Whom actually was a founder of Kievan Rus’ prince Vladimir

Disputes on the one whom was a prince Vladimir are conducted for a long time. The historical sources narrating about its fulfillments of an obryvochna and often contradict each other. Tried to give more complete picture of this personality during the discussion organized by Egor Gaidar’s Fund together with Free historical society the candidate of historical sciences Irina Karatsuba and the doctor of historical sciences, professor of department of history of MSU Dmitry Volodikhin.

History of myths


My view of destiny and Vladimir Svyaty’s contribution to the Russian history is a look of the historian traditionalist. I consider that at the first stage of the activities it was a successful conqueror, the person who in the activities submitted to pagan morality. As for the baptism fact, it was and strategically, both is culturally justified and brought the next world which filled the Russian history and culture subsequently. It was the great benefit.

Besides, Vladimir Svyatoy after the baptism became really a sample of the Christian governor, moreover — the person who became the first this governor of Russia. He made what was done by neither Rurik, nor Oleg, nor Igor, nor Svyatoslav: stopped being the Viking and began to create system of defense of the country against external threats, first of all — from predatory steppe elements. This strategy was repaid throughout many centuries subsequently. Vladimir Svyatoy — one of the best governors for all history of the Russian land.

Whatever spoke about it through one thousand years, then the prince made what was important and it is necessary for Russia. Whether we remember it now whether we remember, we smear with something black or razzolachivay — for its destiny it is absolutely unimportant. It already took place as the governor, the baptist, the commander.


All, probably, remember the memorable project “Name of Russia 2008”. Then the figure of the prince of Vladimir didn’t enter even in top-50 names which for Russians were significant, difference, say, from his son Yaroslav the Wise, Dmitry Donskoy and Alexander Nevsky.

Dmitry somehow used very good image: told that the past should be perceived as a mosaic from smalt. Let’s assume, it consists of hundred pieces, and 95 we take out. We had five pieces, and on them we try to recover a mosaic.

The sources which are available at our disposal on the basis of which we can create not myths and something real, are generally “The story of temporary years” which was written in Kiev at the beginning of the 12th century, and the prince Vladimir is the last third of X — the beginning of the 11th century. Yes, she relied on some annalistic codes of the end of the 11th century which didn’t reach us. It is clear, what here lagging in sources: they describe what was 100-150 years ago, and do it practically in unwritten conditions. Yes, there are western sources — Byzantine, Latin, Arab, Armenian and so on which contradict each other, are dark, poor and need interpretation.

I. Eggink. The grand duke Vladimir chooses religion

V. M. Vasnetsov. Vladimir’s Epiphany

Generally, with a source study everything is bad therefore the imagination of historians, writers, publicists and other political strategists clears up. Of course, it is impossible to deny value of a figure of Vladimir in the Christianization of Kievan Rus’. But here before us there is very big problem — consequences of acceptance of Christianity by Russia in its Byzantine option. Besides I am not sure at all that — the beginnings of the 11th century it is possible to apply the term to this formation of the end of X “state”. So, speaking about the prince Vladimir, we enter the field of history of myths.

The legend about the choice of belief by Vladimir which gives us “The story of temporary years” is the beautiful legend which is rather concerning confessional encirclement of Russia, but not what really happened. Ancient Russia was predetermined by degree of the trade, military, diplomatic proximity to Byzantium to acceptance of Christianity in its east option. Though Olga had attempts of communication with Latin lands, not really clear for us, both, and at Yaropolk. But, as Karamzin spoke, “what could be, but to become not возмогло”. I think that neither we, nor Ukraine are heirs of Kievan Rus’. It was perfect other education. In respect of culture — maybe. That “light” about which Dmitry spoke. But the problem is in that, as there was a lot of darkness.


If to speak about that, remembered it earlier or not, then it is possible to come to the Kitay-gorod metro stations, to go to Starosadsky Lane, and just opposite to the Ioannovsky monastery there will be a church of Sacred Vladimir. It was constructed not in 2014, and in the 17th century, and its canonization happened early enough — probably, in the 13th century. It was included not only into chronicles, but also into a huge number of other monuments, and historians of the 19th century remembered it.

Really, Vladimir Svyaty’s heritage doesn’t belong to Russia, Ukraine or Belarus, it belongs to all three East Slavic people equally because Ancient Russia of times of the prince Vladimir was located also in the territory of modern Russia, and in the territory of modern Belarus, and in the territory of modern Ukraine. All these three countries in the religion now mainly Orthodox Christians.
Two Vladimir

Vladimir canonized later, not during lifetime. Much changes in his personality seem psychologically doubtful. But if to watch chronology of actions of Vladimir Svyaty, these changes seem rather thought over, experienced. He reflected on what belief is necessary how to change mind and to depart from paganism. Questioned people who visited other countries and got acquainted with an essence of other beliefs. There was also a bidding with Constantinople, rather prosaic in the political relation.

