St. Stephen of Perm
A scholastic child-prodigy, Stephen was sent from his native town
of Great Ustyug to Rostov, where he learned Greek, studied ancient
philosophy, and became a monk. Rather than go to Constantinople
for advanced study, he chose to become a missionary among the
Zyrian Komi, Finnish-speaking inhabitants of the woods around
Great Ustyug. He proved very successful at converting these
animist fur-trappers to Orthodoxy. Since the Komi were
illiterate, he invented a runic alphabet and translated liturgical
and scriptural texts into the local dialect of Finnish. Criticised
for this -- ironically by Slavs who employed much the same arguments
once used against Cyril and Methodius -- he articulated a remarkable
philosophy according to which each nation since Babel
preserved an unique fragment of Adamite culture, which it was
its mission to re-dedicate to God.
As founding bishop of the Zyrian see of Perm, St. Stephen was
also involved in regional politics, defending the interests of
the Komi (and to some extent of Great Ustyug) in the power
struggle between Novgorod and Moscow. His disciple
Epiphanius the Wise wrote an
interesting account of Stephen's life and thought, including a
description of his contest with the shaman Pam for spiritual
leadership of the Komi. Unfortunately, neither the "Permian Rite"
nor Zyrian civilisation long survived in the face of Russian
expansion toward the Urals; by the XVI Century, St. Stephen's liturgy was
extinct, and the Komi have been largely absorbed into the Russian people.
--- Norman Hugh Redington
Under construction --- far from complete! Read with caution.
Return to St Pachomius Library.