Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 11 стр.



Choosing the Religion
After the brief orgy of paganism and sexual feasting that opened the new reign,
Vladimir went off on military campaigns. Everywhere he went, to the west or to the
east, the grand prince came up against the fact that only Kiev was behind the times in
still clinging to her old gods. During the negotiations to end his indecisive war with
the Volga Bulgars his recent antagonists urged him to accept Islam. Returning from
that campaign, Vladimir decided to examine the various religions that surrounded
pagan Kiev.
Elders of the capital and members of the prince's bodyguard came together to
discuss the merits of the various faiths, and it is not unlikely that missionaries from
east, west and south attended the meetings. Those who spoke for affiliation with
Constantinople could make the best case. They could remind the prince that his
grandmother Olga had chosen the faith that emanated form the eastern capital, and
they could plead the advantages that must come from associating with the greatest
city of the Western world, the city upon whose markets Kievan prosperity in large
measure depended.
While the question of accepting one of the new religions was under discussion,
envoys came to Kiev from the emperor in Constantinople to beg Vladimir's help in
putting down a revolt in Asia Minor that threatened the capital. The envoys proposed
as an inducement, the offer that Vladimir might marry the emperor's sister, a signal
honor form the head of so powerful a state. Vladimir, in turn, must accept
Christianity before the marriage could take place. The prospect must have flattered
him. But behind all the pressures of the moment, Vladimir must fully have realized
that Russia's religious isolation had to end sooner or later, and he must have
understood as well that the logic of Russia's geographical, economic, and political
situation was overwhelmingly on the side of accepting the faith of Constantinople in
preference to any other. In the fall of 987 Vladimir sent his ambassadors to
Constantinople to sample the Orthodox Christian faith. On September 8 a splendid
service was celebrated for them in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, and they were in
ecstasies of rapture. They thought they were in heaven, and that during the service the
angels of God (who were in fact mosaics seen behind fluttering candles) had come
down and floated about their heads.
The Byzantine clergy gravely assured them that such was undoubtedly the
case. They returned to Vladimir full of praise for the imperial religion. Early in 988
Vladimir was baptized, his army came to the aid of the emperor and the emperor's
twenty-five year old sister Anna became Vladimir's wife. The young imperial
princess was quite reluctant to surrender herself into the hairy arms of the barbarian
from the north. "You send me into slavery," she told the emperor, "I would rather die
here." But, nevertheless, she became a humble instrument in the Christianization of
Russia. But her first experiences of the land of midnight were undoubtedly
discouraging. She fell desperately ill, and it took a miracle to save her.