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Lavrenti Zizaniy\'s Grodno Catechism

Lavrenti Zizaniy (circa 1550-60 –1634) was a religious writer, pedagogue and translator. He worked as a teacher of the Church Slavonic and the Hellenic languages at Lvov, Brest, Vilna and Kievo Pecherskaya Orthodox congregation schools and a family teacher of princes A. Ostrozhsky and Y. Koretsky, and also he was a prelate of the church. He published educational books such as “The Primer” (one of the first book in Belarus and Ukraine) and “The Grammar of the Slavs”. In 1620–1623 Zizaniy may have been working on his “Catechism”.

The word Catechism (Greek κατηχέω – to notify, to edify, to teach) in the early Christianity means a verbal exhortation to those who prepared themselves for christening.

Lavrenti Zizaniy’s “Catechism” comprises not only Orthodox dogma in questions and answers, but also knowledge of history, natural history, astronomy and other disciplines. The manuscript had been written in the Old Belarusian language. In 1627 Lavrenti Zizaniy’s and translator B. Bogomoltsev paid a visit to the Moscow Print Yard where “Catechism” was published. However, this book may have not been approved by the official church of Russia that was why patriarch Philaret commanded to burn down all printed copies. Only five defective copies were saved by a miracle, while all new editions (1783, 1787 and 1788, Grodno; 1784, Pskov) survived a major correction thus they misrepresent Zizaniy’s ideas.

The exhibition presents books of “Catechism” edited in Grodno in 1783 and 1787 by Old Believers at the King’s Printing House. This publishing house had been founded by Polish public and political figure А. Tisenhause in the middle 1770s. It issued different kinds of literature: primers, religious literature, materials of Seyms, decrees etc. The printing house in Grodno issued the first Belarusian newspaper. Lavrenti Zizaniy’s “Catechism” had been reissued three times during five years.