this period, and Evfrosiniia was no exception. Tonsured (probably forcibly) after accusations of treason levelled by Ivan IV and subsequently murdered by the oprichniki, her convent also housed the widow of Ivan IV, Mariia Fedorovna (Nagaia), banished there by Boris Godunov,60 Ivan's fourth wife Anna Alek-seevna, and his daughter-in-law Pelageia Mikhailovna. Forcible tonsure was not only a convenient (if unreliable) way of silencing political rivals, both male and female. It was also a method of divorce.
Those who were unable or unwilling to join a monastery could contribute to its development by donation, and the expansion of monasticism was greatly aided by financial investment of princes, wealthy nobles, merchants and senior clerics. Popular donations included food, stone churches and villages - in return donors (and their relatives) could expect prayers and eternal remembrance in death. Bequests were popular, and the huge increase in landowning by the church as a result of nobles leaving family lands to monasteries rather than to their kin provoked one of the great debates of the day, between the 'Possessors' - those who supported church landowning - and the 'Non-Possessors', who argued that it was inappropriate for monasteries to own lands and to live from the labour of the peasants who farmed them.61
Two towering figures in the historiography of this period, Nil Sorskii (1433-1508) and Iosif of Volokolamsk (1439-1515), are usually portrayed as representatives of these two factions and of the two facets of monasticism - silent eremiticism and socially active cenobiticism - embraced as St Sergii's heritage. The difference was rather one of emphasis: in guiding others towards spiritual perfection, Nil stressed the inner life of the spirit; Iosif, outer practice.
The details of Nil's life are sketchy, since he left a small literary heritage: a few letters to 'spiritual sons', plus his Ustav or Monastic Rule (more a treatise on the interior life than regulations) and the short Predanie or Tradition. We know that he spent time on Mount Athos and in Kirill-Belozerskii monastery, before seeking undisturbed peace in the northern forests of the White Lake area. He favoured the skete, several brothers living together in the wilderness, rather than the complete solitude of eremiticism, and his followers are often referred to as the 'Trans-Volga Elders' because oftheir retreat into the northern wilds.
Nil is upheld as an example ofRussian kenoticism, a self-emptying humility that led him, unlike Iosif, to avoid public life and political influence. Another
60 Jerome Horsey suggests she voluntarily entered, after being poisoned. See Russia at the close of the sixteenth century, 255.
61 See D. Ostrowski, 'Church polemics and monastic land acquisition in sixteenth-century Muscovy', Slavonic and East European Review 64 (1986), 355-79.
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