Vladimir I of Kiev
name=Saint Vladimir of Kiev
caption=Golden coin of Vladimir, with his portrait and personal emblem
titles=Grand Prince of Kiev
attributes=crown, cross, throne
Saint Vladimir Svyatoslavich the Great (
Old Russian: "Володимеръ Святославичь", c. 958 – 15 July 1015, Berestovo) was the grand prince of Kievwho converted to Christianityin 988 [ [http://www.covenantseminary.edu/worldwide/en/CH310/CH310_T_20.html Covenant Worldwide - Ancient & Medieval Church History ] ] , and proceeded to baptise the whole Kievan Rus. His name may be spelled in different ways: in Old East Slavicand modern Ukrainian as "Volodimir" ("Володимир"), in Old Church Slavonicand modern Russian as "Vladimir" ("Владимир"), in Old Norse as "Valdamarr" and the modern Scandinavian languagesas "Valdemar".
Way to the throne
Vladimir was the youngest son of
Sviatoslav I of Kievby his housekeeper Malusha, described in the Norse sagas as a prophetess who lived to the age of 100 and was brought from her cave to the palace to predict the future. Malusha's brother Dobrynyawas Vladimir's tutor and most trusted advisor. Hagiographic tradition of dubious authenticity also connects his childhood with the name of his grandmother, Olga Prekrasa, who was Christian and governed the capital during Sviatoslav's frequent military campaigns.
Transferring his capital to
Preslavetsin 969, Sviatoslav designated Vladimir ruler of Novgorod the Greatbut gave Kiev to his legitimate son Yaropolk. After Sviatoslav's death (972), a fratricidal war erupted (976) between Yaropolk and his younger brother Oleg, ruler of the Drevlians. In 977 Vladimir fled to his kinsmen Haakon Sigurdsson, ruler of Norwayin Scandinavia, collecting as many of the Vikingwarriors as he could to assist him to recover Novgorod, and on his return the next year marched against Yaropolk.
On his way to Kiev he sent ambassadors to
Rogvolod(Norse: Ragnvald), prince of Polotsk, to sue for the hand of his daughter Rogneda (Norse: Ragnhild). The well-born princess refused to affiance herself to the son of a bondswoman, but Vladimir attacked Polotsk, slew Rogvolod, and took Ragnhild by force. Actually, Polotsk was a key fortress on the way to Kiev, and the capture of Polotsk and Smolenskfacilitated the taking of Kiev (980), where he slew Yaropolk by treachery, and was proclaimed konung, or khagan, of all Kievan Rus.
Years of pagan rule
In addition to his father's extensive domain, Vladimir continued to expand his territories. In 981 he conquered the Cherven cities, the modern Galicia; in 983 he subdued the
Yatvingians, whose territories lay between Lithuaniaand Poland; in 985 he led a fleet along the central rivers of Russia to conquer the Bulgars of the Kama, planting numerous fortresses and colonies on his way.
Christianityhad won many converts since Olga's rule, Vladimir had remained a thorough going pagan, taking eight hundred concubines (besides numerous wives) and erecting pagan statues and shrines to gods. It is argued that he attempted to reform Slavic paganismby establishing thunder-god Perunas a supreme deity.
Baptism of Rus
Primary Chroniclereports that in the year 987, as the result of a consultation with his boyars, Vladimir sent envoys to study the religions of the various neighboring nations whose representatives had been urging him to embrace their respective faiths. The result is amusingly described by the chronicler Nestor. Of the MuslimBulgarians of the Volga the envoys reported there is no gladness among them; only sorrow and a great stench, and that their religion was undesirable due to its tabooagainst alcoholic beverages and
In 988, having taken the town of
Chersonesosin Crimea, he boldly negotiated for the hand of the emperor Basil II's sister, Anna. Never had a Greek imperial princess, and one "born-in-the-purple" at that, married a barbarian before, as matrimonial offers of French kings and German emperors had been peremptorily rejected. In short, to marry the 27-year-old princess off to a pagan Slav seemed impossible. Vladimir, however, was baptized at Cherson, taking the Christian name of Basil out of compliment to his imperial brother-in-law; the sacrament was followed by his wedding with Anna. Returning to Kiev in triumph, he destroyed pagan monuments and established many churches, starting with the splendid Church of the Tithes(989) and monasteries on Mt. Athos. Arabsources, both Muslim and Christian, present a different story of Vladimir's conversion. Yahya of Antioch, al-Rudhrawari, al-Makin, al-Dimashki, and ibn al-Athir[Ibn al-Athir dates these events to 985 or 986] all give essentially the same account. In 987, Bardas Sclerusand Bardas Phocasrevolted against the Byzantine emperor Basil II. Both rebels briefly joined forces, but then Bardas Phocas proclaimed himself emperor on September 14, 987. Basil II turned to the Kievan Rus' for assistance, even though they were considered enemies at that time. Vladimir agreed, in exchange for a marital tie; he also agreed to accept Orthodox Christianity as his religion and bring his people to the new faith. When the wedding arrangements were settled, Vladimir dispatched 6,000 troops to the Byzantine Empire and they helped to put down the revolt."Rus". " Encyclopaedia of Islam"]
He then formed a great council out of his boyars, and set his twelve sons over his subject principalities.
It is mentioned in the
Primary Chroniclethat Volodymir founded the city of Bilgorod in 991.
In 992 he went on a campaign against the Croats, most likely
White Croatsthat lived on the border of modern Ukraineand Czech Republic. This campaign was cut short by the attacks of the Pechenegson and around Kiev.
In his later years he lived in a relative peace with his other neighbours neighbors:
Boleslav I of Poland, Stephen I of Hungary, Andrikh the Czech (questionable character mentioned in A Tale of the Bygone Years).
After Anna's death, he married again, most likely to a granddaughter of
Otto the Great.
In 1014 his son Yaroslav the Wise stoppped paying tribute. Volodymir decided to chastise the insolence of his son, and began gathering troops against Yaroslav. However, Volodymir fell ill, most likely of old age and died at Berestovo, near Kiev.
The various parts of his dismembered body were distributed among his numerous sacred foundations and were venerated as
Volodymir's significance and historical footprint
One of the largest Kievan cathedrals is dedicated to him. The
University of Kievwas named after the man who both civilized and Christianized Kievan Rus. There is the Russian Order of St. Vladimirand Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminaryin the United States. The Roman Catholicand Eastern Orthodoxchurches celebrate the feast day of St. Vladimir on 15 July.
His memory was also kept alive by innumerable Russian folk ballads and legends, which refer to him as "Krasno Solnyshko", that is, the "Fair Sun". With him the
Varangianperiod of Eastern Slavic history ceases and the Christian period begins.
Family life and children of Vladimir I
* Golden, P.B. (2006) "Rus." "
Encyclopaedia of Islam" (Brill Online). Eds.: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill.
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