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Sylvester Medvedev


Born in Kursk, Sylvester Medvedev was a scribe in the Privy Office who later, urged by Simeon, took monastic vows.66 After the death of his teacher, Sylvester inherited his post, that of court poet. He also inherited Simeon’s library and his plans. The main plan was to found a university in Moscow. The charter drawn up for it in the tsar’s name was inspired by the Kiev-MogilaAcademy and stipulated that the university would have the right to guide Moscow culture. In presenting a draft charter to tsarevna Sophia in January 1685, Sylvester Medvedev wrote:

Мудрости бо ти имя подадеся,

богом Софиа мудрость наречеся.

Тебе бо слично науки начати,

яко премудрой оны совершати.

(You have been given the name of wisdom,/For Sophia was named wisdom by God.

It befits you to begin the sciences,/To pursue them, most wise one!)

His reliance on Sophia’s support were in vain. The European- oriented tendency that Sylvester Medvedev represented aroused strong opposition from the Church leaders under Patriarch Joachim himself. Sophia did not’ want to quarrel with the patriarch, and the Slavonic-Graeco-Latin Academy founded in 1686 fell into his hands. There could be no question of university autonomy now that everything depended on the will of the patriarch.67 When Sophia’s regency came to an end in 1689, Sylvester Medvedev was found guilty of conspiracy. “In the year 199 (1691), on the eleventh day of the month of February the monk Sylvester Medvedev departed from this life…” his brother- in-law Karion Istomin recorded in his diary. “He was beheaded … in Red Square, opposite the Spassky Gate. His body is buried in the almshouse in a pit with vagabonds.”68 Sylvester Medvedev’s works were strictly proscribed. All lists of them were ordered to be burnt on pain of heavy punishment. This would appear to explain why so little of his verse has survived.