UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Prothero Lecture delivered by Professor Simon Dixon

10 July 2017

Prothero Lecture

On 7 July, Professor Simon Dixon delivered this year’s Prothero Lecture organised by The Royal Historical Society. At the centenary of the Russian Revolution, Prof Dixon addressed the subject of ‘Orthodoxy & Revolution: The Restoration of the Russian Patriarchate in 1917’. The lecture is now a part of the Royal Historical Society’s 150th Anniversary Blog, Historical Transactions

Abstract of the lecture:

‘At the height of the October Revolution in Moscow – a much bloodier affair than the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd – the Orthodox Church installed Tikhon (Bellavin) as Russia’s first patriarch since 1700. At the most obvious level, this was a counter-revolutionary gesture aimed at securing firm leadership in a time of troubles. It was nevertheless a controversial move. Ecclesiastical liberals regarded a restored patriarchate as a neo-papal threat to the conciliarist regime they hoped to foster; and since Nicholas II had explicitly modelled himself on the Muscovite tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, the potential for renewed conflict between church and state was clear long before 1917. This lecture will emphasise the extent to which a single individual haunted the whole debate. For, until the last moment, it was widely assumed that the new patriarch would be not the little-known Tikhon, but Archbishop Antonii (Khrapovitskii) [pictured above], whose attempts to model himself on Patriarch Nikon – the most divisive of seventeenth-century patriarchs – helped to make him the most controversial prelate of the age.’