Joseph of Volokolamsk

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Joseph of Volokolamsk


(secular name, Ivan Sanin). Born 1439–40; died Sept. 9, 1515. Ecclesiastical writer and publicist; leader of the Josephites, a group of militant clerics who placed the church above the state.

Joseph of Volokolamsk came from the family of a wealthy landowner who owned the village of Iazvishche in the Volokolamsk Principality. He became a monk in the Borovsk Monastery when he was 20; in 1479 he founded a monastery near Volokolamsk that later bore his name. Joseph’s initial ties were with the appanage Volokolamsk princes, brothers of Ivan III, and he took up the cause of the church and secular landholders who opposed the power of the grand princes. However, he later broke with the appanage princes and allied himself with the grand princes; the alliance culminated in 1507 when Vasilii III, grand prince of Moscow, took the Monastery of Joseph of Volokolamsk under his patronage. At the church council of 1503, Joseph and his followers succeeded in discouraging the plan to liquidate monastery landholdings proposed by the nestiazhateli (nonacquirers), and at the council of 1504 they insisted that heretics be cruelly punished. In this period Joseph defended the divine origin of the grand princes’ power, strengthening the ideological positions of the Russian autocracy. His principal work is The Teacher, a book directed against heretics. He also wrote 20 epistles to various people and two versions (concise and expanded) of the monastic rules.


Prosvetitel’… Iosifa Volotskogo, 4th ed. Kazan, 1903.
Poslaniia Iosifa Volotskogo. Edited by A.A. Zimin and Ia. S. Lur’e. Moscow-Leningrad, 1959.


Lur’e, Ia. S. Ideologicheskaia bor’ba v russkoi publitsistike kontsa XV-nachala XVI v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Klibanov, A.I. Reformatsionnye dvizheniia v Rossii v XlV-pervoi polovine XVI v. Moscow, 1960.
Zimin, A.A. I. S Peresvetov i ego sovremenniki. Moscow, 1958.
Budovnits, I.U. Russkaia publitsistika XVI v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.