The standard way to interpret source testimony about Church-State relations in sixteenth-century Muscovy involves the supposed conflict between two Church parties--the Josephians and the Non-possessors.
In approximate terms, the prevailing view is this. The Non-possessors argued against monastic landowning, while the Josephians argued in favour of it. The State (gosudarstvo) and the Non-possessors appeared to be forming an alliance by the beginning of the sixteenth century to divest the Church of its lands, but the Josephians gained control of the Church, defeated the Non-possessors at the 1503 Church Council, and staved off the State's attempt at secularization of Church lands. None the less, the State, or the Non-possessors acting through the State, continued to try to secularize church and monastic lands throughout the rest of the century.
When I began studying the sources for sixteenth-century Church-State relations, I found this interpretation to be inadequate, and some significant problems arose when I tried to apply it to sixteenth-century source testimony. Four of the most notable problems are these:(1) identifying the Josephians and the Non-possessors; (2) establishing the political programme of each party; (3) explaining the failure of the Muscovite government to secularize monastic lands, while those contemporary European states that made the effort were successful in doing so; and (4) explaining the donation by secular authorities of lands to monasteries at the same time these authorities were supposed to be attempting to secularize monastic lands.3
In the following pages, I will discuss these problems, show why they ultimately defeat the standard view, and present a hypothesis that, in my opinion, accounts better for the source testimony. In the process, I hope that I will be able to encourage more precision in defining factional struggles within the ecclesiastical establishment in the sixteenth century, and concomitantly to discourage the tendency to attribute any and all signs of differences among the black clergy to a Josephian-Non-possessor party conflict.
The idea of a Josephian-Non-possessor Church party conflict has a
a priori appeal. Many historians consider this conflict the first real
polemic in Russian history. The heresy of the Strigol'niki and the
heresy are not considered real polemics, because the arguments from
one side remain extant,4 and the losing side never seemed strong enough
to threaten the official Church. This dispute, in contrast, is not just
over the secularization of monastic lands, which dispute would put
in the mainstream of European history,5 but a titanic struggle between
the forces of regimentation (the Josephians) on one side and the forces
of freedom (the Non-possessors) on the other. The forces of
win and support the development of an autocratic rule that lasts until
the twentieth century.6 Social variations and additions to this view
the alliance of the boyars with the Non-possessors because the
was losing its votchiny to the monasteries,7 the alliance of the
with the Non-possessors because of its 'land hunger''8 or the
are associated with the free peasantry for whom they were spokesmen.9
the Non-possessors may be in league with the heretics, with whom they
in a moderate way, certain views, or because they come from the same
class, whereas the Josephians wish to stamp out the heretics as a
not only to the Church but to the State as well.10 As appealing as the
traditional view in any of these variants might be on metahistorical
its valuelessness for interpreting sources can be seen by the fact that
historians often resort to narrative context or background information
for the reader instead of citing source testimony whenever they discuss
Church-State relations on the issue of monastic lands. In effect,
have presupposed the existence of two Church parties, then have tried
explain the source testimony in terms of this conflict model. At no
has anyone felt the need to demonstrate, according to source evidence,
the proposition that Church parties existed in sixteenth-century
Historians refer to a number of sixteenth-century Church sources
purportedly defend the right of the churches and monasteries to
hold lands and oppose the taking away of these lands.11 The Short Discourse (Slovo kratio) attributed to Benjamin the Dominican was supposed to have appeared early in the century.12 losif Volotsky is supposed to have written about monastic landholding before his death in 1515. 13 In a judicial proceeding dated 11 May 1531 Metropolitan Daniil argues in favour of monasteries keeping villages. 14 The compiler of the Nikon Chronicle shows a marked interest in monastic lands. 15 By the middle of the century, Metropolitan Makary presents the most extensive ideological justification for the rights of Church lands in his Answer to Ivan lV (Otvet Makariya).16 Subsequently, Zinovy Otensky discusses this question in favour of Church landholding. There are, in addition, the sources associated with the 1503 Church Council.17
When one considers these sources individually, one finds some varied and surprising arguments; surprising, that is, within the Church parties hypothesis. The mention of monastic lands in the Short Discourse is only incidental to a defence of monastic wealth in general. The Short Discourse is a revised version of the Collection Against Usurers (Sobraniye na likhoimtsev), which itself was most likely a translation from a Latin text. 18 The Collection Against Usurers has no direct reference to Rus', and the earliest copies of the Short Discourse date from no earlier than the mid-sixteenth century. Such considerations invite the idea that the Collection was a Western text that was imported to Novgorod at the end of the fifteenth century, then reworked into the Short Discourse in the 1550s when references to Rus' were added.
