Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary

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The Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary is a major theological education institution of the Russian Orthodox Church located within the grounds of the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in Serguiev Possad, Moskovskaya Oblast, north of the city of Moscow, Russia.


The academy had its origin as the Greek Latin School organized in Moscow in 1687. The school was the first higher education institution in Moscovy, Established under a prikaz of Patriarch Joachim, the academy began instruction under the leadership of two Greek brothers, Joannicus and Sophronius Likhud on the grounds of the Zaikonospassky Monastery. The school opened with an enrollment of over 70 students. The curriculum was arranged into several levels, or “schools” with classes in the Slovenian and Greek languages, seven liberal arts classes, and theology.

In 1694, the Likhud brothers were dismissed, and two of the students at the school, Feodor Polikarpov and N. Semenov (Golovin), became the teachers at the academy. Over the next several years attendance increased such that by the start of the eighteenth century over two hundred students attended the academy. In 1701, Tsar Peter I made the school a state academy, under the leadership of Fr. Palladius (Rogovsky), a celibate priest who invited graduates from the seminaries in Kiev and Lvov to teach at the Greek Latin Academy. With the arrival of the new instructors, who were familiar with the educational practices of western Europe, the Latin language became the principal language for instruction at the academy.

The curriculum evolved into two phases that continued the course of studies for as many as twelve to fifteen years. The elementary phase consisted of basic studies including grammar, arithmetic, geography, history, languages, dogma, and theology. The advanced phase included theory of poetry, rhetorics, philosophy, and theology. The course of study was similar to that of the universities of Western Europe. The graduates of the academy included many who were not theologians, but who became specialists for the civil service, medical professionals, and translators.

The Greek Latin Academy was considered the center of Russian culture and enlightenment during the first half of the eighteenth century. Its graduates were among the best prepared for further education at the Academic University (founded in 1725) as part of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, foreign universities, and for teaching. Many of the first Russian academicians were among its graduates: Mikhail Lomonosov, Vasily Trediakovsky, the poet Antioch Kantemir, the architect Vasily Bazhenov, the geographer Stepan Krasheninnikov, and the historian Nickolai Bantysh-Kamensky

As the reign of Peter I progressed, the Academy gradually changed into an upper level theological educational establishment as the many new professional schools assumed the roll of secular education. Then, in 1721, administration of the Academy was transferred to the Holy Synod.

With the election of Platon II as Metropolitan of Moscow in 1775 a number of changes took place at the Academy. New disciplines were introduced into the academic curriculum including law, ecclesiastic history, medicine, and a broadened selection of ancient and new European languages. In 1775, the name of the Academy was officially changed to the Slavic Greek Latin Academy, and its activities were coordinated with the Troitskaya Theological Seminary at the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. Additionally, publishing activities at the Academy were revived which included publication of popular books on Orthodox Christianity.

In 1814, the Slavic Greek Latin Academy was transformed into the Ecclesiastical Academy and relocated to the grounds of the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. Through the nineteenth century the Academy was the principal theological school of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1888, the school trained more than 300 theological students. In 1892, the Academy began publishing the ‘‘Bogoslovsky Vestnik’‘, the most authoritative journal in Russia on Orthodoxy. Gorsky-Platonov and Fr. Pavel Florensky are among those who were editors of the journal.

In 1918, following the October Revolution of 1917, the Academy at Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra was closed by the new Bolshevik government. A few of the professors from the academy, including the former rector Archbishop Feodor Pozdeevsky, I.V. Popov, and Fr Pavel Florensky, attempted to continue the school informally in Moscow, but attendance was sparse.

In September 1943, at the height of World War II and during negotiations by the leader of the Soviet government, Joseph Stalin, to enlist the support of the Orthodox Church in opposing the Nazi invaders, Stalin agreed to reopen the Higher Theological School. On June 14, 1944, Stalin fulfilled his promise as the Theological Institute was opened in the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow. This was the first official theological school allowed by the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union. The curriculum was prepared by by Grigory (Chukov), Archbishop of Saratov. The first rector of the reopened school was I. V. Savinsky.

In 1946, the Theological Institute was transformed into the Moscow Seminary and Moscow Theological Academy. The Academy was granted, in 1947, the right to award the theological degrees of Kandidat, Doctor. and Professor.

In 1949, the academies were allowed to move back to the original buildings in Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. The Academy has continued operations at the Lavra to the present time under the name Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary.

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