0 Francesca Silano

Francesca Silano

Francesca Silano

Assistant Professor of History

Francesca Silano is a scholar of late-Imperial and Soviet Russian History. She is a specialist of the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the early years of the Bolshevik regime and examines the legal, cultural and religious impacts of the upheaval of revolution and civil war on lay believers, hierarchs, and the institutions of the Church.

Her current book project, The Battle for Russia’s Souls: Patriarch Tikhon, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Soviet State, is under contract with Cornell University Press. It focuses on the figure of Tikhon (Bellavin), a bishop who, in the midst of the Bolshevik Revolution, was elected patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church—the first to take up the post in over 200 years. The book reveals how the conflict between the patriarch and Bolshevik leaders became a means of self-definition for all the actors involved. The patriarch had to reimagine and propose to believers what it meant to be a Russian Orthodox Christian living in a state with totalitarian ambitions. Meanwhile, the Bolshevik campaign against the patriarch culminated in one of the first show trials in the Soviet Union, and the development of the Soviet legal practices that would become commonplace under Stalin. The Bolshevik clash with the Church thus became a means of defining what socialism looked like in practice.


  • M.A, Ph.D, University of Toronto
  • B.A, McGill University


“‘A Dishonor to You and to the Church’: Patriarch Tikhon, Pogroms, and the Russian Revolution, 1917-1919,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 23, no. 1 (Winter, 2022): 5-27.

“(Re)Constructing an Orthodox ‘Scenario of Power’: The Restoration of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate in Revolutionary Russia (1917-1918),” Revolutionary Russia 32, no. 1 (2019): 5-30

“Canon Law in a Bolshevik Courtroom: The Russian Revolution as an Orthodox Legal Revolution,” (Russian Version), in State, Religion and Church in Russia and Worldwide 37, no. 1/2 (2019): 153-181

“Christmas in Russia and Orthodox Europe,” in Timothy Larsen, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Christmas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020)

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