Iosif's Treatise turns out to be not about monastic lands, but about the taking of moveable property from the monastery.19 Zimin has already argued that Iosif first formulated his views concerning monastic lands several years after the 1503 Council.20 It is probable that losif never became involved in the monastic lands dispute. The dating and attribution of the Treatise would benefit from a thorough reexamination, even though the traditional provenance of the text, that is Iosif's dispute with the Volokolamsk prince Fyodor Borisovich, fits my contention. Fyodor allegedly took money, horses, armour, and jewels from the Volokolamsk Monastery, and may have threatened Iosif with expulsion from the area, but Fyodor is never accused of taking away (or threatening) any of the monastery's lands.21
The Answer of Makary to Ivan IV draws on the Donation of Constantine, the Statute of Vladimir ( Ustav Vladimira), and the Patent from the Tatar Khan Uzbek to Metropolitan Peter [Yarlyk tatarskogo khana Uzbeka mitropolitu Petru) all in an effort to argue for the inviolability of Church lands. Each of the sources Makary uses is spurious: the Donation and Yarlyk are outright forgeries; the Statute of Vladimir was most likely-composed in the fourteenth century.22 Although Makary was probably not aware of their spuriousness,23 it is significant that he does not mention the 1503 Church Council or incorporate any of the polemical works about that council. If he had been at such pains to find justifications for monastic landholding, then the sources about the 1503 Council would seem to have been more readily available; that is, if they had been written before Makary's Answer.
Zinovy argues that one can still be a nestyachatel' (non-acquisitor) and follow nestyazhaniyc (non-acqusition), while being in a monastery that accepts settlements (derevni) and villages (sela) as a result of charity, as did Feodosy Pechersky, Varlaam Khutynsky, Sergiy Radonezhsky, and Kirill Belozersky.24 There has been some confusion in the historiography about Zinovy's position. Treadgold, for example, refers to him as 'a Non-possessor monk'.25 The confusion could have been caused by the fact that Zinovy defends ncstyazhaniye, while at the same time justifying monastic landholding. The apparent contradiction in Zinovy's argument can best be explained by divorcing the terms "nestyazhaniye" and "nestyazhatel" from the concept of a Church party that argued against monastic landholding (see above fn. 1)
When one considers these sources together, one has difficulty identifying a Josephian Church party. Clearly, Makary and Zinovy argued in favour of church and monastic landholding. A connection between Iosifand Daniil is undeniable since Daniil was tonsured in the Volokolamsk Monastery while Iosif still lived. But Iosif's involvement with the monastic lands issue is questionable. Makary cites some of the same sources that Iosif does, while Zinovy26 and Benjamin seem unconnected with any of them.
The 1503 Church Council is generally regarded as "the opening shot
a war between [the] two clerical parties",27 yet, something is awry
the sources about the council. On the one hand, the sources that
the raising of the question of secularization are polemical, are extant
in copies no earlier than the 1560s (fifty to sixty years after the
contain historical inaccuracies, contradict one another (even those
that seem to be on the same side of the issue), are not found in
Church codices, and on the basis of textual analysis can be dated no
than 1550. On the other hand, sources that concern only matters of
discipline (drunkenness among the clergy, disposition of widower
minimum age for clerics) are nonpolemical, are extant in copies that
to within a decade of the Council, contain no noticeable historical
do not contradict one another, are found in official Church codices
we would expect to find them) such as the Great Menology ( Velikiye
minei) of Makary, the Stoglav, chronicle accounts, and so forth, and
be dated on the basis of textual analysis to the time of The council.
