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History of the Kiev Theological Schools

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The history of the Kiev Theological Schools began almost four centuries ago when the confessional situation in Europe was characterized by an utmost tension and dynamism. In the 16th century a strong influence of the Protestant Reformation and then of the Catholic Counterreformation was felt in the State of Poland-Litva, which had the jurisdiction over almost all the Southern and Western Rus’ at the time. This influence made the life of Orthodox Christians especially difficult. One of the challenges for the Orthodox Church was the new attitude towards education. Both Jesuits and Protestants established schools, which were open to the public, and which utilized the latest educational methods. The Orthodox, however, had nothing to offset this phenomenon. For this reason it was crucial to form an educational system in the Rech Pospolita, which would be based on the Orthodox values.

The School of the Kiev Brotherhood

At first Kiev was not involved in the Brotherhood movement. At the end of the 16th century the ancient capital of Rus’ (i.e. Kiev) was in the state of utmost decline. After the achievement of the Brest Union (1596) Kiev remained without an Orthodox metropolitan, and the cathedral of holy Sofia became the cathedra of the Greek Catholic bishops. Archimandrite Elisey (named Evfimiy in the great schema) contributed significant efforts to the spiritual and cultural revival of Kiev. In 1599 he became the abbot of the Kiev-Pechersk Monastery (Lavra). As a result of his fervent efforts, the monastery was able to regain its glory. Father Elisey established a publishing house in the Lavra, and also gathered many educated preachers, translators, iconographers and publishers in Kiev. The monk Zacharia Kopystenskiy (subsequently archimandrite), the hieromonk Pamvo Berinda (subsequently protosingell), the priest Ioann Boretskiy (subsequently His Eminence Job, Metropolitan of Kiev), the priest Laurentius Zizaniy and other well-known Russian church and cultural figures of that time worked side by side with Father Elisey.

It seems that the idea of creating the Kiev brotherhood and establishing a school originated in the intellectual group of Archimandrite Yelisey. The idea became reality with the help of Ms. Elizabeth Vasilievna Gulevichevna-Lozkina, a noble resident of Kiev. On October 14, 1615 Ms. Gulevichevna-Lozkina signed a document granting a land parcel in the Podol District of Kiev, together with its buildings and incomes, to “the Orthodox Christians of the Russian Nation” for establishing the Epiphany Monastery and a school for the children of all social classes. Right after that a group of monks headed by Isaia Kopinskiy settled here, and several weeks later the Monastery School was founded on the site. The Kiev “Epiphany Brotherhood” was established by the beginning of 1616. The Brotherhood was responsible for financing the school and for recruiting instructors. The disciplines taught in the Brotherhood School included the basics of Orthodox Dogmatics, Slavonic, Polish, Greek and Latin languages, as well as Rhetoric.

In 1629 the Kiev Brotherhood obtained an “Allowance Certificate” from the Polish king Sigizmund III, which granted the Brotherhood legal status. However, as soon as in 1630 the School was facing a serious challenge. That year an epidemic of pestilence was very severe in Kiev. For this reason the Rector Thomas Ivlevich had to temporarily dissolve the School. Even though in January 1631 the classes were resumed, the School found itself in a state of a noticeable decline. The next stage in the history of the Kiev Brotherhood School is associated with Metropolitan Peter Mogila.

St. Peter Mogila

Peter Mogila was born in 1596. Peter studied first in the L'vov Brotherhood School, and then continued his education in European Universities. In 1627 Peter Mogila became the Archimandrite (abbot) of the Kiev-Pechersk monastery. In the autumn of 1631 with the help of two educated monks (Isaia Trofimovich and Silvester Kosov), who were invited from Lvov, he founded a school in the Kiev-Pechersk monastery. Isaia Trofimovich became the rector of the school. Archimandrite Peter and his associates decided to create a school, which would not be inferior to European Universities in any way.

However, many residents of Kiev were against this kind of education in the monastery. On December 30, 1631, Archimandrite Peter agreed with the Kiev Brotherhood to unite the two schools in order to overcome such tension. According to the agreement Peter Mogila became the head of the united school. In 1632 this school was named the Kiev Collegium.

