The First Russian Students Abroad

Автор: Maks Ноя 23, 2020

For fifteenth-century Russians desiring to absorb Renaissance learning by studying in European universities, fulfillment of such a dream was fraught with difficulties. Not the least obstacle to overcome was the opposition of the Russian Orthodox Church, which feared the influence that might be exerted on Russian scholars by the Roman church. Only a period of conflict between Russia’s secular and religious authorities allowed the first few students to slip out of the country unnoticed.

As recently as the 1950s a German historian, combing early enrollment lists of students at Rostock University, unexpectedly discovered that among the students of that ancient institution of learning there was, in the year 1493, a certain Sylvester Maloy, of Novgorod, Russia. Judging from the date, it may be reasonably assumed that Sylvester was indeed the first Russian to seek a Western education. Unfortunately, nothing further is known about this adventuresome scholar. Another early proponent of learning in the West was Russia’s first printer, Ivan Fedorov, who is known to have been a student at Krakow University in 1532.

Around the same time another Russian academic pursued his education in Livonia in the German Baltic states. He was Dmitry Gerasimov, destined to become Russia’s first preeminent geographer, a cartographer who ultimately came to influence the Europeans themselves.

Later, while serving as Russia’s ambassador to Rome, he compiled a work called A Description of Muscovy, illustrated with his own maps. Published in Europe in 1525 the work enjoyed relative popularity among cartographers of the time. In it he became the first to advance the idea that it should, at least theoretically, be possible to reach China and the Far East by sailing the length of the Arctic Ocean | eastward along Eurasia’s far fi northern coastline. While the щ route was soon abandoned as a way to reach the Far East, it nonetheless served to arouse interest among European merchants in trading with Russia through the White Sea.

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