Simeon Polotskii

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Simeon Polotskii


(born Samuil Emel’ianovich [according to recent research, Gavrilovich] Petrovskii-Sitnianovich). Born 1629 in Polotsk; died Aug. 25, 1680, in Moscow. Byelorussian and Russian public and church figure, writer, and leader in the Russian cultural renewal.

After completing his studies at the Kiev Mogila Academy, Polotskii became a monk at the Monastery of the Epiphany in Polotsk in 1656. In 1664 he moved to Moscow, becoming the tutor of Tsarevich Aleksei in 1667 and, after the latter’s death, of Tsarevich Fedor and Tsarevna Sofia. He is the author of the theological treatise The Scepter of Government (1667), which criticized Patriarch Nikon and the leaders of the schism (raskol). Polotskii established a printing house at the Kremlin in 1678. In his world view and activities he was a proponent of cultural renewal. In 1648, Polotskii began writing poetry in Polish and in Russian infused with Byelorussian and Ukrainian elements. He is regarded in the history of Russian literature as a talented poet, dramatist and preacher.

Polotskii’s sermons were published in the collections The Spiritual Midday Meal (1681) and The Spiritual Evening Meal (1683); his poetry was collected in The Many-flowered Garden (unpublished) and Rhythmologion (also existing only in manuscript form). His verse translation of the Psalter, The Rhymed Psalter, was published in 1680. Polotskii also wrote versified plays, including The Comedy of the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the tragedy On Emperor Nebuchadnezzar, the Golden Calf, and the Three Youths Who Were Not Burned in the Fiery Furnace, which praised Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich and denounced a tyrannical ruler, the biblical king Nebuchadnezzar. Polotskii used syllabic versification and introduced poetry and drama into Russian literature.


Izbr. soch. (Preparation of text, introductory article, and commentary by I. P. Eremin.) Moscow-Leningrad, 1953.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Cultural change, and change at and through the court, is the theme of two very different works, that of Buseva-Davydova on architecture and religious painting and Sazonova's study of Russian Baroque literature, essentially the poetry of Simeon Polotskii.
Sazonova's massive and masterful study of the poetry of Simeon Polotskii and his colleagues successfully combines the empirical and the theoretical.
Impressed and intrigued, the Tsar subsequently asked the learned monk, Simeon Polotskii, to perform for him again in Moscow.