Russian history 11: Legend of Vladimir's baptising

About 100 years after the baptising of Russia, a chronicler wrote:

In 968, Bulgarians from Volga were the first to come to Vladimir and they praised their Magometan religion. Then came Germans from the Roman Pope, then came Khazarian Jews and, at last, a Greek philosopher with the Orthodox teaching. Vladimir met them all and sent them all away, except for the Greek. He spoke with the Greek for a long time, gave him rich gifts, but did not convert into Christianity. In the next year (987), Vladimir told this story to his advisors and added that the Greek Orthodoxy was the most interesting. The advisors told knyaz to send ambassadors to other countries so that they would see how other peoples served their gods. The ambassadors visited East and West, but when they came to Constantinople, they were astonished by the beauty of the Greek churches. They said to Vladimir that they don't want to stay pagans, but they want to convert to Orthodoxy. When Vladimir asked his advisors: "Where shall we get baptised?" they replied: "Wherever you say." So, in the next year (988) Vladimir sieged the town Korsun (Chersonesos). He swore that he will convert to Christianity if he seizes the town and he seized it. He sent messengers to Constantinople to emperors Basil and Constantine, threatening to attack Constantinople and demanding their sister Anna to become his wife. The emperors replied that their sister will not marry a pagan and Vladimir agreed to convert. Before the baptism, Vladimir suddenly went blind, but his vision returned during the baptism. He signed peace with the Greeks, returned to Russia and baptised the country.

The legend is based on the real Chersonesos campaign of Vladimir. The Byzantium was at that time threatened by the revolt of Bardas Phokas and the emperors were seeking help from Vladimir. According to the terms of the peace treaty, Vladimir agreed to assist Byzantium against the rebels and obliged to adopt Christianity and princess Anna was to marry him. Due to the Russian interference, Bardas Phokas was killed (988), but the Byzantians failed to fulfil their promises and then Vladimir sieged and seized Chersonesos, the main Greek city in Crimea. He was baptised and in 989 he married princess Anna. It is not clear where and when (988 or 989) he was baptised.

Having returned from Chersonesos, Vladimir began to convert the whole country into Christianity. He baptised Kievans on the banks of Dnieper and its tribute Pochaina. The idols were thrown into the river and churches were built on these places. In other towns, his deputies did the same. In most places, Christianity was adopted peacefully, but, for example, in Novgorod, it was done by force. In other areas, paganism survived for centuries and the old beliefs mixed with the new ones.

No comments: