The Coming of Christianity to Rus: Authorized and Unauthorized Versions
THE “AUTHORIZED VERSION” OF THE CONVERSION OF RUS AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
The learned Rus churchman Ilarion’s Sermon on Law and Grace offers the earliest extant locally written account of the coming of Christianity to “this land of Rus, which is known and renowned to the ends of the earth.”1 Delivered in Kiev in the late 1040s, perhaps on the feast-day of the Birth of the Mother of God (September 8),2 barely two generations after the events that it celebrates, the sermon is lucid in style, elegant in construction and internally coherent. In the latter respect it stands in marked contrast to the Rus Primary Chronicle. The Chronicle gained its present form only in the early twelfth century and its account of Christianity’s arrival is patched together from a variety of source materials including, most probably, the Sermon itself. Ilarion’s presentation of the role of the Rus ruling house as sole agent in the spreading of the Faith is powerfully stated, and its polish renders his version plausible. Ilarion does not purport to offer a detailed narrative of events, let alone an account of earthly causes and consequences, such as classical or some medieval western writers might have attempted. The Sermon is an exercise in theological exegesis, at least as much as it is an encomium for the converter of the Rus, Prince Vladimir Sviatoslavich (ca. 978-1015), or an oration in honor of Vladimir’s son, Iaroslav. But undeniably the feat of Christianization is presented in terms that would have been acceptable to Ilarion’s fellow churchmen, and flattering to Iaroslav, the reigning prince, acclaimed for carrying on his father’s work, playing Solomon to Vladimir’s David. Ilarion’s Sermon may be termed the “authorized version” insofar as it made sense of recent happenings in conjunction with the assumptions, outlook, and interests of the Rus ruling family.
The Rus Primary Chronicle’s account of the coming of Christianity is scarcely less authorized in the sense that, like Ilarion, the monkish authors regarded Vladimir as “the new Constantine,” responsible for the Christianization of his people. One passage in the Chronicle presses for his veneration as a saint, and the authors fully endorse Ilarion’s presuppositions in regarding the story of Rus as the deeds of its princes.3 And yet, through its full coverage of the Rus princes’ activities before the baptism of Vladimir, eclecticism in tapping many different sources, and candor in presenting the earthier and downright bloody aspects of Vladimir’s regime, the Chronicle disturbs the icon-like tranquillity of Ilarion’s celebration of “the visitation of the Most High” that came down upon Vladimir.4
Ilarion’s sermon was most probably delivered in the presence of Prince Iaroslav and his Swedish-born wife Irene, together with nobles and notables in the prince’s service, most likely at the Church of the Mother of God (also called the Tithe Church), which Vladimir had built. Ilarion celebrates the progress of mankind, from the stage of observing the “Law” of the Old Testament, to receiving “Grace and Truth” through Jesus Christ, and then the spread of the Faith “to all nations, even unto our nation Rus.” He skillfully grafts Vladimir’s conversion and the adoption of the new religion by his people -- events still within living memory in the mid-eleventh century -- onto “sacred time”, and he hails them as forming part of God’s grand design for mankind. The ruler is treated as instrumental in this process, and Vladimir is explicitly compared with Constantine the Great, who “among the Hellenes and Romans made the kingdom subject to God.” Ilarion holds up the achievement of Constantine as a precedent for what had now come to pass in Rus. He compares Vladimir’s own grandmother Olga, baptized Helena, with Constantine’s mother, who also had been named Helena. The latter, together with Constantine, had, “transported the Cross from Jerusalem, and transmitted its glory throughout all their world”: “you [Vladimir] and your grandmother Olga transported the Cross from the New Jerusalem -- from the city of Constantine -- and established it throughout all your land.”5 Thus, Constantine the Great and Helena are held up as an iconic ruling family that had instilled the faith in their subjects and thereby made their capital city sacred. The role of, in effect, redeemers of a whole people now fell to the princely dynasty of Rus. Ilarion sometimes maintains that Vladimir made the land of Rus as thoroughly Christian as Constantine had left his realm. He extols Vladimir’s temporal power and praises his readiness to use force, his “strength and ... might.” Allegedly, “not one single person” resisted Vladimir’s “command” to be baptized, “for if some were baptized not for love, then in fear of Vladimir’s command, since his piety was coupled with power.”6 The process of Christianization is viewed in terms of destroying pagan sanctuaries and instituting new cult centers and, thus, the focus is mainly on innovations in visible ritual and organized public worship. Ilarion highlights the central role played by Vladimir, from whose decision to adopt Christianity the conversion of his fellow Rus allegedly followed. There is no hint that there might already have been Christians in Rus before that time, beyond a figurative allusion to the conversion of another member of the ruling house, Olga-Helena.