most likely explanation to account for this discrepancy between the
of sources is that the question of secularization was connected with
1503 Council post faeto only in the 1550s.
Likewise, we have sources that argue against certain aspects of monastic lands: works attributed to Vassian Patrikeyev, to Maksim Grek, and also the Valaam Discusszon (Yalaamskaya beseda). Nil Sorsky, who is often cited as leader of the Non-possessors, and who, according to Zimin, "chiefly developed the theoretical basis of the Non-possessor teaching",29 has, in works reliably attributed to him, left us no direct statement on this matter. A statement of his that has been used to indicate a Non-possessor position turns out to be an admonition to monks not to take pride in "the acquisition of villages and the claim of many possessions" (imenii) by the monastery.30 But Nil does not object to monastic acquisition or holdings, as such. A similar passage occurs in one of the works attributed to Metropolitan Daniil: "For what reason, brothers, do we become full of pride and haughty . . . by eating or drinking various and sundry things both costly and delightful, or by collecting gold and silver, much wealth and possessions (imeniya) ." 31 Is it justifiable to use Nil's warning that possessions (imeniya) can lead to the sin of pride as evidenee for his being the leader of the Non-possessors, while Daniil's warning against possessions is not treated in the same way? Perhaps the fact that Nil's statement explicitly mentions "villages" while Daniil's does not is enough for historians to perceive evidence of two camps in opposition. Yet, one could argue that there is no inherent contradiction in the meaning of the two statements.32 In addition, in a letter to Gury Tushin, Nil advises the younger monk not to participate in the arguments over "monastic wealth and acquisition of possessions".33 Such advice is completely in accord with Nil's hesychastic beliefs and principles of silence,34 while disputation over monastic wealth is not.
An analysis of the statements in works that are attributed to Vassian Patrikeyev, who, according to Zimin, "was recognized as the head of the Non-possessors after the death of Nil Sorsky",35 shows that Vassian was discussing whether it was proper for monasteries to keep (derchati) villages,36 not the right of anyone to take away (otimati) monastic lands. In the Collection of a Certain Elder (Sobraniye nekoyego startsa), attributed to Vassian, the author argues that "the founders of monasteries did not keep (derzhati) villages'37 and 'did not take (imati) villages' when given to them.38 He also argues in the so-called second and third redactions of that same work that monks and monasteries are not to keep villages although bishops are allowed to, for the sake of the poor.39 In the Judicial Proceeding of 11 May 1531, we have supporting evidence that this was Vassian's position. Metropolitan Daniil asks whether Vassian called the miracle-workers (chudotvortsi) 'troublemakers' (smutotovrtsi) because they had villages. Vassian replies that 'in the Gospels it was written, "It is not told to monasteries to keep villages"40 ln the Debate with Iosif (Preniye s Iosifom) an amplification of the position expressed in the Collection of a Certain Elder appears. As in the Collection, monasteries are not to keep villages, but secular cathedral churches may keep lands. The bishop himself is not to manage (vladeti) the lands, since 'all church wealth' is to be managed by the steward with the knowledge of the bishop and the sacred council of priests.41 Whether this clarification accurately represented Vassian's position is difficult to tell. The Debate could have been written by anyone familiar with Vassian's writings, as a 'popular' introduction to his ideas. I have already suggested elsewhere the possibility of its having been reworked or even composed after Vassian's death.42 Ostensibly, it is a point-by-point refutation of Iosif's arguments against Vassian. Deeper investigation reveals many concepts and phrases that are not present in any of the extant writings of either Iosif or Vassian. This passage might be a clarification that could be deduced logically from Vassian's writings. In contrast, there occurs in the Debate, for the only time in writings usually attributed to Vassian, the idea that the grand prince should take away (otimati) villages from monasteries.43 It is significant that in the Judicial Procceding of 1531 the discussion concerning monastic villages is limited to whether monasteries should acquire and keep villages. If Iosif had previously made the charge that Vassian wanted the grand prince to take away villages from monasteries, it is not likely Daniil would have been unaware of it or that he would have tried to hide it. Such a claim in 1531 would most likely have been anachronistic, for, as I will argue below, the question whether the grand prince should take away monastic lands did not become a burning issue until the 1550s. The most likely explanation is that Iosif never made the charge, and that this passage in the Debatc represents an idea wrongly imputed to Vassian.
In writings attributed to Maksim Grek there are a number of general encomiums of monastic poverty, of the type that can be found even in the writings of Iosif and Daniil. Arguments aimed at divesting the churches and monasteries of all landholdings are not to be found in Maksim's writings.44 In the work 'On the Way of Life on the Holy Mountain', attributed to Maksim, the author states that the monasteries at Mt Athos had property.45 It has been argued that the statements in this work "were bound to antagonize the Josephians" because the author does not explicitly discuss villages and peasants,46 but such a historiographical argument presumes the existence of Church parties. 1t also indicates how historians 'discover' Non-possessor elements in the works of Maksim by removing his words from their textual context and placing them within the context of a 'Church parties' struggle. For example, Kazakova admits that 'the theme of the votchina way of life, the condemnation of which constituted the core Russian Non-possession, is located only in rudimentary form in the Povest [strashna i pamyatna]. 47 This means, to all intents and purposes, that she cannot find any example of Non-possessorship in that work. "But in distinction from the povest," Kazakova continues, 'he [Maksim] directs the main force of his condemnatory fire in the Beseda [uma s dushoy] against the votchina rights of monasteries.48 What is this 'condemnatory fire?'ómerely his quoting a Gospel passage that each person should earn his bread with his own hands. Thus, according to Kazakova, 'Non-possessor motives resound in the Beseda uma s dushoy with much more force and distinctness . . .'.49 Kazakova goes on to argue that Maksim's position on monastic landholding was the primary cause of his imprisonment in 1525. 50, although the only hard evidence she has cited is Maksim's use of one Gospel passage.