St. Peter Mogila always took a special care of the Kiev School. In his will he granted villages, houses and courtyards, family silver, metropolitan vestments, decorated with family treasures, a silver cross, as well as his whole library, which consisted of 2,131 books to the Brotherhood monastery. In his will the Saint called the Collegium “his only true accomplishment in life and tearfully asked to preserve it forever. St. Peter passed away on the night of January 1, 1647 and was buried in the Dormition Cathedral of the Kiev-Pechersk Monastery. In his memory the Kiev Collegium was called Mogilyanskaya (i.e. “of Mogila”).

The Kiev-Mogilyanskaya Collegium in 1647-1701

In 1701 His Eminence Varlam (Yasinskiy), Metropolitan of Kiev requested from the Tsar Peter I (the Great) to grant the status and the rights of an Academy to the Kiev Collegium. On September 26, 1701 Peter I officially acknowledged Kiev School to be an Academy with full rights pertaining to this status.

In the second-half of the 17th Century there were three educational levels in the School: Elementary, Intermediate and High. The Elementary level included such courses as Math, Grammar and Syntax; the Intermediate - Rhetoric; the High - Philosophy, and since 1689 also Theology.

The Kiev Collegium instructors always strived to teach the students not only knowledge disciplines, but also true piety and ethics. In the 17th century several of the School’s graduates became hierarchs and Saints of the Church. St. Theodosius of Chernigov, St. Dimitriy of Rostov, St. Innocent of Irkutsk are but a few examples.

The Kiev-Mogilyanskaya Academy in 1701-1760

In the first half of the 18th century the Kiev-Mogilyanskaya Academy was at its best and gained the fame of the most prestigious educational institution of the Russian Empire. Its fame was also spread among the Orthodox in the Balkans, many of whom were coming to study there.

Peter the Great considered the Kiev School the main educational institution for training people who would embrace his reforms. The Russian Emperor was generally in favour of granting bishoprics across the Empire to the graduates of the School. In 1709 the Emperor personally visited the Academy during his stay in Kiev.

The Highest program of education in the Academy included Philosophy and Theology. Philosophy included Logic and Dialectics, as well as the natural sciences (Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy and Zoology). In the Department of Theology courses were taught such as Dogmatic and Moral Theology, Church History, Hermeneutics and Paschalion.

International students comprised a significant portion of the overall student body of Academy. Serbians, Greeks, Montenegrins, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles and Byelorussians studied in the School. Upon their graduation these students returned to their home countries, where they became zealous preachers and defenders of the Orthodox Faith.

During the period from 1700 until 1760 some seventy graduates of the Kiev-Mogilyanskaya Academy were ordained bishops. Moreover, they founded educational institutions designed after the Kiev model in the many areas of their ministry. Thus, the Schools in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Astrakhan, Vyatka, Kazan, Kostroma, Mogilyov, Novgorod, Smolensk, Suzdal, Tver came to existence. In fact, it were the graduates of the Kiev Academy, who have laid the bases of the educational system in the Russian Empire.

The Kiev Academy in 1760-1817

Many well-known personalities of that period graduated from the Academy, both clergy and lay people. In 1790’s St. Antoniy Smirnitsky, Bishop of Voronezh (1773-1846) famous for his piety graduated from the Academy.

The graduates of the Kiev Academy in the 18th and 19th centuries have made a significant contribution to the development of sciences and art. Roman Rakushka-Romanovskiy, Grirogiy Grabyanka, Samuil Velichko and others contributed to the formation and development of the Ukrainian Historical science.

The famous philosopher, poet, composer and educator Grigoriy Skovoroda (1722-1794) also studied in the Academy. Numerous outstanding physicians of the Russian Empire were also its graduates.

The Kiev Academy in 1817-1869

Emperor Alexander I implemented a radical reform of both secular and theological education in the Russian Empire. In 1808 the new regulations for theological schools were issued. The period of instruction in a Theological Academy became four years. The first two year were called “Philosophical”, the following two years – “Theological”. Many new effective educational methods were introduced by the reform. It should be noted that by that time the Kiev Academy was in a state of decline and required an educational reform.

