Maxim (Meleci in monkshood) Smatrycki was born around 1578 in his family's lands in the south of the Grand Duche of Lithuania (Padol's^c^yna) near Kamianec or Smotryc^. His father Herasim Smatrycki was a rector of the school in Astroh. Maxim received his first education in his father's school, and later studied on the faculty of philosophy of Jesuit Academy in Vil'na. Around 1606 he has left abroad as the home teacher of the Dukes Salamiarecki. He had left with a young duke and studied with him in Wroclaw, Leipzig and Nurnberg universities. He had returned to Vil'na in 1608. At this time he was mostly involved in teaching and writing. In 1618 his friend Liavon Karpovich has talked him into becoming an Orthodox Christian monk. He entered St. Spirit Orthodox Christian monastery and was given a name of Meleci. In 1620 Jerusalem patriarch Teafan has initiated Meleci as an archbishop of Polacak. In 1627 Meleci Smatrycki has turned to a Unia (Greek Catholic) Church. Meleci Smatrycki had died on January 7, 1634.

    Perhaps his birth on the border of Ukraine and Belarus was one of the reasons that he had pursued the idea of unity of eastern Slavs for the rest of his life. He wanted to unite all Orthodox Christian eastern Slavs into one people with one religion and language. And yet after his trip to the East through southern Slavic lands and his conflict with Muscovites in the Patriarch residence at Constantinopol Smatrycki has narrowed his pursuing of unity to just Belarusians and Ukrainians. "Moscow does not understand freedom" he said in his work "Parenesis" in 1628. And how right he turned out to be! The only way to unify "tragically divided" as he considered Slavs Smatrycki saw in a unifying religion and the use of Church-Slavic language by all Slavs. This artificially constructed Church-Slavic was distant from the living old Belarusian and Ukrainian languages and resulted in the decline of Greek-Latin-Ruthenian schools teaching it to orthodox youth. It was not able to develop further neglecting the commonly used live folk languages. Reaching to the living languages was inadvertently exhibiting the difference of Belarusians and Ukrainians and thus was denied. This attitude of Eastern Orthodox Christian priests has caused a big damage to our language. The development of individual Belarusian and Ukrainian languages was delayed by the usage of artificial "book" language. People of thought were switching to the only live literary language left - Polish, which resulted in speeding up of the polonization. Meleci Smatrycki himself used Polish in his later works but never recognized the difference of Belarusian and Ukrainian languages. And thus the Grammar book published by Meleci Smatrycki, although it was used for centuries could be considered a heavy blow to the Belarusian language and culture.

    "Grammatiki Slovenskiia" ("Slavic Grammar") was published in Vil'na by Meleci Smatrycki in 1618. It was not the first Belarusian Grammar. The First Belarusian Grammar was printed in Vil'na in 1596 by Lauryn Zyzani. Grammar by Smatrycki underwent multiple reprints in the coming years. Such the fifth and sixth reprints were done in Moscow in 1648 and 1721. It was re-edited by Paula Nenadovich in Rymniki in 1755 and became the basis of Serbian literary language. Hristan Dupchanin has reworked it for Bulgarian language. This Grammar also became the basis of the first Ukrainian grammar of Ivan Mogil'nicki. As we have mentioned the intent of Smatrycki to deny common Belarusian and Ukrainian languages and substitute them with "literary" Church-Slavic language has done a very heavy blow to the development of both languages and was a strong factor resulting in the decline of our nations as sovereign states. Since the edition of the Grammar by Smatrycki the orthodox community was trying to use a dead, artificial Church-Slavic language in their works. Nobody was capable to understand this "scientific" language and the pupils of Greek-Latin-Ruthenian schools were often ridiculed in the contemporary folk comedies.

    "Apologia" of Meleci Smatrycki is an account of his pilgrimage to the East. In 1621-23 Smatrycki has written "Cathehesis" where he had attempted to resolve all conflicts of interpretations of Orthodox Christianity by Belarusians, Ukrainians and Muscovites. He had understood that only approval of the highest church power can give the desired results, and so he went to Kieu, Aphon, Constantinopol and Palestine. He also planned to demand a creation of a separate Navahrodak Patriarchy for GDL. He was deeply disappointed in what he saw and heard in Constantinopol. He described it as darkness, lack of education and heresies. On his way back home he was nearly killed by a mob in Kieu because Patriarch Lukarys has let rumors that he went to the East with hostile to Orthodoxy plans. In 1627 Smatrycki joins Unia (Greek Catholic) Church under the influence of Archbishop Rucki and Valyn' vaiavoda (major) Ianus^ Zaslauski. Smatrycki wrote his "Apologia" to describe in the account of his pilgrimage that Constantinopol and Orthodoxy are distant from the interests of Ukrainians and Belarusians ("Rusians" as he referred them). He had written a thorough critics of the religious views of the major figures of the contemporary Orthodox Church. Part of the manuscript has appeared in Kieu and enflamed the priests there. In 1628 Smatrycki was forced to refuse his Unia beliefs and to sign the refusal by Ukrainian Cossacks on Kieu Church Congress. After he escaped from Kieu, Smatrycki published "Protestacia" where he describes the threats and pressure under which he was forced to refuse Unia. He criticized anarchy that he saw in Kiewan Congress.

    In "Parenesis or a note to the brotherhood of St. Spirit Monastery" published in Old Belarusian and later in Polish in 1628 Smatrycki is criticizing orthodox Christian priests for their lack of education, anarchy, inability to follow the requirements of new times. He points out that more and more nobles (shliahta) are leaving the Orthodox belief and join Catholic Church. Thus, he says, soon nobody would protect the interests of Orthodox majority in parliaments and tribunals. Governed by a sincere love to his people Smatrycki in his live language was demanding a special Patriarchy for Belarusians and Ukrainians. He saw Unia Church as the only way for his people to stay clear from dictate of Polish Catholic and Russian Orthodox priests as sovereign nations.


References used in this file:

"Gistoryya belaruskaj (kryuskaj) knigi. Sproba payasnitel'naj knigopisi ad kanca X da pachatku XIX stagoddzya" [The History of Belarusan (Creeve) Book. An Attempt of Explanational Description From the End of X to the Beginning of XIX Century], Ed. V. Lastouski, Published by the Belarusan Center in Lithuania, Publishing House of Sakalouski and Lan, Kauno 1926.
UCB Library PG 2834.2 A12H51926 Main


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