By the end of XV century the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church became rather complicated. After the collapse of Constantinople in 1453 the Russian Church finally became absolutely independent and now nothing could influence its relations with the temporal power from the outside. The most far-seeing hierarches of the Orthodox Church aspired to strengthen the power of the Grand Duke and centralize the State - the stronghold of autocracy.
At the same time the authority of the church inside the country was strongly shaken because of aggravation of social contradictions. More often the protest of lower classes of the society was expressed in a religious form. So-called heretics appeared in the largest Russian cities in XV century. Their activity was especially dangerous for the church.
A new upsurge of heretical movement took place in the end of XV century in Novgorod. That was due to the activity of Skariy, Jew who came from Lithuania in 1471. His doctrine was similar to Judaism. This heresy was widely spread among lower Novgorod clergy. The most irreconcilable persecutors of heretics were the Archbishop of Novgorod Gennady and an outstanding church figure, the Hegumen and founder of the Iosifo-Volokolamsky Monastery Joseph Volotsky (Ivan Sanin). The latter gave his name to a religious movement - 'the Josephians'.
The Moscow circle of heretics was formed of clerks and merchants headed by Ivan Kuritsyn, Ivan III's person in attendance and a Duma clerk. The heretics stood for strengthening of the Grand Duke's power and restriction of church landownership. They declared that every man could address God without mediation of church. The church council of 1490 condemned and cursed heretics. Supporters of heresy were deported from Moscow; heretics in Novgorod of were strictly punished.
There was no full unity in attitude towards heretics among church circles. Opposition to the Josephians was headed by Nil Sorsky, the elder of the Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery. The opposition disputed such intolerant attitude towards heretics, instead, they suggested polemizing. According to them, the true service of the church should be executed through an ascetic way of life, non- acquisition of mundane riches and possession. Ivan III was declined to support 'the non- acquisitors' for some time.
But at the Church Council of 1503 militant Josephians showed stubborn resistance in the question on refusal of the church from landed property. The next year council sentenced heretics to the death penalty. The Kuritsin's society in Moscow was destroyed. It was the very first steps of development of an alliance of the temporal power with the most orthodox part of clergy led by Joseph Volotsky who proclaimed priority of the Church over the State and principles of Orthodoxy being the basement of autocracy.