In hindsight, how likely was Ivan Pavlov to become a priest?

Professor Michael D. Gordin writes of the physiologist Ivan Pavlov:

The son of a priest in Riazan, a provincial city almost two hundred kilometres south-east of Moscow, the young Ivan Petrovich seemed destined for the cloth.

Yes, but not merely because his father was a clergyman. Rather, because Ivan was the first son, therefore the natural successor to his father in the clerical service.

Ivan’s parents had ten children. Five – four sons and a daughter – grew up to adulthood. Of the four brothers, only one – the youngest, Sergei – became a priest like his father. (In 1918, Sergei was imprisoned, forced to perform hard labor, and died shortly after release.) Dmitry Pavlov was an assistant to Mendeleyev and later a professor of chemistry. Pyotr Pavlov trained as a zoologist, at St. Petersburg University like his brothers; he died at 24 in a hunting accident.

It may not have been obvious to a Ryazan seminary student in the 1860s, but the priestly estate was a major supplier of manpower to the Russian intelligentsia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As Gordin notes:

He [Ivan] enrolled in the law faculty (which was easier to get into) at St Petersburg University and then – in a move common for ambitious but underqualified defectors from the priestly castes – slipped through to the Physico-Mathematical Faculty.

Consider the great frequency of distinctly clerical surnames among educated Russians of the late 19th and the 20th century. The most common of them were derived from the names of church feasts rooted both in the general Christian tradition and its Greek subfamily: Rozhdestvensky (Christmas), Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration, August 6/19), Uspensky (Dormition, August 15/28), Vvedensky (Entry into the Temple, November 21/December 4), Pokrovsky (Intercession of the Theotokos, October 1/14), Troitsky (Holy Trinity Day, on Pentecost) and so on.

Others were based on Slavic or Latin names of virtues, or on Latinized or “gentrified” versions of the place of birth, the original surname, or some personal trait. Hence Dobrolyubov (Good-loving), Nadezhdin and Speransky (from “hope”), Gumilyov (the same root as in “humility”), Belinsky (the critic’s grandfather was a priest in Belyn’), Pobedonostsev (from St. George the Victory-bearer), Delectorsky (from delectare, like “delectable”), and dozens upon dozens of others.

Not all priests bore “priestly” names: Solovyov (the historian was the son of a Moscow priest) and Pavlov are common Russian names, from “nightingale” (Russian last names are often bird- and beast-related) and Pavel, or Paul. At a seminary, however, a Solovyov could have his name Hellenized to Ayedonitsky, from Aëdon.

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