Sophia is a Russian television series originally released on November 28th, 2016 on channel Russia 1. The series was directed by Aleksei Andrianov, and produced by Moskino filming company. As of now, there is only one season of the series containing eight episodes that is available on Amazon Prime with English subtitles.
The historical drama portrays two competing empires during the 15th century; Rome and Moscow. Mariya Andreyeva stars as Sophia Palaiologina, the heir to the throne in Rome, and Yevgeny Tsyganov stars as Ivan Vasilyevich, the Czar of Moscow. While the two kingdoms oppose one another in terms of religion, with Rome Catholic and Moscow Orthodox, they will later unite through the marriage of Ivan and Sophia.
Below, you can see a trailer for the series produced by Janson Media, a first episode synopsis, as well as an analysis of the show.
Synopsis of the First Episode of Sophia
The series begins in the Kremlin in 1547. Ivan the Terrible is speaking with a young man about the Roman Empire. Ivan says that Moscow is to become the third Rome, and tells how this has come to be through Ivan’s grandmother, Sophia. After the Byzantine Empire fell as it was conquered by the Ottomans, the Turks seized Constantinople in 1453. It was at this time that Emperor Constantine XI Paleologue was killed. The emperor’s brother Thomas then fled to Rome. Then Thomas mysteriously died, leaving his children Zoe and Andreas as heirs to his throne.
The episode then switches scenes, going back in time to Rome in 1467. Zoe is practicing archery with a servant she has befriended, Pietro. The Holy Pope, her guardian, calls on her to come up and is criticized for befriending the servant, and for handling a weapon. He states that she is to act more like a lady, and to be humble. The Holy Pope tells her it is time to have her portrait painted. What Zoe does not know, is that her portrait is being sent to Ivan Vasilyevich, the Czar of Moscow as a marriage proposal. Ivan is a widower and already has has a teenage son.
The scene is now snowy Moscow, 1470. Horses with carriages are transporting Italian emissaries from Rome to Moscow, sent by the Eminence Pope Sixtus IV. The emissaries present the portrait of Zoe. However, the voices surrounding the throne are unhappy. Rome is criticized for their religion, for portraying Zoe as a holy image, and for bringing no money. To make things worse, the dynasty in which Zoe was born is said to have no more land, or gold. One particular voice, the Metropolitan, an important religious leader, states that the Pope is offering Zoe in his efforts to covert Moscow to Catholicism. Although, the voice that matters most, the Czar Ivan, says he will marry Zoe. Ivan sends Freyr to Rome to bring Zoe to Moscow.
Grigory, who serves the court and is angered that his daughter no longer has a chance of marrying the Czar, attempts to spread a rumor that the soon to be Czarina of Moscow is the mother of harlots. More so, he says that if they accept her as their Czarina, then they would be betraying their faith, and are to be devoured by locusts. A small rebellion forms to stop Zoe from making it to Moscow.
Seven months later, Freyr and the man accompanying him arrive to Rome. However, the Pope says he has now changed his mind about offering Zoe as a proposal. Eventually, Freyr convinces him to allow Zoe to come to Moscow for marriage by agreeing to begin a war with the Turks. Zoe is being prepared for travel to Moscow by her servant, Grace, who will be accompanying her. For Grace, this is a punishment given by the Pope apparently for having had a daughter out of wedlock. As Zoe is saying her goodbyes to Pietro, a masked man comes behind him and cuts his throat. Another masked man puts a bag over her head and attempts to kidnap her. Zoe escapes, is able to take the bag off of her head, only to realize the man attempting to kidnap her is Andreas, her brother. Andreas soon flees and Zoe leaves for Moscow on June 24th, the same day that John the Baptist left Rome.
It is now 1472, and Freyr has returned to Moscow with Zoe and Grace after a seven month trip. The rebellion that Grigory began, with the Metropolitan in alliance, attacks the men bringing Zoe, because they were being lead with a Latin cross. The scene shifts to Zoe being presented to Ivan. Ivan is content to accept her, but everyone surrounding him except for his mother rejects her due to her Catholic faith.
The Metropolitan confronts Ivan, prompting Ivan to tell Zoe that she will be baptized into the Orthodox religion, and will have a new name. Later on, an execution ceremony is held to execute those that were a part of the rebellion that attacked Zoe. The first person is beheaded, and Grigory is next in line, due to be dismembered for the crime of slander. Protestors surround the site. Zoe appears, and begs Ivan to stop the executions, and proclaims that she will be baptized. The episode ends here, and it is assumed that this is when Zoe, in order to take her place as Czarina and earn the respect of the people, becomes Sophia.
Analysis of Sophia
The historical drama, Sophia, is one out of only a few of its kind. The series offers a historical perspective that is not too often seen. Through watching this show, viewers can learn about some of the dynasties that ruled Rome, Moscow, and other nations. Furthermore, the audience can also witness differing religions during the time, and can examine how these played a role in forming the nations we now know today. Much of the information presented will be of use to those taking or teaching Russian culture or history classes.
According to IMDb, the series holds a 7.8 out of 10 star rating. Sophia also was a nominee for Best TV Film/Series at the Golden Eagle Awards in Russia in 2018, and has won awards such as Best Production Designer and Best Costume Design at Russia’s Association of Cinema and TV Producers (APKiT) Awards in 2017. The series was also listed as one of the top 10 Russian television series to watch on Amazon Prime by Second-Half Travels.