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Patriarch Tikhon (Bellavin) and the Russian Orthodox Church during the Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918

Photo of Saint Tichon
Thursday, November 3, 2022, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

At the end of October, 1917, days after the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd, a major Council of the Russian Orthodox Church voted to reinstate the patriarchate, the office that headed the Church which had been abolished by Peter the Great two centuries earlier. A week later, Tikhon Bellavin was elected to fill that office. As Patriarch, Tikhon was immediately thrust into a role of defending the Orthodox Church from the militantly atheist policies of the new revolutionary government. Throughout 1918, he issued a series of statements criticizing Bolshevik policies and actions. Given his role as head of the religious institution to which the majority of Russians still adhered, his words had enormous influence. Bolshevik propaganda therefore cast him as a counter-revolutionary and threat to the regime—an image that persisted not only in Soviet but also Western historiography. This talk, drawing on extensive new research, will reassess the complex relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Bolshevik regime in the first year after the Bolshevik seizure of power.