Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Prince Vladimir, the son of Prince Svyatoslav and Malusha, the Princess of the Drevlyany people accepts Jesus as Russia's and His personal Saviour. Year 988. He was raised by his mother's brother Dobrynya, who was a pagan. In 972 Vladimir became the ruler of Novgorod. In 980, when the war between brothers was at its highest point, Vladimir started hostilities against Kiev, ruled at the time by his brother Yaropolk. After the victory over his brother Vladimir became the ruler of Kiev. He conquered Galitia, suppressed the rebellious Vatka people, fought with the Pecheneg tribes, and expanded the territory subject to him from the Baltic Sea in the north to the river Boug in the south. He had 5 wives and numerous concubines. He installed idols on the Kiev Mountains with human sacrifices being brought to them. It was at that this time that Variagians Feodor and Ioann died for being faithful to the Lord. The death of these martyrs impressed Vladimir so much that he began to doubt pagan beliefs.

Short History of Russia from Perun to Vladimir the Red Sun


Baptism of Russians

July 28 (July 15 old calendar).


Prince Vladimir the Red Sun baptizing, portrait by Vasnetzov

Vladimir was a Scandinavian Adventurer - Viking (Valdemar) and not wanting to fall behind other Viking Rulers turned Christians, he also considered switching from home-grown Perun to something more enlightened and acceptable at European royal courts. Since his main geopolitical interest was in penetrating the Byzantines ("From Varangians to Greeks") but to show that he was an educated ruler that is fair and balanced he set up a faith-comparison show with inviting missionaries from many countries to come to Kiev: Moslem Bulgarians who lived beyond the Volga river, German Latins, Jews and Greeks. The prince asked them about their creeds, and each of the visitors offered him his own belief. No wonder it was the Greek preacher who impressed Vladimir most of all. At the end of their conversation, the preacher described the day of the Lord's judgment. Upon counseling with his boyars, Vladimir sent 10 wise men to find out whose faith was better. When the Russian envoys arrived in Constantinople they were impressed to the depth of their souls by the splendor of the St. Sofia cathedral, the harmonious singing of the royal choir and the grandeur of the service conducted by the Patriarch. "We were not even aware if we were on the earth or in heaven," they related to Vladimir while recounting their impressions. And the boyars added, "If the Greek faith had not been superior to other beliefs, your grandmother, Olga, who was the wisest of living people, would not have embraced it."

Vladimir decided to get baptized, but he did not want to turn Russia into a Greek subject. For this reason Vladimir started hostilities against Greece and occupied Hersones, from where he sent envoys to Constantinople demanding that the emperors Basilius and Constantine agree to his marrying their sister Anna. They replied that Anna could only marry a Christian. Then Vladimir declared that he is willing to accept Christianity. But prior to the bride's arrival to Hersones, Vladimir was inflicted by blindness. Or so the story goes.

In this state, like the Apostle Paul, he became aware of his spiritual powerlessness and was prepared for the great miracle of rebirth. When the Princess arrived in Hersones, she advised Vladimir to get baptized as soon as possible. Vladimir was baptized in 988 and was named Vasilii. Upon coming out of the baptismal font he regained his physical and spiritual vision and exclaimed in rapture, "Now I have seen the true God!"

Returning to Kiev together with Korsun and Greek priests, Vladimir suggested to his twelve sons to become Christians and they were baptized in one of the Kiev streams called Kreshchatic. Many boyars followed the example of his sons. Meanwhile Vladimir started to ban and destroy idols. Perun, the greatest of the idols, was tied to a horse, dragged off its mount with desecration and thrown into the Dnieper River. This was followed by preaching the Gospel to people. Christian ministers brought people together and preached to them the true sacred faith. Finally Saint Vladimir told all the Kiev citizens, both rich and poor, to come to the bank of Dnieper on a certain day to get baptized. The Kiev citizens were willing to fulfill the Prince's order reasoning: "The Prince and boyars would not have adopted the new faith, if it had not been better."

On the appointed day, the citizens of Kiev came to the bank of the Dnieper River. Vladimir himself came there also accompanied by Christian ministers. All the people entered the river, with the water reaching up to their necks or chest, adults were holding children and babies, while the ministers were reading prayers on the bank. Saint Vladimir was elatedly praying to God that he and his people be commended to the Lord.