Several questions arise from Ilarion’s representation of the coming of Christianity to the ruler and people of Rus. Firstly, and most obviously, how great an over-simplification is this “authorized version” of Christianization occurring virtually overnight: were there really no other Christian laypersons or priests in ninth- and tenth-century Rus besides Vladimir’s grandmother Olga? Secondly, was the triumph of Christianity as blithely providential as Ilarion seems to propose? Thirdly, if in fact there is evidence of a significant number of Christian cult objects and Christians in Rus before 988/9 C.E. (the most probable date of Vladimir’s conversion), does this necessarily mean that Christianity would have prevailed anyway, sooner or later gaining ‘pole position’, irrespective of the initiatives taken by Vladimir or any other leader? In other words, even if some members of the Rus elite were showing sympathy for, or adherence to, Christianity before 988/9, does this necessarily invalidate Ilarion’s insistence on the pivotal role of the ruler in leading his people towards the faith? Fourthly, might not an assortment of cults have formed in Rus, parallel to any official religion, whether the latter was polytheist or, as in tenth-century Khazaria, monotheist? One might usefully consider the evidence from other neighboring societies and polities: might there not have been more or less simultaneous moves towards Christian observance on the part of other elements in society besides the ruling family, such as traveling groups, local notables or communities? Such demarches, which could involve eventual church building, are discernible in diverse parts of the Scandinavian world.7 Finally, was the process of Christianization as wide-ranging and thoroughgoing as Ilarion at first sight appears to make out? In other words, does the evidence from archaeology indicate that Christian worship and practices were firmly instituted among Rus of all social strata, and not just within the elite? And, does Ilarion himself consistently make the claim that Vladimir Christianized all the inhabitants of the lands between the Middle Dnieper region and the Gulf of Finland? This begs further questions, such as what exactly is meant by terms such as Christian worship and practices, and indeed, by “Christianization” and “conversion.” Do such terms connote a change merely in public religious rites, or fundamental changes in the social and legal norms regulating the conduct of families and the unspoken assumptions, beliefs, and aspirations of individuals? Unfortunately, these broader issues cannot be explored here. They receive attention elsewhere in this volume, and such enquiries are probably most rewarding in historical contexts more richly documented than early Rus.8
LONGSTANDING ACQUAINTANCE OF THE RUS WITH CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES
Early Contacts of Rus with Christians
Some of the very earliest extant references to the Rus in the lands east of the Baltic indicate their encounters with and awareness of Christianity and the other monotheistic religions. According to Ibn Khurradadhbih (writing in the mid-ninth century), Rus traders journeying with furs and swords across the Caspian Sea to the Iranian coast and on to Baghdad claimed to be Christians so as to incur only the poll tax and thereby avoid other taxes payable by those who were not peoples of the Book. Ibn Khurradadhbih’s testimony is of some weight, seeing that he was the Director of Posts of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad, and he seems to imply that the Rus made such claims regularly.9 This in turn suggests that the Rus traders knew of Christianity before reaching the Middle East. They would have encountered Christian communities, some of them organized into bishoprics, while passing through Khazaria en route to Muslim markets. It seems that at least two sees functioned for some while in Khazaria in the ninth and tenth centuries, one of these being located at Itil, the Khazar capital on the lower Volga.10 In one of the earliest hoards of silver dirhams from the Baltic region, there has been found a dirham with a graffito in Greek letters: “ZACHARIAS.” This was presumably scratched by the bearer of the name a Greek-speaker, and quite likely a Christian rather than a Judaist, somewhere between the Muslim lands and the place where the coin hoard was deposited early in the ninth century. This location was near St. Petersburg, and thus lay on the route from the trading post of Staraia Ladoga to the Baltic and markets such as Birka. The graffito offers a minor but not negligible hint that the trade in silver between the Muslim and the northern lands brought northerners into contact with southern Christian (as well as Muslim) dealers almost from the outset.11
There also is early evidence of some kind of community of Christians at the far end of the silver trade nexus from Khazaria. By the time that the Frankish missionary Anskar paid his first visit to Birka in the early 830s, priests were sometimes to be found there, albeit only fitfully. Frideburg, a rich and devout old woman, was eventually tended by a priest as she lay dying, and she made charitable provision for churches and priests in faraway Dorestad (Frisia). Moreover, the Vita Anskarii states that at the time of writing -- seemingly in the later 860s and at any rate before 876 -- a Danish-born priest lived at Birka, “who through God's will has celebrated the holy mysteries freely.”12 Presumably the priest performed the Offices in a more or less public fashion; and since Anskar had sent him, he was in the post for several years, at least. Anskar reportedly supplied him with material means “for acquiring friends” there. Thus there are indications of a spasmodic yet vigorous Christian presence in the central Swedish market that maintained the most intensive contacts with the lands east of the Baltic, judging by the patterns of dirham-finds leading to and radiating around it.
