Feofan Prokopovich

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Prokopovich, Feofan

 

(Eleazar Prokopovich). Born June 8 (18), 1681, in Kiev; died Sept. 8 (19), 1736, in St. Petersburg. Church and public figure, Ukrainian and Russian writer. Bishop (1718), archbishop (1724). Associate of Peter I. Son of a merchant.

Prokopovich graduated from the Kiev Mogila Academy in 1698 and went to Poland, where he became a Uniate, and then left for Rome to continue his education. There he studied the Greek and Roman classics as well as philosophical and theological literature. Back in Kiev, he reconverted to Orthodoxy in 1704.

As one of the best-educated men of his time, he gave immediate and resolute support to Peter I’s reform work. He accompanied Peter on the Prut Campaign of 1711. On returning to Kiev, he became rector of the academy and taught poetry and rhetoric. In 1715 he was summoned to St. Petersburg, where he became Peter’s assistant for church administration during the abolition of the patriarchate and establishment of the Synod, of which Prokopovich was appointed vice-president in 1721. His literary-publicistic work was subordinated to the task of justifying and defending Peter’s political and cultural measures. In his Word on the Tsar’s Authority and Honor (1718), he defended unlimited autocratic authority and the justice of the trial of Tsarevich Aleksei. In the Preface to the Naval Regulations of 1719 and in the Word of Praise to the Russian Navy (1720), he glorified the creation of a powerful navy. In what was called the Spiritual Reglament of 1721, he provided theoretical justification for the new system of administration of the church, with the Synod at its head in place of the Patriarch.

Prokopovich wrote Russian and Latin verse, but his greatest influence on contemporary literature was as a preacher. His sermons represent a striking example of the publicistic genre. Placing civic duty above religious obligations, he urged that the state and not the church be served. In his sermons he avoided the excesses of literary adornment and rhetorical figures of speech, although he did not completely break with the tradition. In writing their odes, M. V. Lomonosov and A. P. Sumarokov were strongly influenced by ideas and themes found in Prokopovich’s oratorical prose.

Prokopovich was one of the founders of the Academy of Sciences. He headed what was called the learned circle, which included A. D. Kantemir and V. N. Tatishchev. Prokopovich left several historical works, including A History of Emperor Peter the Great from His Birth to the Battle of Poltava (c. 1713), A Brief Account of the Death of Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia (1726), and A History of the Selection and Accession … of Her Majesty Anna Ioannovna (1730). In these works he idealized Peter I and his accomplishments.

WORKS

Slova i rechi pouchitel’nye, pokhval’nye i pozdravitel’nye, parts 1–4. St. Petersburg, 1760–74.
Soch. [Edited by I. P. Eremin.] Moscow-Leningrad, 1961.

REFERENCES

Chistovich, I. A. Feofan Prokopovich i ego vremia. St. Petersburg, 1868.
Morozov, P. O. Feofan Prokopovich kakpisatel’. St. Petersburg, 1880.
Gudzii, N. K. “Feofan Prokopovich.” In Istoriia russkoi literatury, vol. 3, part 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1941.
Peshtich, S. L. Russkaia istoriografiia XVIII v., part 1. Leningrad, 1961.
Luzhnyi, R. “‘Poetika’ F. Prokopovicha i teoriia poezii v Kievo-Mogilianskoi akademii.” In Rol’ i znachenie literatury XVIII v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.
Vinter, E. “F. Prokopovich i nachalo russkogo Prosveshcheniia.” Ibid.
Prosina, A. B. “Teoreticheskoe obosnovanie F. Prokopovichem reform Petra I.” Vestnik MGU: Ser. pravo, 1969, no. 6.
Kochetkova, N. D. “Oratorskaia proza Feofana Prokopovicha i puti formirovaniia literatury klassitsizma.” In XVIII vek: Sb. 9. Leningrad, 1974.

I. Z. SERMAN