After the baptizing of the people living in Kiev and its suburbs, the new faith was brought to Novgorod. In 990, Mikhail, the first metropolitan of Kiev, arrived in Novgorod with six bishops accompanied by Dobrynia, uncle of Saint Vladimir. Like in Kiev, they overthrew the statue of Perun, dragged it on the ground and cast it into the Volkhov River. After that they proclaimed the people Catechumens and baptized them. Metropolitan Mikhail together with 4 bishops and Dobrynia left Novgorod for Rostov, where they baptized many citizens, received presbyters into the ministry and built a church. But the pagan beliefs persisted so long after that in Rostov, that the first two Rostov bishops - Saint Feodor and Saint Illarion - after many great efforts to eradicate paganism had to leave the cathedra. Saint bishops Leontius and Isiaya worked hard to put an end to idolatry in Rostov. Venerable Ambrosius founded the Rostov monastery and was an archimandrite there.

In 992 the Holy faith was brought to the Suzdal region. Prince Vladimir went there with two bishops. The Suzdal people adopted Christianity and got baptized willingly.

Vladimir's children receiving appanage principalities from him, gave much attention to expansion of Christianity in their crown domains. Hence, in the 10th century, in addition to Kiev, Novgorod, Rostov, and Suzdal, the Holy Creed was also taught in the towns of Murom, Polotsk, Vladimir-of-Volyn, Smolensk, Pskov, Lutsk, Tmutarakan and in the land of Drevlans. Later, in the land of the Vyatich people (more recently called Kursk, Orlov, Tula and Kaluga regions) Venerable Kuksha, a monk of the Pechora monastery, accomplished a lot of ministerial work and preaching. He suffered a martyr's death from the pagans.

In the beginning the Christian faith was initially adopted in territories adjacent to Kiev and along the waterway from Kiev to Novgorod, wherefrom it was spread along the Volga artery. Under the Orthodox dominion, Slavic tribes started to be drawn together into a united state.

The successful conversion of Russian people into Christianity can be explained by the fact that it was spread predominantly by peaceful means - by ministration and preaching (unlike Roman Catholics who often used fire and sword). As well as the fact that it was done in the native Slavic language, due to the work of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Following the example of Russians some national minorities living on lands adjacent to Russia started to convert into Orthodox Christianity. Thus, in the 10th through the13th centuries some Finnish tribes (Izhora and Korela), Chude, Cheremis and Votiaks, and also some non-Russian tribes living in Vologda and some other national minorities were baptized. In the beginning of the 13th century the city of Nizhni-Novgorod was erected on the banks of the Volga and Oka Rivers to become a stronghold of Orthodoxy among non-Russians living along the Volga River and in the middle regions of Russia.

In the western parts of Russia the spreading of Orthodoxy was confronted by another strong influence coming from the Roman Catholic Church. Latin missionaries from Sweden were preaching in Finland. The tribes living south of the Finnish bay were initially converted into Orthodoxy, but later Latin missionaries from Denmark inhabited the region. By the end of the 12th century a Latin Order of Knights of the Sword was established in Livonia, which opposed both the Russian influence and the successful expansion of Orthodoxy. In Lithuania the Orthodox Christian faith started to be adopted in the 12th century from the neighboring Russian settlements. In the 13th century, after Lithuanian princes conquered the Russian towns of Novogrudsk, Slonim and Brest, some of the Lithuanian people got baptized.

The expansion of Orthodoxy here was particularly promoted by the martyrdom and death of three court dignitaries of the Lithuanian prince Olgerdt (who was the son of Gedemin, the founder of the Lithuanian kingdom. These were Saints Anthony, Ivan and Eustaphius. But by the end of that century Lithuania and the western part of Russia subject to it joined the Catholic Poland. After that Roman popes did everything possible to attain 2 goals: the separation of southwest lands from the unified Russian church, and the introduction of the so-called "Lithuanian Unia" there.



Sitting in the throne of the God-protected Kiev,
thou wast like a merchant seeking goodly pearls, O Vladimir.
Thou didst search and send to the Imperial City
to know the Orthodox Faith.
Thou didst find Christ the Pearl of great price,
Who chose thee like Paul and enlightened thy blindness of flesh and spirit at the Font.
Thy people celebrate thy repose:
wherefore pray for Russia and all peoples,
that the Orthodox may be granted peace and great mercy.

Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church

2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068


Were Russian Princess Olga and the famous Prince Vladimir Christianised in Ohrid?

If we bear in mind that Princess Olga - the first Russian woman converted to Christianity in order to preserve the independence of Russia and to gain autonomy in ecclesiastical affairs - was a very shrewd diplomat, then we are in agreement with the claim of Russian scholar M.D. Priselkov (1881 -1941), who first promoted the thesis that Olga had been Christianised in Ohrid! Priselkov's conclusions were based on the fact that at the time of converting Russians into Christians, Russia had no firm and permanent ties with Byzantium and that the Christian teachings adopted by the Russians were distinctly different from those of Byzantium. Therefore, Kiev Russia took Christianity not from Byzantium but from the Archbishop of Ohrid. The Russian Church, according to Priselkov, was one of the parishes of the Ohrid Archbishopric


Priselkov also thought that the grandson of Princess Olga, prince Vladimir, had been Christianised in Ohrid and that it might have happened in 987 AD. The first wife of Prince Vladimir (her name is unknown), mother of their sons Boris and Gleb, the first Russian saints, according to Priselkov, could have been a scion of the family of Tsar Samuel, since their Christian names - Roman and David - were very common among the noblemen of Tsar Samuel's entourage

Written by: Natalija Strelychuk, M.A., Professor of Political Sciences and Sociology at the Chernovtsy University (Ukraine)

The Princess of Kiev, Olga, was one of the first legendary figures in the history of Kiev Russia. Her name is closely related with many events from the history of Slavs. While studying the life of Princess Olga, one gets tripped in the numerous versions of her personal history and quite often those versions conflict. The ancient chronicle could not agree even on the place of the Princess's place of birth. Some chroniclers believe that she is a scion of the legendary Gostomysl, other think that the she is a daughter of Oleg the Wise, yet a third group hold that she is a Bulgarian Princess from Plyskov. A fourth group of historians thinks that she was a common peasant girl, who fell in favor of Prince Igor when she gave him a boat ride over a river.

The cult of Olga as a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church has existed with the Russians for centuries. She is respected as the first Christian woman, and the history usually emphasises the fact that Princess Olga initiated the conversion of Russians to Christianity by being Christianised herself first. It is true that the Russian chronicles and hagiographies, written after the Princess's death, cannot agree on the exact year of her conversion to Christianity. Some sources cite 955 AD, others one year later in 956, and yet a third group claim that it was in 957 AD. Some sources claim that she was Christianised by the Byzantine Emperor John Tzimisces and Patriarch Basil I Scaffandrine, while according to others it was John Tzimisces and Patriarch Photius. Yet another group of chroniclers claim that she was Christianised by the Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus and Patriarch Theophilact, and yet another, fourth group of sources hold that it was Constantine Porphyrogenitus and Patriarch Polyevctus.

In his "Chronicles of Years Past," the chronicler Nestor wrote that Olga travelled to Constantinople in 957 to be Christianised and to get permission for that by the Byzantine Emperor. She was escorted by a priest named Grig-oriy, which is an evidence of the fact that the Princess was already of Christian faith. The emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, after he granted an audience to the Russian delegation, refused to help Olga to include Russia into the congregation of Christian states. Some chronicles claim that Emperor Constantine was the Princes' godfather, but there is no mention of such a fact in the description of the audience of the delegation with the Emperor. It is highly unlikely that the Byzantine chroniclers would avoid mentioning such an interesting fact. The opinions of the chroniclers and the scholars on the place of Princess Olga's conversion also differ. Some of them think that Olga was indeed Christianised in Constantinople, while others maintain that she was Christianised in Kiev. If we bear in mind that Princess Olga - the first Russian woman converted to Christianity in order to preserve the independence of Russia and to gain autonomy in ecclesiastical affairs, was a very shrewd diplomat - than we are in agreement with the position of the Russian scholar M.D. Priselkov (1881 -1941), who first promoted the thesis that Olga had been Christianised in Ohrid!