Another scholar, James Billington, argues that Maksim "opposed the Josephite defence of monastic wealth because it brought, in Maksim's words, 'a blasphemous, servile,Jewish love of silver.'"51 Furthermore, according to Billington, Maksim used "a skillful dialogue" to compare "the Josephite argument that monastic property is a common trust to a group of sensualists' justifying their relations with a prostitute on the grounds that she 'belongs to us all in common.'"52 Vivid language, to be sure, but when one examines the sources in question, one does not find any references to Josephians and the single reference to landholding is only incidental to an attack on wealth in general.53 A. I. Ivanov thought he had shown that Maksim Grek became a Nonpossessor under the influence of Savonarola, merely because he found references to neslyazhaniye in two works attributed to Maksim.54 But that term does not imply a position on monastic landholding, for the prevailing view in both the western and eastern Churches seems to have been that a monk could follow the ideal of personal poverty while still living in an institution that held extensive lands.55 The issue in question here was whether monks were breaking their vows of personal poverty by becoming involved in the management of monastic wealth. In short, the Non-possessor views of Maksim have yet to be demonstrated.56
As for the Valaam Discussion, its time of composition is still an open question. Moiseyeva has argued for a mid-sixteenth-century date, that is, around the time of the Stoglav Church Council, solely on the basis of its association with the monastic lands issue.57 Zimin argues more persuasively on the basis of language usage in favour of a late sixteenth- or early seventeenth-century date.58 Whereas both Moiseyeva and Zimin have seen it as a work propounding the Nonpoasessor position, a careful reading indicates otherwise. In a section where he discusses the granting of favours by the tsar, the author argues (1) that the tsar should give a yearly stipend to monks, not grant (davati) land with peasants as he does for his military men (voiny), and (2) that monks are not to be involved in helping to rule the State, which is reserved for princes, boyars, and other laymen.59 Zimin interprets the first proposition to mean that the tsar should "replace the landholdings of monasteries with a yearly stipend," 60 although the source is quite explicit in its use of the phrase "not grant land," and makes no mention of taking away any lands. The second proposition could be a covert criticism of Patriarch Filaret 1613-33) and the degree of his influence in secular matters.
These few sources constitute the sum total of our hard evidence about nestyazhaiel'stvo in the sixteenth century. It is not much and hardly decisive. Again we have a problem in discerning a Church party. In one of the works attributed to Maksim Grek, the term "styazhatel" is used sympathetically.62 Indeed, even the name for the opposition Church party seems untenable when we find statements by Iosif and Daniil themselves, that all monks should be nestyazhateli (non-acquisitors) and should follow the path of nestyazhaniye (non-acquisition).63 The dubious distinction for first using the term "nestyazhalel" to mean the member of a Church party seems to belong to A. S. PavIov who, in 1864, referred to Vassian as "nash nestyazhatel" (our Non-possessor) and as "smelyy nestyazhatel" (the bold Non-possessor).64 The concept of Church parties took hold almost immediately in the historiography after that, probably because it conveniently paralleled the conservative vs. liberal political arguments of the late nineteenth century.65
To be sure, historians have exercised their ingenuity in locating Josephians and Non-possessors hiding behind every iconostasis. Whenever they see the terms 'nestyazhatel" and 'nestyazhaniye' in the sources, historians have tended to think that the reference is to monastic landholding (that is, unless Iosif or Daniil uses those terms). Almost every reference in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sources to conflict among monks has been used to illustrate a struggle between Church parties.66 But the usual basis for identifying a prelate as a Josephian or Non-possessor is the monastery where he was tonsured; the absence of any collateral evidence for a prelate's Josephianism or Non-possessorness (or even evidence opposed to it) creates no problem for these historians.
