Maksim Grek

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Maksim Grek


(Maxim the Greek; pseudonym of Michael Triboles). Born circa 1475 in Arta, Greece; died 1556 at the St. Sergius Trinity Monastery, present-day Zagorsk, Moscow Oblast. Publicist, writer, and translator.

Maksim Grek studied for a long time in Italy, where he became familiar with Savonarola’s sermons. He lived about ten years in the Vatopedi Monastery on Mt. Athos, which he left in 1518 when Vasilii III Ivanovich invited him to come to Russia to translate church books. In Moscow, Maksim Grek took part in the dispute between the nestiazhateli [nonacquirers; ascetic followers of Nil Sorskii, who denied the church the right to accumulate wealth] and the Josephites [more worldly followers of the Russian monk Joseph of Volokolamsk, who supported church ownership of monastic estates]. A man of broad education for his time, Maksim Grek gathered a circle of followers (including Bersen’ Beklemishev and Vassian Kosoi) who discussed not only ecclesiastical questions but also problems connected with the domestic and foreign policies of the grand prince.

Like the nestiazhateli, Maksim Grek criticized monastery landowning and the wealth of the church. An ascetic by conviction, he harshly criticized the practices of the Russian clergy, the exploitation of the peasantry by clerical landowners, and the system of local government known as kormlenie [a system of supporting officials at the expense of the local population].

Maksim Grek’s rapprochement with oppositionist church circles led to his condemnation at the synod of 1525 and exile to the Joseph-Volokolamsk Monastery. After a second condemnation, by the council of 1531, Maksim Grek was exiled to the Tverskoi Otroch’ Monastery. In 1551 he was transferred to the St. Sergius Trinity Monastery.

Maksim Grek left a voluminous literary legacy (over 150 titles) including sermons, polemical articles, philosophical and theological treatises, and translations. Transferring the achievements of Byzantine philological learning to Russian soil, chiefly in the realm of philological interpretation and criticism of texts, Maksim Grek extolled the art of grammar and wrote a number of works about phonetics, such as “On Greek Vowels and Consonants, Syllables, and Greek and Slavonic Diacritical Marks.” His works on prosody include “On Prosody,” and “On the Newly Arrived Foreign Philosophers.” His “Interpretations of Names According to the Alphabet” served as the chief source for later Russian azbukovniki. Maksim Grek was recognized as an outstanding grammarian. The Moscow edition of M. Smotritskii’s grammar (1648) contains articles taken partly from Maksim Grek’s works and partly misattributed to him.


Sochineniia, 2nd ed. parts 1-3. Kazakhstan, 1894-97.


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Iagich, I. V. “Rassuzhdeniia iuzhnoslavianskoi i russkoi stariny o tserkovnoslavianskom iazyke.” In Issledovaniia po russkomu iazyku, vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1885.
Rzhiga, V. F. “Opyty po istorii russkoi publitsistiki XVI v.: Maksim Grek kak publitsist.” Tr. Otdela drevnerusskoi literatury In-ta russkoi literatury AN SSSR, 1934, vol. 1.
Budovnits, I. U. Russkaiapublitsistika XVI v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947. Pages 136-66.
Klibanov, A. I. “Kizucheniiu biografii i literaturnogo naslediia Maksima Greka.” Vizantiiskii vremennik; 1958, vol. 14.
Denissoff, E. Maxime le Grec et l’Occideni. Paris-Louvain, 1943.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In the 16th century, the spirit of toleration did not extend to those Orthodox people suspected of heresy, as the trials of Maksim Grek (1525, 1531) and Marvel Bashkin (1553) illustrated.
The early parameters of what discussion there was were indicated by the polemic between Maksim Grek and Nikolai Nemchin (also called Nikolai Bulev) over the Orthodox attitude toward the Latin Church.
The early 16th-century dispute between Maksim Grek and Nikolai Nemchin focused on the advisability of church unity and confessional coexistence.
In the pre-Petrine period, writing on toleration had little resonance: Maksim Grek's polemics with Nikolai Nemchin were known only in high clerical and court circles; Philaleth and the Russian tolerationists in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth may not have been known in Muscovy; Avvakum's autobiography, containing his tolerationist plea, circulated in manuscript among Old Believers, not among Nikonians.
The best monographic study of Maksim's manuscripts dated the beginning of his correspondence with Nikolai Nemchin to 1518-19 and the bulk of the exchange to 1519-25; Maksim's letters to Nikolai concerning astrology have been dated "late 1524/early 1525" and "before 1533." See Nina Vasil'evna Sinitsyna, Maksim Grek v Rossii (Moscow: Nauka, 1977), 78-83, 89-90.
(35) For the polemic, see "Protiv latinian, o tom chto ne sleduet nichego ni pribavliat', ni ubavliat' v Bozhestvennom ispovedanii neporochnoi khristianskoi very," in Maksim Grek, Slovo i poucheniia, ed.
Sinitsyna believed that they were deliberately destroyed by church or government authorities (Maksim Grek v Rossii, 100).
He comments in detail on all of the major controversies of the period: those surrounding Joseph Volotskii, Maksim Grek, the Stoglav Council, Patriarch Filaret, Patriarch Nikon and the Schism, and the Ukrainian writers.
It appears that none of the scholars under review have noticed that the gallery of "all saints" of the Russian state in SK is related to the unique instance of the designation of Russia as "most holy" in the Greek letter of Maksim Grek (contrary to the belief of D.