Cyprian, a Bulgarian, was a very learned man. He received an ecclesiastical and scholarly education in his homeland, in Byzantium and at Mount Athos. He was closely associated with his fellow-countryman Euthymius of Tyrnovo (1330-1402), the Bulgarian Patriarch, who was the founder and theoretician of the panegyric style in Bulgarian literature and reformed the orthographic system of the Bulgarian language.
In 1375 the Patriarchal Assembly of Constantinople appointed Cyprian Metropolitan of Lithuania with the right to inherit, after the death of Metropolitan Alexis, the Metropolitan See of All Russia. In 1378, the year of Alexis’ death, a struggle began between several claimants for the metropolitan see, in which Cyprian took an active part. He was finally established as Metropolitan of All Russia in Moscow during the reign of Dmitry Donskoy’s son in 1390.
Cyprian began to engage in literary activity when he was at Mount Athos and continued it right up to the end of his life (he died in 1406). As already mentioned, he played an important part in the compilation of the first All-Russian chronicle, translated from Greek, copied books and composed liturgical texts.
During his struggle for the metropolitan throne Cyprian turned to literature as a means of political struggle. On his initiative and, it would appear, with his direct participation The Tale of Mityai directed against Cyprian’s main rival was written.25 Politico-publicistic considerations also dictated Cyprian’s new redaction of The Life of Metropolitan Peter, his major literary work. He wrote it in the 1380s, i.e., the period of struggle for the metropolitan throne.26
As a basis for his work Cyprian took the 1327 redaction of The Life of Metropolitan Peter. Under his pen the original short vita, written concisely and simply, without any rhetorical embellishment, was considerably lengthened and acquired a sumptuous literary form. In his brief foreword to the Life Cyprian defined the purpose of his work, saying that it was a eulogy to Peter. In keeping with the canons of the genre Cyprian added a foreword and conclusion, which did not exist in the original.
Cyprian’s redaction of the Life is close to the vitae of the panegyric style. But first and foremost his work had political and publicistic aims. Here, even more strongly than in the 1327 redaction, the greatness of Moscow is stressed and its national importance as the political and ecclesiastical centre of the Russian lands. Cyprian not only extols Peter and the Prince of Moscow, but also seeks to assert his right to the metropolitan throne of All Russia. Cyprian’s life had much in common with Peter’s (competing for the metropolitan see, clashes with opponents after his appointment as metropolitan, and the transfer from Lithuania to Moscow), and by so doing he seems to be ranking himself with Peter. In the eulogy to Peter, which concludes the vita, Cyprian recounts the story of Peter’s appointment as metropolitan in detail, depicting Peter as his protector and patron. This “autobiographical element” in Cyprian’s Life of Metropolitan Peter reflects the new attitude in literature towards the author.
Cyprian’s Life of Metropolitan Peter was clearly publicistic. But in terms of structure, imagery and language it is akin to the works of the expressive-emotional style.