Jack Kollmann has discussed this aspect of the standard view in his study of the Stoglav Council of 1551.67 Five of the ten Stoglav prelates were tonsured at the Volokolamsk Monastery: Akaky, Gury, Feodosy, Savva, and Trifon. Kollmann points out that most historians, without further evidence, have concluded that these five, plus Metropolitan Makary, constituted a dominant Josephian party at the council. After the Stoglav Council, Feodosy, archbishop of Novgorod, and Trifonj bishop of Suzdal', were deposed, for reasons unstated in the sources. Forced to explain the removal of these two prominent "Josephian" prelates, Zimin concludes that their removal must have meant a temporary victory for the Non-possessors. According to Zimin, Afanasy Paletsky, who succeeded Trifon as bishop, can be considered a Non-possessor because he was hegumen of the Kirillov-Belozerskiy Monastery. This monastery, close to the skity of the Trans-Volga Elders, is considered a hotbed of Non-possessorship despite its being one of the largest landholders in sixteenth-century Muscovy. Zimin maintains that, for some reason, the Non-possessor "successes . . . were not lasting because already in 1554 Afanasy Paletsky comes out [at a heresy trial] against Artemy and other ideologues of the Nonpossessors." 68 Thus, the only known action Afanasy is involved in is to testify against supposed Non-possessors, but he himself has to be a Non-possessor to fit the standard interpretation.
Kollmann goes on to point out that, for another 'card-carrying' Non-possessor, historians choose Kassian, bishop of Ryazan'. Kassian is classified a Non-possessor because (1) he was perhaps tonsured at and definitely exiled to the Kirillov-Belozerskiy Monastery, and (2) at the 1553-54 heresy trials he rejected the authority of Iosif Volotsky on heresy. As an 'anti-Josephian' he is therefore assumed to have argued against monastic landholding and against Church wealth in general, although we have no direct evidence one way or the other concerning his position on these matters. Kollmann concludes that 'the pro- and anti-Iosifite' approach represents an over-simplification of Muscovite church politics in mid-sixteenth century Muscovy. . . ." 69
Yet another Church figure who is associated with the mid-sixteenthcentury Non-possessors is Artemy. The sum total of the evidence to support the contention of Artemy's Non-possessor status is his being hegumen of the Trinity-St Sergius Monastery when Maksim Grek was transferred there in 1551 and a statement in a letter attributed to him where he writes to Ivan IV:
And all now are accordingly displaying enmity as they say to each other that I said and wrote to you to take away (olimati) villages from monasteries. But the truth is, sire, that I wrote to you at the council, expressing my understanding of the matter, but I have not talked to them about that, nor do I advise you of the necessity and authority to do such a thing.70
Thus, the only hard evidence we have for Artemy's Non-possessorshipi is a statement in which he says that he was falsely accused of having told the tsar to take away villages and in which he explicitly advises the tsar against taking away villages from monasteries.71
The apotheosis of the attempt to force the source testimony into a Church parties construction is Zimin's presentation of the successive occupiers of the metropolitan's chair and bishops' sees in the sixteenth century as having been of one party or the other. In 1511, Varlaam, who was "close to the Non-possessors," is elevated to the metropolitancy. In 1516, the new bishop of Ryazan' is Sergiy: "Possibly he was close to the Non-possessors because he abandoned the see the fourth day after the placing of the Josephian Daniil on the metropolitan's chair." "So, in the beginning of the 1520s among the eight highest prelates approximately four were close to the Non-possessors." In 1516, when Daniil becomes metropolitan "he immediately began a ëturnover of peopleí among the highest prelates," presumably getting rid of the Non-possessors. In 1539, the hegumen of the Trinity-St Sergius Monastery, Ioasaf, "an outspoken opponent of the Josephians," became metropolitan, and began placing other opponents of the Josephians into the hierarchy. Thus, "the influence of the Josephians fell at the grandprincely court, but not for long." In 1542, Makary who is "a supporter of the Josephians" becomes metropolitan. His influence, however, is countered by Sil'vestr, "who is close to the Non-possessors," and so forth.72 Zimin concludes that "the struggle of the Josephians and Non-possessors at the grand-princely court had a real impact on the current politics of the government."73 He leaves it to the reader to search for the evidence that would support this assertion.
If the evidence is so shaky for the identification of Church parties, one party arguing in favour of monastic lands, the other against, then perhaps we should look elsewhere for our explanation of the source testimony. Just what could have been going on in the sixteenth century that would leave us the source testimony we have? Historians have read the Church sources that argue for the inviolability of church and monastic lands, and have deduced that if the Church was defending its lands, then clearly the State was trying to secularize them.
