Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 10 стр.



question of religious and political subjection to Constantinople, the two going hand in
hand. The only possibility of retaining political independence was through the
patriarch's consent that the new converts might have their own autonomous church
under an archbishop or a metropolitan bishop. The consent was never lightly given
and had to be wrung from the patriarch in each case.
However, missionaries from Constantinople baptized Olga in Kiev in 955. She
probably accepted Christianity as a matter of state policy. She may have hoped that
more cordial economic and political relations with the Eastern Empire would grow
out of her baptism. The nation, however, did not follow her, nor did her son
Sviatoslav, in spite of her earnest attempt to persuade him.
Olga stepped aside and in 962 Sviatoslav took over as grand prince of Kiev.
Sviatoslav was more interested in war and conquest than religion. He left Kiev with
the intent of establishing a new capital in Bulgaria. Russia was now ruled by three of
his sons who soon began to fight among themselves. They gradually killed each other
off. One of the sons, Vladimir survived.
Vladimir on the Throne: Paganism vs Christianity
Vladimir spent the first decade of his reign in constant war. He won the title of
Grand Prince of Kiev in the role of champion of paganism against the rising tide of
Christianity that had been washing over the area from Constantinople, from Moravia
and Central Europe, and from the Byzantine outpost on the Sea of Azov with its
bishopric at Tmutorokan. Missionaries from the West and south had been at work in
Kiev in the time of Askold and Dir. Some of Igor's druzhina or bodyguard had been
baptized and Olga had accepted the new faith.
Many Russian merchants, Varangian and Slav, who constituted the dominant
class in a commercial state, had become Christian. And there were a few of Kiev's
neighbors who had not forsaken their pagan gods. The Khazars were Jewish and the
Volga Bulgars were Moslems. Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria had become Christian.
even the Varangians in their Scandinavian homeland were welcoming Christianity.
The kings of Norway and Denmark accepted baptism shortly after Vladimir assumed
power in Kiev. The pressures upon Vladimir, then, were strong and mounting to
adopt a new faith and the new civilization that went with it.
After Vladimir's accession there had been a brief, violent reaction in favor of
continuing pagan worship in Kiev. On the hills of the city the new grand prince set up
idols to the pagan gods of the Slavs and offered human sacrifices of Christian martyrs
to them - to Pereni, god of thunder and lighting; to Veles, protector of flocks and
herds; to Svarog, the god of the heavens; and to his children, Dazhbog, giver of
warmth and fertility, Stribog, who controlled the atmosphere and brought wind and
rain, and Khors, the god of sunlight. Contemptuous of the virtues proclaimed by the
Christian missionaries, Vladimir took seven wives, one of them the beautiful widow
of his murdered brother Yaropolk, and in addition, says the chronicler, kept hundreds
of concubines. Like man
y Russian rulers, Vladimir had a gargantuan sexual appetite.