Traveling Traders’ Expectations from Religious Rites and Symbols
There is, of course, a world of difference between spasmodic encounters with Christian practices and opportunistic simulation of Christian observances on the one hand, and regular, unswerving adherence to the Christian Church’s doctrine, rites, and laws on the other. Even so, one might suppose a priori that a lifestyle involving frequent travel, spectacular risks, and acquisition and retention of wealth without primary reliance on force would have rendered traders especially amenable to amulets and rites that promised personal survival and profit and also demonstrated a certain ubiquitousness. This presupposition gains some support from the placitum (general assembly), which, according to the Vita Anskarii, discussed whether to permit Anskar’s mission to proceed. During the debate, an old man is said to have asked: “why are we rejecting what we know to be necessary for us and useful?” He describes the “spontaneous” conversion of individuals who had traveled to Dorestad and “felt the rule of this religion to be to their own advantage.”13 The old man explicitly links the Christian God’s “great help” to those placing their hopes in Him with the risks posed to travelers by pirates and “the perils of the sea.” His speech could, perhaps, be dismissed as a stereotyped construct of missionary propaganda14 and, for all the benefits from “the cult of that God” that the old man had allegedly witnessed, Christian congregations and worship in Birka remained, at best, thin on the ground. But he, or rather the Vita’s author, was not the only observer to imply an organic linkage between itinerancy, trading, and energetic performance of religious ritual. At the time when he observed them, the Rus traders whom Ibn Fadlan encountered on the Middle Volga were anxious about profits rather than personal survival. The gods were held responsible for particular transactions. According to Ibn Fadlan, each trader would make offerings to an idol, listing his goods for sale and praying to meet a rich trader “who does not haggle with me.” If business did not match up to expectations, the trader would return to his idol repeatedly and make further offerings, a kind of commission paid in return for the god’s intervention in the market.15 The hazards of voyaging also fostered exchanges with gods. Constantine VII’s De administrando imperio treats as routine the sacrifices offered by Rus traders who had successfully negotiated the dreaded Dnieper Rapids on their way to Constantinople: “they sacrifice live cocks,” having thrown lots as to whether “to slaughter them, or to eat them as well, or to leave them alive.”16
The voyage by waterway to Byzantium from the northern forests was formidably hazardous, described by Constantine himself as “fraught with such travail and terror, such difficulty and danger,” but the prospect of commercial failure probably weighed almost as heavily as physical risk upon those impelled to engage in the quest for Oriental silver. A wide variety of signs, symbols, and figures was scratched on the dirhams. Runic characters denoting terms for god and Odin in Old Norse or representing incantations to Odin and Thor have been deciphered not infrequently, and on many dirhams were carved swastikas, Thor’s hammers, and crosses.17 Of course, one cannot be sure at which stage the graffiti were made, and they could register ritual to do with the safeguarding or solemn dedication of a hoard rather than exchanges for profit. But one suspects that many were carved while the silver was still in circulation, matching the literary evidence already noted of close interlinking between the business of bargaining and urgent invocation of supernatural aid for the person concerned. Such preoccupations might well be expected in a society where greed and mistrust were prevalent and, according to another Arabic source, a man might murder his own brother in order to steal his goods.18 But it is easy to overlook a corollary: that peaceable transactions of the sort observed by Ibn Fadlan were undertaken by the Rus primarily as individuals, eager to strike a satisfactory deal, notwithstanding the general support and protection available from other members of the kin group or trading band within which they were traveling. 19
Our Arabic writers had their own moralizing agenda and, in any case, conditions of high risk, insecurity, and sudden profit were scarcely unknown to the seaways and markets elsewhere in the Nordic world: Rimbert’s Vita Anskarii attests as much. Nonetheless, it seems fair to suppose that a dearth of long-established Scandinavian regional communities or extensive agriculture, together with incessant travel laden with valuables across vast tracts of near-wilderness, was a phenomenon peculiar to life east of the Baltic. So, too, was the scope of incessant experimentation and readiness to seek out fresh routes and, probably for keeping them secret from rival entrepreneurs.20 Individual traders’ or small groups’ experimentation and eclecticism in matters of trading also could have been applied to invocations of the supernatural, and the choice of one’s gods. That is, the extraordinary demands imposed by distance and isolation on silver and fur traffickers in the eastern lands may have made them especially amenable to cults that offered them as