1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vladimir, St
VLADIMIR, ST (c. 956-1015), grand duke of Kiev and of all Russia, was the youngest son of Svyatoslav I. and his mistress Malushka. In 970 he received Great Novgorod as his apanage. On the death of Svyatoslav in 972, a long civil war took place between his sons Yaropolk and Oleg, in which Vladimir was involved. From 977 to 984 he was in Scandinavia, collecting as many of the viking warriors as he could to assist him to recover Novgorod, and on his return marched against Yaropolk. On his way to Kiev he sent ambassadors to Ragvald, prince of Polotsk, to sue for the hand of his daughter Ragnilda. The haughty princess refused to affiance herself to “the son of a bonds woman,” but Vladimir attacked Polotsk, slew Ragvald, and took Ragnilda by force. Subsequently (980) he captured Kiev also, slew Yaropolk by treachery, and was proclaimed prince of all Russia. In 981 he conquered the Chervensk cities, the modern Galicia; in 983 he subdued the heathen Yatvyags, whose territories lay between Lithuania and Poland; in 985 he led a fleet along the central rivers of Russia to conquer the Bulgarians of the Kama, planting numerous fortresses and colonies on his way. At this time Vladimir was a thoroughgoing pagan. He increased the number of the trebishcha, or heathen temples; offered up Christians (Theodore and Ivan, the protomartyrs of the Russian Church) on his altars; had eight hundred concubines, besides numerous wives; and spent his whole leisure in feasting and hunting. He also formed a great council out of his boyars, and set his twelve sons over his subject principalities. In the year 987, as the result of a consultation with his boyars, Vladimir sent envoys to study the religions of the various neighbouring nations whose representatives had been urging him to embrace their respective faiths. The result is amusingly described by the chronicler Nestor. Of the Mussulman Bulgarians of the Volga the envoys reported “there is no gladness among them; only sorrow and a great stench; their religion is not a good one.” In the temples of the Germans they saw “no beauty”; but at Constantinople, where the full festival ritual of the Orthodox Church was set in motion to impress them, they found their ideal. “We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth, nor such beauty, and we know not how to tell of it.” If Vladimir was impressed by this account of his envoys, he was yet more so by the offer of the emperor Basil II. to give him his sister Anna in marriage. In 988 he was baptized at Kherson in the Crimea, taking the Christian name of Basil out of compliment to his imperial brother-in-law; the sacrament was followed by his marriage with the Roman princess. Returning to Kiev in triumph, he converted his people to the new faith with no apparent difficulty. Crypto-Christians had been numerous in Kiev for some time before the public recognition of the Orthodox faith. The remainder of the reign of Vladimir was devoted to good works. He founded numerous churches, including the splendid Desyatinnuy Sobor or “Cathedral of the Tithes” (989), established schools, protected the poor and introduced ecclesiastical courts. With his neighbours he lived at peace, the incursions of the savage Petchenegs alone disturbing his tranquillity. His nephew Svyatpolk, son of his brother and victim Yaropolk, he married to the daughter of Boleslaus of Poland. He died at Berestova, near Kiev, while on his way to chastise the insolence of his son, Prince Yaroslav of Novgorod. The various parts of his dismembered body were distributed among his numerous sacred foundations and were venerated as relics. The university of Kiev has rightly been named after the man who both civilized and Christianized ancient Russia. His memory was also kept alive by innumerable folk ballads and legends. With him the Varangian period of Russian history ceases and the Christian period begins.