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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Nonpossessors), opponents of church landownership in Russia in the late 15th century and early 16th.

Widespread dissatisfaction with the church and, in particular, with its acquisition of lands and other forms of wealth induced some members of the clergy to seek ways to restore the shaken authority of the church. They were headed by Nil Sorskii, who preached asceticism. In 1503, when Ivan III Vasil’evich raised the question of the secularization of church lands at a church council, Nil Sorskii and his associates supported the proposal. However, militant churchmen, the Josephites, successfully defended the right of the church to own land and other property. The grand prince compromised with the church, allowing it to retain its lands and in return receiving the church’s support in his own struggle with powerful secular feudal lords.

After the death of Nil Sorskii, the idea of secularizing monastic lands was defended at length by Vassian Patrikeev. The polemic between the nestiazhateli and the Josephites climaxed with the condemnation of the former at the church council of 1531. The ideas of the nestiazhateli were sometimes advanced by the aristocratic feudal opposition.

The religiopolitical struggle between the Josephites and the nestiazhateli weakened by the mid-16th century. The views of the nestiazhateli and the Josephites were sometimes combined in the works of a number of publicists (Silvester et al.) who sought to justify the idea of an alliance between secular and clerical authority. The nestiazhateli influenced the views of Feodosii Kosoi, Artemii, and other heretics of the mid-16th century.


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Lur’e, Ia. S. Ideologicheskaia bor’ba ν russkoi publitsistike kontsa XV-nachala XVI w. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Kazakova, N. A. Ocherki po istorii russkoi obshchestvennoi mysli: Pervaia tret’XVI v. Leningrad, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.