Medieval Russian Saints and Death




old Russian hagiography; Last Judgment; salvation of the soul; theme of death; the Reverend


In recent decades, Russian scholars have focused on thanatological motifs in literature which have already borne fruitful results in the foreign academic tradition. However, the works of medieval Russian literature have not yet been considered from such a position. This article analyses the Lives of Feodosii Pechersky and Avraamii Smolensky, revealing ideas about the end of earthly life and the transition to the afterlife. The author analyses narratives about the last days of the monks, direct statements of the saints and hagiographers about these phenomena, and other subjects related to this issue. The author compares the thanatological motifs in the Life of Theodosius and in Greek hagiography (the Life of Sabbas the Sanctified, Life of Euthymius the Great, Life of St Anthony the Great), which a medieval Russian writer could rely on. It is established that the outline of events in Byzantine hagiography is in many cases similar to the corresponding texts of the Life of Feodosii. However, it is only in Nestor’s work that we find a reflection on the end of earthly life and the fate of the soul after death. There is no such reflection in the story of the repose of Feodosii in The Tale of Bygone Years. In the Life of Avraamii Smolensky, thanatological subjects take up a lot of space because they were central to Avraamii’s preaching. As a result of the study of this hagiography, it can be concluded that the two highly educated and talented old Russian hagiographers Nestor and Efrem reflected the mystical aspirations of the time and portrayed for their descendants the ideas of the intellectual elite about the mystery of the human soul’s transition from earthly life to another world and the expectations of the Second Coming.

Author Biography

Elena Konyavskaya

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Leading Researcher, Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

19, Dmitry Ulyanov Str., 117292, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-8960-9837


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How to Cite

Konyavskaya, E. (2019). Medieval Russian Saints and Death. Quaestio Rossica, 7(4), 1057–1066.



Problema voluminis