In 1914, Priselkov defended his Master's thesis "Essays on the Ecclesiastical and Political History of Kiev Russia from the 10th to 12th Centuries." Seven people were involved in the discussion - and they disputed most of the thesis presented by Priselkov's Masters thesis. The main dispute over the Thesis was on Priselkov's supposition that, until the first Russian Metropolitan Theopemt was appointed in 1037, the Russian Church had been under the jurisdiction of the authority of the Ohrid Archbishopric. The heated discussion that ensued did not, however, prevent Priselkov from getting his Masters degree, the presentation of which was followed by a standing ovation from those present.

Priselkov's conclusions were based on the fact that at the time of conversion of Russians Christianity Russia had no firm and permanent ties with Byzantium and that the Christian teachings adopted by the Russians were distinctly different from those of Byzantium. Therefore, Kiev Russia took Christianity not from Byzantium but from the Archbishop of Ohrid. The Russian Church, according to Priselkov, was one of the parishes of the Ohrid Archbishopric. He based his theories on his studies, which indicated that the beginning of conversion of the Russian state to Christianity should be moved much later, at the time when Byzantine Emperor Basil II appointed Archbishop John (1) at the head of the Ohrid Archbishopric, confirming the independence of Ohrid Church with his epistles.

It is possible that Olga, when she decided to adopt Christianity, wanted to make Christianity the official state religion, but she saw an obstacle to that goal in the Byzantine ecclesiastic-political concept according to which a nation, by accepting Christianity from the Greeks, became a vassal of the Greek emperor, politically dependent people and politically dependent state. Being a wise diplomat, Princess Olga did not wish an unequal status in her relations with Byzantium. Having in mind that in that period Ohrid Archbishopric concentrated in itself the spiritual life of the Slav people, had high authority in the Christian affairs and demonstrated great influence on the spiritual life of the neighboring Slav people, it is quite understandable why Olga chose to seek help from Ohrid.

One possible explanation for the different data in the Princess' biographies can be found in the fact that she was the first Christian in the Prince's court and her canonisation was also an issue of prestige, so that her biographers, regardless of the fact that her Christianisation was meticulously and in detail noted by the Russian Orthodox Church, did not always rely on facts, and based their biographies not on eyewitness records, but on old Russian songs and folk legends.

It is well known that Olga's son, Prince Svyatoslav (2) remained poly-theist. His conquests in Bulgaria, undoubtedly, enabled the spreading of Christianity among the Russians, because of the fact that there were many women among the prisoners who managed to keep their religion and gave that religion to their conquerors. The Russian chronicles attributed all the merit for the triumph of the Christianity over the pagans to Olga's grandson, Prince Vladimir. After her death, Princess Olga was canonised. Today, Olga is respected in Ukraine not only for being the first Christian woman, but also as a wise and diplomatically skillful ruler. Ukraine has established a state award, the Medal of Princess Olga, which is awarded to Ukrainian women serving the Ukrainian people with distinction.

The christening of Kiev Russia, chronologically, parallels the existence of the Empire of Tsar Samuel. Samuel's Church, the Ohrid Archbishopric, which raised its status to that of Patriarchy during his reign, maintained strong relations with many Slav peoples, a fact that is undisputed. (3) Some scholars (and M.D. Priselkov in particular) thought that the Ohrid Archbishopric maintained its jurisdiction over the Russian Church even after Macedonia fell under Byzantium's rule during the reign of Basil II. Priselkov thought that the grandson of Princess Olga, Prince Vladimir, was also Christianised in Ohrid and that it may have happened in 987 AD. Vladimir's first wife (her name was not preserved), the mother of his sons Boris and Gleb, the first Russian saints, according to Priselkov could have been a member of the family of Tsar Samuel because of the fact that their Christian names, Roman and David, were very common among Samuel's courtiers. Another possibility is that the relations between Kiev and Ohrid cooled off after Prince Vladimir married Ana, the sister of the Byzantine emperor, after he was widowed by the death of his first wife.

Tsar Samuel died in 1014.(4) A fight for his throne between his heirs ensued and after four years, in 1018, Byzantium conquered the greater part of Macedonia and Bulgaria. The Ohrid Patriarchy, which was raised to that status by Tsar Samuel, was again demoted to the status of archbishopric. Since then, the Archbishopric was under the direct supremacy of the basileus, who reserved his right to appoint its archbishops.