The Most Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to divide the Kiev Academy into three independent educational institutions: the School, Theological Seminary and Theological Academy. The Academy was temporally closed in 1817 and began functioning again in 1819.

In the first decades after the reform of the Academy the two outstanding Metropolitans of Kiev Eugine Bolkhovitinov (1822-1837) and St. Filaret Amphiteatrov (1837-1858) contributed extensively to the development of the Kiev Academy. Thus, at that time the Academy acquired fame of one of the best Orthodox Theological Schools in the world again.

The principles of theological research of the reformed Academy were formed during the first few decades after the reform. The bloom of theological thought in Kiev Theological Academy is usually associated with Bishop Silvester (Malevanskogo), who began teaching at the Academy in 1857. He is the author of the most extensive work in Russian-language on the Dogmatic Theology – the five-volume A Treatise on the Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (with a Historical Background of the Dogmas).

Founding the academic periodical The Papers of the Kiev Theological Academy in 1860 became an exceptionally important event of the Academy. The periodical soon became one of the top quality theological periodicals in the Russian Empire.

Kiev spiritual academy in 1869-1914

On May 30, 1869 Emperor Alexander II issued a new set of regulations for all the theological academies in the Russian Empire. These new rules involved several essential changes to the theological education. One of the new requirements was the specialization by various theological disciplines in the academies. This resulted in establishing three Departments in each theological academy: Department of Theology, Department of Church History and Department of Applied Church Ministry. As early as in 1869 the Kiev Theological Academy began to operate under the new rules. However, most of these rules were abolished in 1884, when the new set of regulations was introduced.

During the period from 1869 till 1914, the theological research activity of the Kiev Theological Academy was in its hey day. Translation of theological works was also significant in its quantity and quality. Several professors and instructors of the Academy translated into Russian many Books of the Old Testament, as well as treatises of some Western Fathers and Teachers of the Church (including Tertullian, Arnobius, St. Cyprian of Carthage, St. Augustine, St. Jerome).

The Difficult Times for the Academy (1915-1923)

In September 1915, soon after the beginning of the First World War, Kiev was facing the danger of being occupied by the German troops, and the Holy Synod decided to evacuate the Kiev Academy and move to Kazan. However, the Academy was not evacuated completely and classes were still held in various buildings in the Podol District of Kiev.

Right after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 all public financing of the Kiev Theological Schools was terminated. However, the educational institution continued existence despite financial difficulties.

The Civil War in Ukraine took place from 1918 till 1920. During this time there was no stable government, and the Theological Schools often had to cancel classes. Due to financial difficulties many students and faculty had to leave Kiev to avoid starvation.

By the end of 1923 the Academy practically ceased to function. Some members of the faculty were repressed, others immigrated, while others had to move to other parts of the Soviet Union.

The First Attempt to Revive the Kiev Theological Schools (1947-1960)

During the Second World War the Soviet government abandoned its radical antireligious policy. In September 1944 the Russian Orthodox Church opened a Theological Institute in Moscow. This marked the beginning of the revival of the system of the theological education in the Russian Orthodox Church.

On February 18, 1947 a Theological Seminary began functioning in Kiev. At that time a few outstanding Kiev priests, who preserved the tradition of the pre-Revolution Kiev Academy became the first instructors of the Seminary.

In the second half of the 1950s the Soviet government noticeably changed its attitude towards the Church. Many parishes were terminated across the Soviet Union and activities of religious organizations were severely limited. The Communist Party made it extremely difficult for people to begin their studies in the Kiev Seminary, and this was also accompanied by a strong psychological pressure on the seminarians. All of this has led to a noticeable reduction in the number of students.

In the same 1959 the Ukrainian organs of authority began secret preparation for closing of Kiev Seminary. They restricted the students of seminary to live in the private apartments. However, since over 75 per cent of students lived in the city and not in the residence their ability to continue their education became questionable. The trade organizations of Kiev obtained an order to end the wholesale deliveries of food supplies for the seminary dining.

The Communist Party took measures to terminate the Kiev Seminary. On May 4, 1960 a Party Official requested His Holiness Alexiy the Patriarch of the Russian Church to close the Kiev Seminary and the Holy Synod was forced to follow this request.