There is no question that the grand prince, or someone acting in his name, could confiscate church and monastic lands when he so desired. Pavlov mentions confiscations of Church lands by princes as far back as the twelfth century and protests from prelates :from the thirteenth century.74 Ivan III confiscated Church lands in Novgorod and, throughout the sixteenth century, confiscations by the local agents of the grand prince seem to have occurred regularly.75
Likewise, we have ample evidence that the tsar was able to
and reassign properties on a much broader scale.76 The relative
Abundance of these charters, along with Ivan III's confiscation of lands in Novgorod, indicates that it was fairly easy for the secular ruler and his agents to confiscate Church lands. It makes little sense, then, to contend that the State was thwarted in its attempt to secularize church and monastic lands. Such statements as "the economic preconditions had not matured" 77 or "a certain, balance of power" existed between thc Church and State are not real explanations, because nothing ts "explained."
When we look for the contemporary arguments on behalf of a State secularization policy, we look in vain. The sixteenth century was a period of extensive land acquisition by monasteries, and we find in the State charters what we should expect to find under the circumstances, that is, bureaucratic attempts to regulate this acquisition process. The first extant document to this effect is a charter (gramota) to the Glushitsa Monastery dated 1535. The charter notes that votchiny had been transferred from deti boyarskie to the monastery by sale, mortgage, and bequest "for repose of the soul." The charter requests that a list of the properties acquired during "the past year or two" be sent to the diyak Fyodor Mishurin. Finally, it warns that no further acquisitions are to be made without the knowledge of the grand prince (bez nashego vedoma).78
As early as 1553, the Moscow Stoglav Council agrees that a monastery's treasury and all the material resources of monasteries will be under the authority of the tsar's and grand princeís majordomos (dvoretskiye), who will be sent to audit, to take inventory, and to make remittances according to the books . . . of each monastery.79
In subsequent decades the State issues various gramoty that attempt
to strengthen and enforce regulations about acquisition.80 The
11 May 1551, which becomes attached to the Stoglav decision, decrees
(1) sale or donation of a votchina to a church or monastery without a
(doklad) to the State is forbidden, or the votchina is subject to
by the State. (2) Any pomestye or taxable lot that a bishop and
had acquired as a result of debts of the holder was to be returned,
due process, to its former holder. (3) Any village or
arable land given by a boyar after the death of Vasily III ( 1533) was to be returned to its former holder. (4) A votchina given "for repose of the soul" was to remain with the monastery except for those lands that had been forbidden under Vasily III, which would revert to the State. 81
The Act of 25 December '1557 defines more precisely the right to grant lands to monasteries.82 The Act of 15 January 1562 confirms and extends the list of regions where votchinniki and service princes were forbidden to alienate their lands, especially "for repose of the soul" 83 The Act of 9 October 1572 forbids further acquisitions by monasteries already well-endowed, but poor monasteries could still acquire votchiny with the tsar's approval.84
If these charters were meant to curtail monastic land acquisitions, they seem to have been ineffective. Between 1552 and 1590, according to Veselovsky, monasteries and other Church institutions acquired 657 landholdings of which the Trinity-St Sergius Monastery alone acquired 392 holdings.85 Finally, in 1580 the Church and State agreed to freeze the present land situation; the churches and monasteries were not allowed to acquire any new votchiny, the tsar was not allowed to take away any lands already held by the churches and monasteries.86 The monasteries continued to acquire lands, but at a rate drastically reduced from what it had been since the middle of the century.87
At the same time as the State was supposed to be manoeovring to secularize monastic lands, the tsar was donating lands to the monasteries and allowing monasteries to acquire more lands. In 1555 Ivan IV granted the Simonov Monastery several settlements and wastelands in the Dmitrov uyezd. 88 In 1556 Ivan IV issued a charter that allowed the Kirillov-Belozerskiy Monastery to spend, with certain limitations, 2,000 rubles on land purchases.89 In 1575 Ivan IV gave two villages to the Kirillov-Belozerskiy Monastery and one village to the Suzdal archbishopric for "repose of the soul" of Prince Ivan Beliky.90 In 1558 Ivan IV gave the Kirillov-Belozerskiy Monastery three villages.91 This last charter in particular, coming as it does after the Decision of 1580, shows that the main thrust of government policy could not have been aimed at secularizing monastic land. These grants would also seem to indicate that the government had no problem acquiring populated lands for the institution of the pomest'ye system. If such a problem of acquiring lands existed, then it would be highly unlikely the State would give back villages and settlements so easily. If the tsar was performing a clever manoeuvre in order to secularize those lands at a later date, he would have to have been extremely crafty indeed. It is possible to argue that Ivan IV was in conflict with his own dyachestvo throughout his reign, and giving back lands that the dyachestvo wanted to take away from the monasteries. But, by the same line of reasoning, one would have to argue that Ivan IV was in conflict with his own service class, because he was denying these lands to them. More likely, the secular sphere was concerned with regulating monastic land aquisition, not with secularization; and that it had no problem with finding enough land to distribute. One can see the Decision of 1580 as an agreement between the Church and State to resolve a chronic bone of contention. The State obtains from the Church the concession not to acquire any more votchiny, except through the State; the Church obtains from the State the promise not to confiscate any more lands already held by the monasteries.
