Nikephoros Theotokis
Nikephoros Theotokis or Nikiforos Theotokis was a Greek scholar and theologian, who became an archbishop in the southern provinces of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. A polymath, he is respected in Greece as one of the "teachers of the nation".

Life and work in Greece and Western Europe

Born in the Greek Island of Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

 (then a possession of Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

), Nikephoros studied in Italian universities of Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

 and Padua
Padua is a city and comune in the Veneto, northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua's population is 212,500 . The city is sometimes included, with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, having...

In 1748, he returned to Corfu to join the Church
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

 as a monk, reaching the rank of hieromonk
Hieromonk , also called a Priestmonk, is a monk who is also a priest in the Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholicism....

 in 1754. However, he was more interested in educating the youth of his country than in church services, and by 1758 he was able to set up his own school in Corfu, the first school on the island where a range of subjects were taught: Greek and Italian literature, grammar, geography, rhetorics, physics and mathematics, philosophy. He acquired some renown as a preacher at the local church of John the Baptist and an author of textbooks on physics and mathematics.

Nikephoros' achievements were noticed by Ecumenical Patriarch Samuel I Chatzeres, who appointed him as the preacher at Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

's main church in 1765. However, Nikephoros did not stay very long in Constantinople; he divided much of his time over the next decade between Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, where he published his Physics, and Jassy.

Career in Russian Empire

During the reign of the Russian Empress
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 Catherine II, a significant number of Greek professionals were invited to come to her empire to help in the administration of the recently conquered lands of Novorossiya
Novorossiya is a historic area of lands which established itself solidly after the annexation of the Crimean Khanate by the Russian Empire, but was introduced with the establishment of Novorossiysk Governorate with the capital in Kremenchuk in the mid 18th century. Until that time in both Polish...

 ("New Russia") on the north shore of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 (today's southern Ukraine). In 1776, Nikephoros came to the Russian Empire as well, invited by a fellow Corfiot
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

, Eugenios Voulgaris
Eugenios Voulgaris
Eugenios Voulgaris or Boulgaris or Vulgares was a Greek Orthodox educator, and bishop of Kherson . Writing copiously on theology, philosophy and the sciences, he disseminated western European thought throughout the Greek and eastern Christian world, and was a leading contributor to the Modern...

, who had recently been appointed the Archbishop of Slaviansk and Kherson
Kherson is a city in southern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Kherson Oblast , and is designated as its own separate raion within the oblast. Kherson is an important port on the Black Sea and Dnieper River, and the home of a major ship-building industry...


Nikephoros joined Eugenios at the diocese, which covered much of the south-central Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

; its seat was actually located in Poltava
Poltava is a city in located on the Vorskla River in central Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Poltava Oblast , as well as the surrounding Poltava Raion of the oblast. Poltava's estimated population is 298,652 ....

, and remained there even after the diocese was later renamed to that of Yekaterinoslav. Eugenios groomed the younger theologian as his successor, and Nikephoros indeed replaced Eugenios when the latter retired in 1779. Later on, in 1786, Nikephoros was transferred to Astrakhan
Astrakhan is a major city in southern European Russia and the administrative center of Astrakhan Oblast. The city lies on the left bank of the Volga River, close to where it discharges into the Caspian Sea at an altitude of below the sea level. Population:...

, where he served as the Archbishop of Astrakhan and Stavropol
-International relations:-Twin towns/sister cities:Stavropol is twinned with: Des Moines, United States Béziers, France Pazardzhik, Bulgaria-External links:* **...


Besides his scholarly and theological work, Nikephoros is known for his polemics against dissenter religious groups, such as the Old Believers
Old Believers
In the context of Russian Orthodox church history, the Old Believers separated after 1666 from the official Russian Orthodox Church as a protest against church reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon between 1652–66...

 and the Spiritual Christians. Disappointed with the low success of the propaganda and enforcement approaches intended to make the Old Believers abandon their rites and join the established church, Nikephoros, beginning in the summer of 1780, started to reach out to the Old Believer communities. He offered to legalize their churches and their form of worship, as long as they accepted the authority of the official church. After a number of Old Believer communities in Ukraine and southern Russia accepted such arrangements over the next two decades, such arrangements were adopted nationwide, under the name of Edinoverie
Edinoverie is an arrangement between certain Russian Old Believer communities and the official Russian Orthodox State Church, whereby the communities are treated as a part of the normative Orthodox Church system, while maintaining their own traditional rites...

 ("Unity in Faith").

Nikephoros is credited by some scholars with coining the term "Doukhobor
The Doukhobors or Dukhobors , earlierDukhobortsy are a group of Russian origin.The Doukhobors were one of the sects - later defined as a religious philosophy, ethnic group, social movement, or simply a "way of life" - known generically as Spiritual Christianity. The origin of the Doukhobors is...

" to refer to Spiritual Christians around 1786, although others ascribe it to his successor at the Poltava chair, Archbishop Ambrosius.

Retirement and death

Nikephoros retired from his archbishop position on June 15, 1792 due to ill health. The Holy Synod
Holy Synod
In several of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches and Eastern Catholic Churches, the patriarch or head bishop is elected by a group of bishops called the Holy Synod...

 appointed him the abbot of the small Danilov Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Pereslavl-Zalessky
Pereslavl-Zalessky or Pereyaslavl-Zalessky , is a town in Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, located northeast of Moscow on the main Moscow Yaroslavl road and on the shores of Pleschevo Lake. It was called Pereyaslavl until the 15th century. The town is located on the southeastern shore of the Lake...

. Instead of going to the rural Pereslavl, the retired archbishop requested to be left in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, and on September 29, 1792, he was appointed the abbot of Moscow's Danilov Monastery
Danilov Monastery
Danilov Monastery, in full Svyato-Danilov Monastery or Holy Danilov Monastery , is a monastery on the right bank of the Moskva River in Moscow, Russia...

. Nikephoros and spent the rest of his days there, presiding over the monastery's small staff (12 monks and 8 employees, according to the official budget), and continuing his literary work.

The retired archbishop died in 1800 and was buried in the monastery's cemetery. His gravestone was destroyed in the 1930s, along with the rest of the cemetery. As of 2006, the monastery reported having approximately determined the location of the grave (based on old records), and planning archaeological excavations in the area.


The main shopping street in the City of Corfu
Corfu (city)
Corfu is a city and a former municipality on the island of Corfu, Ionian Islands, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform, it is part of the municipality Corfu, of which it is a municipal unit. It is the capital of the island and of the Corfu regional unit. The city also serves as a capital...

, Nikiforou Theotoki, is named after him.
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