Campaign of Vladimir to Korsun. A miniature from the Radzivillovsky chronicle

Already baptized Vladimir attacks Korsun, the Christian city. After that he resolves very heavy issue of parting with the previous wives. It occurred not in a day, not in a week, not in a month. Whether it is possible to change for half a year, year? I think so.

As for the reasons of the choice of orientation to the Constantinople empire, in it there were enough benefits. But let’s remember that the Christianity in Russia was also to Vladimir Svyaty. In Kiev there was already an Ilyinsky church, the grandma of the prince was baptized, and she raised children. In the city there were enough Christians. Combatants were Christians, and this Christianity was east because the first Small baptism has taken place not in the 10th century, and in hundred years before. Of course, it was organic, natural — to make what already all history (both family, and state) has prepared for.


It is represented to me the myth: it is unlikely he was brought up by the grandma because boys at Old Russian princes, as a rule, were brought up by specially allocated men. Svyatoslav with a team laughed at Olga’s Christianity. Perhaps, it so, or perhaps is also not present, but it is impossible to speak about it with such confidence as if all and was.


You speak with confidence that Svyatoslav laughed at this belief. Let’s look from where your confidence and my confidence proceeds. We appeal to the same episode — 962, a siege Pechenegs of Kiev. Svyatoslav isn’t in Kiev, and long ago. Instead of him Olga because chronicles call her the ruler replacing Svyatoslav governs. At her grandsons. She actually reflects invasion of Pechenegs together with voivodes left to be at war the son. After this episode when Svyatoslav after all comes back, Olga asks it to be christened, he laughs and refuses, but at the same time remains to his life on kopek, and this life will leave irrevocably in far-away countries. And Olga remains in Kiev, and grandsons at her. Therefore their childhood and youth passed with her, but not with Svyatoslav.

M. Nesterov. Saint Olga. The sketch of a list of a cathedral of Sacred Vladimir in Kiev

Semi-legendary prince


The prince Vladimir — a historical figure. Of course, there are figures absolutely legendary, such as Rurik. All of us know about Vladimir more. But everything that we speak about it, shall be followed by inconceivable quantity of clauses. We don’t know date and the place of its birth. We don’t know where and when it was christened. Yes, most likely, it is valid near Kiev, but who knows actually? We can guess about motives of acceptance of Christianity by it, about sensibleness degree, about whether it was caused by the spiritual reasons or net political environment when the friable conglomerate of Slavic, Finno-Ugric and other tribes under the auspices of Kiev just collapsed, and stronger belt, than a pantheon of six or seven pagan gods which Vladimir erected in case of the first religious reform was necessary.

And why if he is such blessed Christian, the prince remained in the history and Vasily was canonized with a pagan name, but not with a Christian name? Yes, with his grandma it turned out also, she was Elena after the baptism, and it is somehow strange too. When he was canonized, we don’t know too. Yes, can be at the end of the 13th century, or perhaps later. Yes, he adopted Christianity, christened a small amount of Kiev residents, and then Dobrynya christened Novgorodians with the known consequences. A basis of spiritual life of Russia this religion becomes only by a century of XIV.

Here we here about light spoke — correctly, there was light, but there was and much all the rest. There were such sayings as “Who in Latin learned, that in heresy evaded”, “Don’t honor many books and not vpadesh in heresy”. We love and we esteem Saints Kirill and Mefodiy, but as a result of the translation of the Gospel and services on Slavic language we were fenced off from the Western world. Seven Ecumenical councils — it is good, but no scholasticism with divinity turned out, the sharp dispute, development of a theological thought up to the 19th century didn’t turn out. A lot of things didn’t turn out. And the prince Vladimir stands at the origins of all this. But it, naturally, was, is and will be in any school textbook, in any university rate.

V. Perov. The first Christians in Kiev

At sources

I don’t connect all our further story with the prince Vladimir. I just consider that value of this personality, in own way remarkable, is strongly exaggerated. The state has plunged into the abyss of wild bloody slaughter after his death, and he has prepared it actually own hands. The Christianity accepted at it wasn’t similar to present. But somewhere away, in mythological darkness, he stands at the origins of the state.


I consider that Vladimir stood at the origins of the Russian civilization, and here I will be supported by the famous historian, the author of the book “Vladimir Svyatoy”, the doctor of historical sciences Sergey Alekseev. The name of the prince loudly sounded not only in the 11th century, but also in the next centuries. It would be desirable to remind that when at metropolitans Makari and Afanasy “The sedate book” was created, Vladimir Svyatoy has taken in her the central place — the place of counting of everything that occurred further.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x