The Rebirth of the Kiev Theological Schools (1989-present)

The new revival of the Kiev Theological Schools is closely related to the celebrations of the 1000-Year Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia. The celebrations were held in 1988 with a huge public resonance. In June 1988 the Council of Ministers of the UkSSR (Ukrainian Soviet Social Republic) ordered to transfer a part of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra’s territory to the Russian Orthodox Church, and in 1989 the Soviet authorities also permitted to resume the Kiev Theological Seminary. Archpriest Peter Vlodek became the first Rector of the revived school, and the Abbot of the Lavra Archimandrite Elevferiy Didenko became its inspector. The first set of the Seminary entrance examinations was held on August 22~24, 1989, upon which 44 persons were enrolled into the First-Year program, and one group of Second-Year students was transferred here from the Odessa Seminary. The first academic year in the revived Seminary started on October 4, 1989.

In 1991 Fr. Peter Vlodek was transferred to Lutsk to assume the office of Rector of the Volyn Theoloal Seminary, and Archimandrite Daniil Chokalyuk became the new Rector of the Kiev Seminary.

After the schism, which took place in Ukraine in 1992, the rector of the Kiev Seminary Fr. Daniil has also left the canonical Church. In 1992 the Most Blessed Metropolitan Vladimir became the new primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and soon after his arrival to Kiev Archpriest Alexander Kubelius became the new Rector of the Seminary.

In 1993 the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God became the Church permanently assigned to the Academy.

In 1994 Archpriest Nikolai Zabuga became the new Rector of the Kiev Theological Schools, and his rectorship continued until May 2007. During the years of Fr. Nikolai’s rectorship, the Kiev Theological Schools were completely restored and set to operate according to modern academic requirements. Since 1995 the Academy students publicly defend their Candidate (equivalent of a Ph.D.) thesises. In 1997 the academic journal The Works of the Kiev Theological Academy was revived. In 2001 the 300-Year Anniversary of the “Academy” status being granted by Peter I to the Kiev School was celebrated.

The results of this revival of the Kiev Academy are indeed numerous. Graduates of the Kiev Theological Academy are now ministers of the Church in many places all across the globe. Many local Orthodox Churches regularly send their faithful to study in the Kiev Academy including the Orthodox Churches of Serbia, Georgia, Romania, Poland to name a few. 21 bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are graduates of the Kiev Theological Academy.

On May 31, 2007 His Eminence Antoniy (Pakanich), Bishop (since September 24, 2008 - Archbishop) of Borispol was appointed the new Rector of the Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary.

In the 2007-2008 academicyear an educational reform was initiated in the Kiev Theological Schools. The period of studies in the Seminary has been increased from four to five years, and it is planned to introduce a departmental specialization in the Academy. As a result of the reform a greater emphasis has been placed on ancient and modern languages, and some new disciplines have also been integrated into the program.

The visit of His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia to the Academy on June 10, 2009 was a significant event in the life of the Kiev Theological Schools. During this visit the Academic Council of the Kiev Theological Academy conferred a Doctor of Theology Degree on His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.

In September 2007 the Academic Council approved the new set of standards for The Works of Kiev Theological Academy. The journal is now published two times a year. Academic papers of not only Kiev Academy’s Faculty, but also of other secular and theological scholars are now published in the journal. Since 2008 the student journal The Academic Chronicler is also published by the Academy.

In September 2009 320 students were enrolled in the Full-Time Program and 510 – in the Distance Education Program in the Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary. The Academy has 66 faculty members.

The Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary also offers Catechetical courses for the laity and operates a Sunday School.

The main mission of the Academy and its Faculty members is to implement the precept of St. Peter Mogila: to foster not only students’ academic excellence, but also to teach them Christian piety. A critical task of the contemporary theological education is to combine the latest developments in theological research with the fidelity to the Holy Tradition of the Church. It should also be noted that studying in the Kiev Theological Schools, which are located on the territory of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra – the oldest Russian monastery, provides the students with the unique possibility to experience the centuries-old spiritual tradition of the Orthodox Church.

At present the Kiev Theological Academy & Seminary are the leading educational institutions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Moreover, the Kiev Theological Schools are rapidly developing and have optimistic perspectives for the future.

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