The most likely explanation to account for these considerations is that the secular bureaucracy, the prikaz (office) system, was developing rapidly in sixteenth-century Muscovy92 and moving into previously unregulated areas of administration. When a boyar donated his votchina "for repose of the soul" to a monastery, this eliminated a source of tax revenue for the court.93 By requiring registration of all monastic land acquisitions the Land Office (Pomestsyy prikaz) could establish important facts: what the boundaries of the donated land was; who gave the land; and whether it was given as a tax shelter.94
In addition, the State was following a conscious policy of gaining
of land and service through the establishment of the pomestiye system.
State charters that attempted to establish State control include
that any land acquisitions not registered could be confiscated and
returned to the original donor or retained by the tsar. Church leaders,
eager to protect their expanding land pool, leaped to defend their
against government regulation with an 'ideological' package of
sources, which included the Donation of Constantine, the Statute of
the Yarlyk of the Tatar Khan to Metropolitan Peter, and the Answer of
1503 Council. In the arguments that developed in the 1550s when the
of local confiscations seems to have been hotly contested, certain
may have felt as little compunction about concocting phoney events that
were supposed to have occurred at the 1503 Council as they felt in
In sum, the dyachcstvo was expanding in sixteenth-century Muscovy as rapidly as monastic land acquisitions. It was establishing an alternative administrative and record-keeping system to that of the Church. Among the measures taken by the dyachestvo in the sixteenth century to regulate monastic activities were: the prohibition against new tax-exempt settlements on Church lands, the prohibition against monastic usury, the recall of immunity charters (tarkhaniye gramoty), the review of emolument grants, the checking of monasterial records, and inventorying of monastic property.96 Whereas in the West monks from an early period took an active role in the record-keeping of secular institutions, the Muscovite dyachestvo was formed much later as a conglomeration of priests' sons and refugees from the Tatar and Byzantine bureaucracies,97 none of whom had any particular reason to protect the interest of the monasteries. In order to obtain compliance from the monasteries to register their land acquisitions with the State, the dyachestvo threatened and attempted to carry out confiscation of particular volchiny that had recently been transferred. The Church responded with arguments in favour of the inviolability of church and monastic landholdings. None of this becomes a burning issue before about 1550 when the term "otimati" begins to appear in the sources.
We simply have no reliable evidence that anyone in the Muscovite state seriously contemplated wholesale secularization of church and monastic lands in the sixteenth century. Nor do we have any reliable evidence that any part of the State apparatusócrown, boyarstvo, dvoryanstvo, dyachestvoóformed or attempted to form an alliance with monks who argued either in favour of monkish poverty or in opposition to monkish management of landed estates. Such an alliance would have been unlikely in Eastern Orthodox territory where monks rarely exercised political power, precisely because they were never part of the governmental apparatus.98 Nor do any of these monks argue in favour of the State's right to take away monastic lands. The connection of the boyarstvo with opposition to votchina rights of monasteries because the boyars were losing their lands to these monasteries is belied by the many charters we have where these same boyars uncoercedly donated their lands to monasteries "for repose of the soul."
The so-called "complaints" of the pomeshchiki 99 do not indicate any influence on government policy or any general problem in government land acquisition. They might indicate dissatisfaction among individuals, but hardly represent an alliance between the crown and "middle-service class" against the boyars. The rise of a servitor group could only have been accomplished through active boyar acquiescence and involvement. Given the ties of kinship and clientage, that is, vertical lines of political connections throughout sixteenth-century Muscovite society, it was possible for Ivan IV to use one set of boyars and their clients against another set during the oprichnina. But to use clients against their patrons on a state-wide scale, as has been proposed in the historiography heretofore, would have been extremely unlikely.
