Smotrytsky, Herasym

Image - A portrait of Herasym Smotrytsky.

Smotrytsky, Herasym [Smotryc’kyj], b ? in Smotrych in Podilia (now in Dunaivtsi raion, Khmelnytskyi oblast), d October 1594. (Portrait: Herasym Smotrytsky.) Writer and teacher; father of Meletii Smotrytsky. He was secretary at the Kamianets-Podilskyi county office and in 1576 was invited by Prince Kostiantyn Vasyl Ostrozky to Ostroh, where he became one of the leading activist members of the Ostroh intellectual circle. In 1580 Smotrytsky became the first rector of the Ostroh Academy. He was one of the publishers of the Ostroh Bible, to which he wrote the foreword and the verse dedication to Prince Ostrozky. The dedication is one of the earliest examples of Ukrainian versification (nonsyllabic) and is somewhat reminiscent of Ukrainian dumas. Smotrytsky's polemical works against those betraying the Orthodox faith and a satire on the clergy have been lost. Only his book, Kliuch tsarstva nebesnoho (Key to the Heavenly Kingdom, 1587), which is the first printed example of Ukrainian polemical literature, has survived. It is composed of a dedication to the prince of Ostroh, the appeal ‘Do narodov ruskykh ...’ (To the Rus’ Peoples ...), and two polemical treatises, ‘Kliuch tsarstva nebesnoho ...’ (Key to the Heavenly Kingdom ...) and ‘Kalendar rymskyi novyi’ (The New Roman Calendar). In the last-named Smotrytsky calls for the independence of ‘the Rus' faith,’ polemicizes with the Jesuit Benedykt Herbest, criticizes the Catholic teaching on the divine origin of the pope's authority, and rejects the Gregorian calendar. Smotrytsky did not always use theological arguments in his work; instead he often used folk humor with anecdotes and proverbs, and he wrote in a language close to the vernacular, which made his work accessible to the broader masses of readers.

Ivan Koshelivets

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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