Latin as Language of Teaching and Language of Everyday Use in the 18th century Moscow Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy, the Case of Mikhail Lomonosov

Alexei Solopov

Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765) was a Russian polymath scientist (Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics, Optics, Minerology etc.), poet and co-founder of Moscow University (1755) together with his patron Shuvalov. Lomonossov received both his primary and secondary education in Latin in Moscow Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy mastering in 5 years what was back then studied for 12. Such progress in learning was possible in part because of  common teaching methods practiced in most of the learning institutions of Europe, Americas (and even in some places of Asia and Africa) at that time, including Moscow Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy.

These methods ultimately hailed back to the Jesiuts and their Ratio studiorum (1586, 1591 and 1599 editions). The main principle was known as In scholis non nisi Latine: which meant that pupils were forbidden under pain of punishment to speak any other language but Latin on pain of punishment not only in class, but also during recess and throughout the weekdays. Other languages were allowed only on Sundays and other festive occasions. Marking of the offender that was called notula, or catenula by the Jesuits, was called calculus in Russia. It is thought that the first Latin poem of Lomonosov that survived unto the present day was written while he studied in Moscow Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy (supposedly about 1732-1734) exactly as punishment for such rule-breaking. Only this could explain the very hazy commentary that accompanies the first publication of this poem Calculus dictus by N.Y.Ozeretskovsky (Puteshestvia akademika Ivana Lepyokhina. Part 4, 1772, St.Petersburg 1805, p. 303).


Alexei Solopov, Dr. hab., is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Classics of Moscow Lomonossov State University, and author of Initia eloquentiae Latinae (Moscow, 2008). Among his research interests are historical grammar of classical languages, Greek and Roman antiquities (including religion), onomastics, Greek-Latin geographic nomenclature, Neo-Latin literature (esp. in Russia), problems of modern Latin scientific terminology.