In the XV century, Russian monasteries grew very numerous a owned so many lands that the government, who had already distributed their lands among the knyaz's noble servants, considered the plans of taking these lands away from the monasteries. On the other hand, some inhabitants of the monasteries also began to think that the wealth of the monks was an obstacle on their way to God and contradicted their monastic vows. These bilateral intentions gave birth to the whole movement which left noticeable traces in the literature of the XV century.
Under the rule of Mongols the monastery life was very intensive. Difficult life of the peasants forced many of them to become monks. They left the towns and moved to the woods of the north, where they built new monasteries. As new settlers fled from the south, they stayed in the same forests, often near the monasteries, forming new towns around them. The monks had to leave again. So, the monks became the spearhead of the colonization movement. Troitse-Sergiyev monastery alone formed at least 35 new monasteries-colonies. Being an attractive center for the peasants' villages, the monasteries were welcomed by the knyazes, who allowed the monks to become the landlords. So the wealth of the monasteries was being born.
However, not all monks welcomed this change. Some of them used them to facilitate their lives, others used them for charity and to alleviate the lives of the people living nearby, while the third came to the conclusion that the monasteries should not be landowners, but should instead earn their living by their own hands. In the end of the reign of Ivan III when many dark sides of the church land ownership became visible, a discussion began among the intellectuals in literature and on the church synods. The opposing parties were led by two outstanding monks of that age: Joseph of Volokolamsk (Joseph Volotsky, or Joseph Sanin, the hegumen of the Volokolamsk monastery, founded by himself) and Nil of Sora (Nil Sorsky, or Nil Maykov, the founder of the hermitage on river Sora, near lake Belozero). The former was a good organizer and administrator, and just as good writer. He made his monastery rich and seeing that this wealth did not harm the Christian spirit of the monks, he was convinced that the monasteries should use it to reach the holy ends. So, he said that the villages located on the monastery lands, give new monks. If there will be no villages near the monasteries, there will be no new people, no new bishops and the faith will suffer. Nil and his followers, known collectively as zavolzhskie startsy (the elders from beyond Volga, since most of them came from the northern monasteries, located on the other side of Volga) opposed Joseph. Nil was an hermit who rejected all ties between the monasteries and the outside world, who was convinced that the monks should have no property besides the basic necessities, that the monks must think about God and not about the treasures of this world. This discussion continued on the church synod in 1503. The majority supported Joseph and the secular authorities had to accept the growth of the church lands. In the meanwhile, the monasteries not only received new lands from the knyazes, but also bought them, took as pawn and received as gifts from rich people. The more practical part of the Orthodox clergy created a whole school of the monks-administrators, based on the writings of Joseph of Volokolamsk. Obviously, they needed the support of the secular authorities, so they easily collaborated with the knyazes and yielded to their demands. They were severely criticized for that by their opponents, especially by the monk Vassian the Squint-Eyed. A Greek monk named Maximus the Greek, who came to Moscow from Athos to translate Greek books and to manage the knyaz's library, also opposed the followers of Joseph. Both Vassian and Maxim were later isolated in distant monasteries for this opposition and arguing the legitimacy of the second marriage of Vasily III.
The enmity between these two parties was especially intensive during the heresy of the Judaizers. This heresy appeared in Novgorod in 1471, and then spread to Moscow. The Judaizers followed the teachings of somone Skharia (or Zakharia the Jew), they did not recognize the saint trinity, rejected Jesus Christ, expected the coming of the messiah, did not worship St. Mary, the saints, the cross and the icons, followed the law of Moses and instead of Sunday worshipped Saturday. The heresy became popular among the clerics in Novgorod. Some of the heretics were brought by Ivan III himself from Novgorod to Moscow and appointed clerics to the churches of Moscow, causing the Judaizing to spread fast in Moscow. Many officials sympathized with the Judaizers, like Fyodor Kuritsyn, the aide of the grand knyaz, or archimandrite Zosima, who was later elected as the metropolitan and then condemned the heresy. More than 15 years passed since the birth of the heresy till it was discovered. The archbishop of Novgorod Gennady reported about it to Moscow. An investigation was started, which was led with reluctance in Moscow but zealously in Novgorod, by Gennady. To push the Moscow church hierarchs to more active persecutions, Gennady asked Joseph of Volokolamsk for support. Joseph published a book called Prosvetitelets (The Enlightener), where he demanded the execution of the heretics. The zavolzhskie startsy denounced his intolerance, but Joseph won again: on the synod of 1504 the heretics were sentenced to death. Many of them were burned and soon the Judaizers disappeared.
Joseph's position suited the authorities very well and he was supported by the knyazes and his followers occupied the leading positions in the church. In return, they supported the monocracy of the Moscow knyazes