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St. Vladimir the Great, Prince of Kiev; his grandmother, St. Olga, Equals of the Apostles; and the Baptism of Rus'

Ukrainian WOLODYMYR and OLHA
X/XI Centuries
Members of the pagan Norse ruling family of Kievan Rus', their choice of Orthodox Christianity over various other religious options proved arguably the most important event in the history of Northern Eurasia.

One of the first Russian Christians and possibly the first Russian saint, Olga was born c. 879 and was married to Grand Duke Igor of Kiev c. 903. When he was assassinated in 945, Olga became regent for their son, Svyatoslav, a post she relinquinshed when he came of age in 964. She was an effective administrator and leader. She avenged the death of her husband: she had his murderers scalded and their followers killed. She was baptized, probably in Constantinople, c. 957 and tried to persuade her son to convert and to Christianize Russia. Many believe that she had embraced the teachings of Christianity before her baptism. When she died in 969, Russia was still a largely pagan country. Her grandson, Vladimir, fullfilled her dream of converting the Russian nation.

Born c. 956/957, St. Vladimir was the son of Svyatoslav of Kiev and a concubine. Vladimir was raised a pagan and became prince of Novgorod in 970. When his father died two years later, he travelled to Scandinavia to seek the aid of an uncle in fighting his brother Yaropolk, who had become Grand Duke of Kiev and wanted to rule Novgorod as well. After Yaropolk's defeat and death, Vladimir ruled both city-states. He fought against raiding Lithuanians and encroaching Bulgars; he also kept the Greeks from taking the Crimea. In 980, he consolidated the Russian state from Ukraine to the Baltic. He hoped to foster the union of conquered city-states through the adoption of a single religion. He is said to have sent envoys to centers of each major religion and to have chosen Christianity because his ambassadors to Byzantium could not tell if they were on earth or in heaven during the liturgy. Scholars believe that a need for military aid prompted negotiations with Emperor Basil, which ended in an agreement that the Byzantine leader would provide military assistance in exchange for Vladimir's conversion and marriage to Anna, Basil's sister. Vladimir ordered the conversion of the Russian people and began to establish Christian churches, as he had once founded pagan temples. He outlawed capital punishment and gave more alms. After Anna's death in 1011, Vladimir married a German princess related to the emperor Otto I, from whom his grandmother had requested missionaries when she hoped to Christianize Russia. Vladimir died in 1015 while fighting the son of one of his ex-wives.

Vladimir was also the father of Sts. Boris and Gleb.

Karen Rae Keck

Russia; Ukraine;

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