoused no alternative church; indeed, they were overwhelmingly illiterate and cared little about theological issues relating to liturgical practices.
Nevertheless, Michels's picture of Avvakum as a puritanical reformer rather than a liturgical pedant is quite credible: clearly the main issues for him were cleansing the church of corruption, ignorance, and such widespread popular customs as drinking, gambling, and fornicating.
Sectarians sometimes had their tongues removed as well ("The Life of Archpriest Avvakum By Himself," in Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales, rev.
Avvakum, the great spokesman for the Russian Old Believers, went to the stake over his views on how many "alleluias" should be said at a certain point in the liturgy and how to hold your hands while making the sign of the cross.
Those familiar with these events usually associate this period with the names Avvakum and Nikon, and refer to the phenomenon interchangeably as the "Old Believer Schism" or "Russian Schism.
Written in the language of the seventeenth century, the poem is ostensibly a philippic from the famous militant Russian Old Believer and protopope, Avvakum, directed against his deadly enemy, the patriarch Nikon.