The contention that the State was in need of lands, or had trouble obtaining lands for its pomeshchiki fails because of lack of evidence that would support it. The Deeision of the 1580 Church Council itself has been cited as evidence that the tsar was having trouble procuring land, as well as evidence for the influence of the Non-possessors. 100 The Decision states that these agreements were made "in order that the churches of God and holy places will be without turmoil, and that the military forces may be armed more strongly for the battle against the enemies of the cross of Christ."10l First, the concern about 'turmoil' may be a reference not only to the confiscation problem, but also to the numerous court cases brought against monasteries' land claims. Once the monasteries' lands are recognized as officially inalienable, then the hope of recovery of land by plaintiffs would presumably be less. Second, the arming of the military forces 'more strongly' refers probably to the Decree of 1556 on service. In that Decree, holders of votchiny and pomest'ya were required to supply one fully armed horseman (or the equivalent monetary sum) for each ''100 chetverti of good, productive land'.102 Monasteries, of course, were exempt from this requirement to strengthen the army. If, during the latter part of the sixteenth century, the peasantry in the centre was abandoning the three-field system and reverting to more extensive techniques of agriculture,l03 then this reversion, plus the opening of the Volga route, which contributed to peasant mobility, would have meant that more peasants were travelling further. The government bureaucracy, understandably, would have felt uneasy about such renewed mobility of the peasants because this would make upkeep of the army more difficult. An attempt to regulate peasant movement resulted, and this attempt probably also gave rise to the bonding of peasants to the land through the establishment of "forbidden years" in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century.
My argument might be criticized for exaggerating the role of the
in sixteenth-century Muscovite government. And, indeed, historians have
generally placed greater emphasis on the activities of the autocrat and
boyars in that society. However, recent research indicates that,
in the early seventeenth century, Muscovy had a rather elaborate
It has been argued that the "prePetrine Russian administration was
in a more modern manner than it came to be after Peter's many
A reasonable supposition would be that this bureaucracy had fairly well
taken shape by the mid-sixteenth century when Muscovy was transforming
itself at a phenomenal rate into an empire that had to be organized and
regulated. Peter Brown has stated that "the role of the chancelleries
consolidating Muscovy's territorial expansion and in marshalling the
to fight its wars cannot be overestimated." 106 Moreover, the
was becoming a means for exercising political power. One need only
to the activities of the Shchelkalov brothers who used their positions
as djaki to rise
within the Muscovite political and social system during a time when the literacy of the cavalrymen was shaky at best.l07
The advantage of the hypothesis that I have presented here over the Church parties hypothesis is in the ability to explain such varied source testimony coherently. In the Church parties hypothesis we are forced to postulate a number of unnecessary abstractions to fill in the gaps in the source testimony. We have to account for how the Church, which had no secular power to speak of, was able to halt the State's secularization plans. We have to account for why the grand prince expected a Church Council (1503) to agree to giving up the basis of the Church's wealth. We have to account for the nature of the potential alliance between the State and the Non-possessors when we have no reliable, contemporary source evidence about it. On the contrary, we have several centuries of tradition that argue against it. We have to explain away discrepancies in the relationship of texts. 108 We have to account for why no State argument in favour of secularization seems to have appeared. And we have to resort to explanations based on 'horizontal' alliances and clashes of classes, when the weight of evidence indicates political struggles were probably fought out in terms of 'vertical' alliance networks.
This is not to deny that a polemic over monastic land acquisition was taking place in sixteenth-century Muscovy, but one can question what the issues and what the sides were. The State-Church issue appears in the sources that are datable no earlier than the 1530s and concerns the right of the State to regulate the transfer of votchiny to monasteries "for repose of the soul," and then, in the 1550s, the right of the State to confiscate those volchiny when the transfers had not received the tsar's approval. This issue seems to have been resolved in the 1580s. The internal Church issue concerned the propriety of land management by monks whose aim should be the salvation of their own souls. This issue disappears from the sources in the 1550s. Those churchmen who might have argued in favour of this proposition hardly constituted a Church party that was striving for control of the Church or hoping for an alliance with the State, or even actively trying to influence the Church as an institution. Their position on this question tended to cross other lines of difference, such as attitudes towards heretics and decoration of churches. As far as the source testimony is concerned, the only link between the State and those who argued against land management was one that the Church polemicists against State confiscations were making. Most likely, Church leaders viewed the argument about whether monks should be directly involved in managing lands as undermining the Church's opposition to State regulation of monastic land acquisition.
In any case, the concept of Church parties in sixteenth-century
is not useful for interpreting the source testimony, and can safely be
dropped from the historiography.
NOTES:D. Ostrowski is an Instructor in the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.