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representatives of an ecclesiastical-political current in the Russian state in the late 15th and 16th centuries. The Josephites, who were named after Joseph of Volokolamsk, expressed the interests of the church militant. The economic basis for their influence was their large monastery landholdings.
The Josephites initially acted jointly with the appanage princes in opposing the grand princes’ attempts to secularize church lands. At the Synod of 1503 they expressed their opposition to a project to eliminate monastery landholdings, a proposal made by the nestiazhateli (nonacquirers; a group of Muscovite monks), who were supported at first by Ivan III. The Josephites managed to have heretics condemned at the Synod of 1504 and to have retaliatory measures taken against them. They developed and subsequently supported the theory of the divine origin of the tsar’s power that had been advanced by their ideological leader, Joseph of Volokolamsk. The theory of “Moscow, the Third Rome,” which played an important role in shaping the official ideology of the Russian autocracy, was developed by the Joseph-ite Filofei. Many members of the upper church hierarchy of the 16th century came from the Josephites, including Metropolitan Daniil, Vassian (archbishop of Rostov and brother of Joseph of Volokolamsk), and the bishops Savva Slepushkin, Vassian Toporkov (Joseph of Volokolamsk’s nephew), Akakii, and Savva the Monk. Metropolitan Makarius was close to the Josephites.
Because they were in the majority at the Stoglav (Hundred Chapters) Synod, the Josephites were able to overthrow the nestiazhateli program proposed by Sylvester and his entourage. Church synods called by the Josephites to fight heresy in the mid-16th century condemned Matvei Bashkin and Feodosii Kosoi. The Josephites were active in instituting the oprichnina. By the 17th century the Josephite movement had ceased to exist as an ecclesiastical-political current.