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The Adoption of Christianity in Russia

The first knowledge about the penetration of Christianity into Russia refers to the 1st century AD. In the 9th century Russia adopted Christianity twice: firstly in the year of 957 in the time of Olga and then at the time of Vladimir in 988.
After Olga being christened, the Christianization of Russia began to develop rapidly. Russia entertained friendly relations with both the Byzantine Empire and the Roman Church; there was also the place for Muslims and Jews. But it was necessary to adopt Christianity for several reasons:
1. It was necessary in the interests of the development of the state - to avoid isolation from the rest of the world.
2. Monotheism was the essence of a single state with the monarch at head.
3. Christianity made family strong and introduced new morals.
4. Christianity made for the development of culture - philosophy, theological literature.
5. Social stratification required new ideology (paganism - equality of rights).
Evidently, Vladimir himself thought of his life full of fratricide and depravity. Christianity could give absolution and purify a soul.

In chronicles it is said about religious missions of Muslim Volga Bulgaria and Judaic Khazaria. Islam did not gain popularity because it prohibited wine drinking. Catholicism also was not suitable as a service was conducted in Latin and Pope, but not temporal power, was at the head of the Church.
In the year of 987 Russia entered into relations with Byzantine Empire for christening. Vladimir demanded the sister of the emperor Basil II - princess Anna - to take to wife. As for the Byzantine Empire, it required extra help to struggle against rebels. The emperor agreed to give his sister Anna in marriage to Vladimir, but Vladimir in his turn, had to become christened and put down the rising. A Russian detachment was sent to Byzantium and the rising was put down, but the Greeks were not in a hurry to fulfill the terms of the agreement on marriage. Vladimir gathered an army and in the year of 988 advanced to the center of Byzantine possessions in the Crimea - Chersonese (Korsun). The siege lasted for several months. Once from the walls under siege an arrow with a message was sent to Vladimir's camp. In the message it was said about the necessity of cutting off the water-pipe. The message was written by the priest Anastas.
Chersonese fell down and Vladimir sent couriers to Constantinople with the demand to give Anna in marriage to him. In his message he promised to become christened. It was here where he was christened as Vasily. After that he returned to Kiev, having taken icons, church plates and clergymen with him.

Christianization of Russia

A lot of time passed between Vladimir's christening and the Christianization of Russia. In 990 the first attempts to introduce a new faith were taken. It was met with great resistance on the part of the pagans.
Kiev was the first to become christened. The building of churches began. Un Novgorod Vladimir entrusted the mission to the care of his uncle Dobrynya. But the townsmen destroyed his yard and killed his relatives. Nevertheless the revolt was suppressed. The Byzantine Empire assisted Russia in every way - e.g. in transporting books, which were carefully translated.
Temporal power was at the head of the Church, but not a clergyman (as Roman Pope).

The Significance of Christianization of Russia

It took several centuries to strengthen Christianity, but the influence of paganism did not weakened. So that was the time for two religious beliefs. On the one hand people prayed in church, but on the other hand they went on celebrating pagan holidays. Thus the holiday of Kolyada (carol-singing) merged with Christmas and Shrovetide with Lent.
1. The Church got lands at its disposal. As for monasteries they adhered to celibacy and withdrawal from all carnal and mundane pleasures. Father Superior was at the head of the monastery. In the course of time monasteries became trade centers and even usury.
2. Becoming strong from the economic point of view, the Church began playing a great part in the political life. Some archbishops and metropolitans took part in political intrigues, but on the whole they were against intestine strife and for the unity of Russia.
3. Some schools attached to Church were established. Church arts: icon painting and chronicles writing were flourished greatly.
4. Moreover, princes started to charge legal proceedings, referring to family and religion, to Church.
5. Assisting the development of culture and literacy Church suppressed the culture based on paganism, pursuiting merry holidays of Kolyada and Shrovetide as devilish.
6. Promoting economical, cultural, religious closeness with the Byzantine Empire and other orthodox states, Church was against the Roman Catholic faith, assisting the isolation from the countries of Western Europe and cultural processes, which took place there.

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