When the Ottoman Turks conquered Macedonia, the Ohrid Archbishopric actually became an autonomous church under the auspices of the Constantinople Patriarchy. Its diocese primarily included whole Macedonia, southern Albania, south-west parts of Bulgaria and southern Serbia. Ohrid, as before, remained one of the respected centres of Orthodoxy. Another interesting fact is that when Yuri Korijatovich established the Orthodox Metropolitan of Moldavia (that also included a part of Bukovina), he put it under the control of Ohrid, which maintained its importance as a centre of Episcopalian Orthodoxy.

In the period of Rome's and Constantinople's struggle for spiritual supremacy in Europe, the Ohrid Archbishopric maintained its high authority in the Christian world and, for a period of time, remained a centre of the spiritual life of the Slavs and reached beyond the Balkan Peninsula. Russian princes respected Ohrid's independence in the ecclesiastic affairs and paid their respect to the priests of the Ohrid Archbishopric.

Regardless of the political changes, in the 9th Century, a cult of the Slavonic educators Ss. Cyril and Methodius was established in all Slav countries, and books copied in Ohrid were spread around. The Ohrid Archbishopric, thanks to its activities, became a symbol of the spiritual unity of the Slav people. Today, when the Orthodoxy of the Slavs is not in the best of shapes, maybe it is time for Macedonia, the fatherland of the Slav apostles, Ss. Cyril and Methodius, to begin the spiritual renaissance of the Slav nations.

Editorial comments:

1. It is important to note that Basil II, after he destroyed Samuel's empire, left Samuel's church autocephalous. He freed the Ohrid Archbishopric from Bulgarian rule. Neil Docospatria, according to Croatian Historian Stjepan Antoljak, wrote in 1142 on the issue of the five Eastern Episcopal sees, that the Bulgarian church, as well as the church of Kupar, was autocephalous and was never ruled by any of the Patriarchs. It was autonomous and headed by its own archbishops. He would also add that: "This church, in its ancient history, was not Bulgarian until much later, when it was taken over by the Bulgarians and called Bulgarian. Dr. Branko Panov concluded: "The essence of the autocephaly of the Ohrid Archbishopric was in the fact that the Ohrid Archbishop had the right to rule the eparchies in his diocese (in Samuel's time their number was 32, later it was reduced to 25, with a constant tendency to decreasing, - editorial note). It means that the Ohrid Archbishop was autonomous in terms of its rule over the churches that were in its domain, but not in its relation with the Byzantine state and ecclesiastical authorities" (according to "Today and in the Past - Macedonia" by Jovan Pavlovski and Mishel Pavlovski, "MI-AN" Publishing, Skopje, 2000, pp. 103-104).

2. Immediately after the death of the Bulgarian emperor Petar, in the end of January 969, the four sons of the komitopulos Nikola - David, Mojsej, Aaron and Samuel - rose to an armed rebellion against the Bulgarian rule in Macedonia. They used the invasion of Bulgaria of the Russian Prince Svyatoslav and the Constantinople's preoccupation with the Russian penetration from the North, and started an uprising. The young komiti, whose territory was far away from the Russian - Byzantine conflict, blinded soldiers before Tzar Samoil remained neutral in spite of the efforts on both sides to win their support. The Byzantine emperor John I Tzimisces, in the summer of 971, dealt the decisive defeat of Svyatoslav's army on the Danube, and after that victory he annexed the Bulgarian state to Byzantium (again quoted from the history "Today and in the Past - Macedonia, "p. 88).



From The Macedonian Times of July 2000

Sacred Sign of Perun

Slavic Gods Glossary - Old Slavic Gods Reference

Short History of Russia from Perun to Vladimir the Red Sun
From its darkest roots to the Christian takeover

ADVENTURE TRAVEL to Russia. Flights to Kazan, Samara, Novgorod


Is Ruegen Island same as Buyan Island? Slavic Gods Temple

Prince Vladimir the Red Sun Accepts Jesus as his Saviour

Slavic Gods - Dazhdbog

Slavic Gods - Slavic Domovoi Spirit of Home

The Founding of the City of Kiev

Religion of Russia Before Christianity. Major Concepts of Slavic Religion

Prince Igor Goes to War

Prince Oleg Attacks the Greeks

Prince Yaroslav Wrestles a Bear and Wins Respect of Finn Tribesmen

Viking Rurik Invades Russia. Norman Rule in Russia

Who Were Those Vikings, Anyway?