It has been argued that the city-stronghold of 'Lord Great' Novgorod 'expressed the stamp of Russian popular life and mind',2: preserving 'true' Russianness because it largely escaped the devastation wreaked elsewhere by the Tatars. While paying tribute to Tatar overlords, the city continued intellectual and economic commerce with both east and west, which may explain why those heresies significant enough to be recorded during this period appear in Novgorod and its fellow trading centre Pskov. The late fourteenth-century strigol'niki or 'Shearers' criticised simony and the lax priesthood, and seem to have rejected the sacraments offered by a clergy they perceived as flawed and illegitimate. They also seem to have advocated confession to the earth,22 an act interpreted by some as evidence of obdurate paganism and loyalty to 'Moist Mother Earth'.23 Little more is known about this heresy, but it troubled the hierarchy for some time. In i427, Metropolitan Photios wrote complaining about strigol'niki in Pskov, half a century after the chronicles record the drowning of certain strigol'niki in Novgorod, and during the later 'Judaiser' heresy Archbishop Gennadii accused one leader of being a strigol'nik.24
This so-called 'Judaiser' heresy of the late fifteenth century impacted upon both the elite and the lower clergy. 'Judaiser' was not a contemporary term but appeared in much later historiography, and the 'Jewishness' of the heresy is now seriously disputed.25 The chief persecutors (Iosif of Volokolamsk and Archbishop Gennadii of Novgorod) are - as usual - the main recorders of the heresy, so any attempt to understand the true nature of the unorthodox beliefs circulating at this time will be only partially successful. Iosif declares that the heresy began when 'a Jew by the name of Skhariia' from Kiev converted two Novgorodian priests and, with the help of two more Jews from Lithuania, began to proselytise.26 The heresy was apparently anti-Trinitarian, critical of the clergy and iconoclastic, and as such resembled early Protestant movements.
21 Fedotov, Russian religious mind, ii, 333.
22 N. A. Kazakova and Ia. S. Lur'e, Antifeodal'nye ereticheskie dvizheniianaRusi XIV-nachala XVIveka (Moscow: AN SSSR, i955), 24i.
23 See Fedotov, Russian religious mind, ii, i35-9.
24 R. G. Skrynnikov 'Ecclesiastical thought in Russia and the Church Councils of i5o3 and i5o4', Oxford Slavonic Papers 25 (i992), 37.
25 The most comprehensive work on this movement is Kazakova and Lur'e, Antifeodal'nye. Cf.Jakov S. Lur'e, 'Unresolved issues in the history of the ideological movements of the late fifteenth century', in Medieval Russian culture, ed. H. Birnbaum and M.S. Flier [California Slavic Studies i2] (Berkeley: University of California Press, i984), i5o-7i. See also J. D. Klier, 'Judaizing without Jews? Moscow-Novgorod, i47o-i5o4', in Culture and identity in Muscovy, 1359-1584 , ed. A. M. Kleimola and G. D. Lenhoff (Moscow: ITZ-Garant, i997), 336-49.
26 IosifVolotskii, Prosvetitel', ili, Oblichenie eresi zhidovstvuiushchikh, fourth edition (Kazan: Imperatorskii Universitet, i9o3; reprinted Farnborough: Gregg International, i972).
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