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 Vladimir the Great 


Born:   Around 958
Deceased:   15 July 1015

Grand Prince of Kievan Rus, under whom Russia was converted to Christianity

      

Vladimir, the younger son of Prince Svyatoslav and his bondwoman, became his successor. In order to get hold of the Kiev throne, Vladimir had to struggle with his stepbrothers. Originally it was his brother Yaropolk, who was sitting in Kiev and had all the advantages, unlike Vladimir, who was sent to the faraway Novgorod while his father was still alive. At first Yaropolk managed to eliminate his brother Oleg, and then to force Vladimir out of Novgorod. Vladimir escaped overseas and two years later, having gathered a Varangian squad, seized Novgorod back. Unscrupulous Vladimir won over to his side boyars from Yaropolk's surroundings. Following their advice, Yaropolk agreed to negotiations with his brother. However, once he entered his brother’s marquee for negotiations, he was stabbed to death by murderers waiting for him.

The race for power finished in 980 with the enthronement of Vladimir Svyatoslavich in Kiev. The first intestine war in the history of the Old Russian State testified to its fragility. However after the end of opposition Kievan Rus' regained unity.

Vladimir is one of the most controversial figures in Russian history. In his real activities Vladimir was very far from that idealized image created in Old Russian literature. Nevertheless, he dared certain state-scale deeds, which required outstanding courage and political will. Contrary to his father Prince Svyatoslav, who only strived to conquer new lands, Vladimir acted as the manager and the reformer. Out of all his activities the main thing was the Christianization of Old Rus’.

Certainly, one should not simplify it all and think that adoption of Christianity at once wonderfully changed the savage nature of Vladimir. Adopting Orthodoxy was obviously motivated by political reasons rather than a spiritual quest. Nevertheless, the decision to resort to Christianity had an enormous effect on the further history of Russia. So it is not by chance that the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Prince Vladimir.

In the last years of his life Vladimir was probably going to change the succession principle and to bequeath the power to his beloved son Boris. In any case, it was Boris whom he entrusted his squad. His two senior sons — Svyatopolk of Turov and Yaroslav of Novgorod — almost simultaneously rose in arms against their father in 1014. Having imprisoned his elder son Svyatopolk, Vladimir was getting ready to fight against Yaroslav, when suddenly got ill and died in the country residence Berestov on 15 July 1015.

Vladimir was buried in Desyatinny Church in Kiev; marble sarcophagi of Vladimir and his wife stood in the middle of the church. The Desyatinny Church was destroyed by Mongols in 1240.


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