Honoring two Greeks from Cephalonia who taught in Moscow during the late 17th century

MOSCOW – Yesterday, in Moscow, just 200 meters from Red Square, Greek President Karolos Papoulias unveiled a statue of the Leihoudis brothers from Cephalonia. Ioannis Leihoudis was born in Lixouri in 1633. Eighteen years later, his brother was born. The brothers went to Constantinople in 1683, and on the advice of four elders of the Patriarchate, set out on a journey to Moscow. After a series of adventures, including their arrest by Polish Jesuits, and using every means of transport from carts and sleds to boats, they finally set foot in Moscow on March 6, 1685. They soon began teaching Russian students «the living Greek language.» They founded the first university in Russia, the Slav-Greek-Latin Academy, where they taught Ancient Greek, Greek poetics, correspondence, and Aristotelian logic. They signed all their works as «the Brothers Ioannis and Sofronios Leihoudis from the famous island of Cephalonia.» The person who discovered the brother’s work is Dimitris Yialamas, cultural attache to the Greek Embassy in Moscow, president of the Department of Modern Greek and Byzantine Studies at Lomonosov University and professor of paleography. Yialamas talked to Kathimerini about his 23 years of research into the brothers. «When I graduated in law in 1984, I had an opportunity to go to Russia to study for a doctorate in Greek-Russian political relations during the period of Turkish rule. «Before I left, I met Babis Lykoudis, a friend of mine from Cephalonia, who told me, ‘When you go to Russia, why don’t you find out something about my ancestors from Lixouri?’ And I ended up in Moscow, where I met Professor Vonkits, the leading Hellenist in Russia, professor emeritus of Aristotle University, and the only Russian corresponding member of the Athens Academy. He asked me what I wanted to work on, and I proposed researching the Leihoudis brothers.» Where did you do your research? I started with the Russian State Archive of Old Documents. There is also archival material in Venice and Cephalonia, and many documents in St Petersburg, Ukraine, Greece, Denmark, Italy and France. I gradually began to piece together the story of these two unknown Greek teachers. How would they feel to see their statue being unveiled? They would be very moved because they arrived in Russia at the invitation of the Russian authorities, they worked, they gave a lot to Russian learning, Russian culture and the Russian Church, and they did not escape persecution. They were exiled to both Kostoma and to Novgorod, where they founded 30 Greek schools. Whose idea was the statue? The Greek Embassy, which got a response from Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who was Culture Minister at the time. During a visit to Moscow in 2004, he discussed the idea with Patriarch Alexius II and Mayor Yuri Luzkov, who support it. The Culture Ministry has said it will donate the statue to the people of Moscow.

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