individuals a kind of personal ‘insurance policy’, covering physical well-being, profitable business deals, and life in the next world. Cults that were not rooted in local communities’ traditions or sacred places were best suited to meeting travelers’ needs, especially those cults associated with easily reproducible symbols or with talismans that could be worn on one’s person for continuous protection. One must stress that Christianity was not the only such cult. Thor, too, had personal devotees in the eastern lands, judging by the number of finds of amulets associated with him. At least thirty-four “hammerlets of Thor” attached to iron neck-rings have been found in graves there, twenty-five of them coming from Gnezdovo. In the tenth century, this emporium, settlement, and repair center stood at a nodal point, linking the Upper Dnieper with the northern and northwestern riverways. Thus, it was much frequented by traders.21 The hardheaded attitude ascribed by the Vita Anskarii to the old man of Birka also should be borne in mind. The old man favored Christianity because its deity had, in his experience, ‘delivered’. The implication was that a god or cult that failed to provide adequate returns on sacrifices and other offerings should be relegated to minor league or discontinued. In other words, amidst the conditions of immense potential wealth, high insecurity, and fluctuations in trading patterns such as those of the eastern silver-trails, the temptation for an individual to hedge bets and ever be on the lookout for more effectual charms, gods, or ‘portfolios’ of gods was exceptionally strong. Such spontaneous selectivity and expectation of returns did not invariably work to organized Christianity’s advantage. But coming from a background such as this, traveling traders were likely to be susceptible to a culture organized around the performance of Christian ritual, abounding in miniature tokens of piety and insistently attributing its wealth and endurance to Godly patronage. These considerations, in turn, open up at least the possibility that certain artifacts found in the regions of Rus that enjoyed the most intensive contact with Byzantium in the tenth century were of religious or talismanic significance for their owners. One should also reckon with the possibility that these objects may have meant most to those who had not actually made the voyage to Byzantium themselves.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL HINTS OF CONTACTS WITH EASTERN CHRISTIANS
There are a few ninth- and tenth-century finds with possible Christian associations from northern and northeastern Rus, but the interpretation of some is debatable and the firmer examples tend to be of fairly late date. This accords with the situation in Baltic markets such as Birka, which housed Christians and had intensive contacts with northern Rus but seemingly lacked resident clergy of their own, let alone any ecclesiastical organization able to provide regular pastoral care for those plying the “East Way.” The principal Kulturträger (bearers of culture), taking Christian notions, rites, and symbols eastwards in the tenth century, were probably individual traders and the warriors of fortune whose wooden chamber-graves may well reflect awareness of Christian burial practices, as well as the belief that warfare and trading would carry on intensively in the next world, as in this one. Some of these warriors or, more precisely, their kinsmen, spouses, or comrades-in-arms showed a familiarity with Christianity amounting at least to belief that its rites would benefit the deceased. Pendant crosses together with the remains of wax candles placed on or in chamber-graves have been found in burial grounds at Timerevo on the Upper Volga and at Gnezdovo. The lighting of candles on a chamber’s roof or inside the structure also occurred in Danish funerary practice and the examples at Timerevo and Gnezdovo may well have contained warriors or traders from the Danish lands. The latter were, after all, linked relatively closely with the Christian West; around 965, King Harald Bluetooth was baptized and, according to the inscription he commissioned at Jelling, “made the Danes Christian.” The aforementioned chamber-graves at Timerevo and Gnezdovo date from the 960s and 970s.22 It would, however, be unwise to try to trace the flow of Christian symbols or rites back to anyone source or center in the Scandinavian world. Choices of cult affiliations and accessories in a mobile society spanning numerous markets and kingly courts are more likely to have been personal, and piecemeal, affairs.
The small pendant crosses of thin silver sheet-metal found on the Upper Volga and at Gnezdovo belong to the earliest type of crosses known from the land of Rus. Dateable mainly to the second half of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh centuries, they are of the same type as examples found on the island of Gotland and in Birka.23 Some are skillfully fashioned and finely ornamented, but the crosses could be made ad hoc, without advanced technical skills or a specialist workshop. Both the crosses of this type found at Timerevo were carved out of silver dirhams, and it has been plausibly suggested that they were made in haste, as indispensable amulets to accompany the deceased.24 The largest number of examples of these pendant crosses has been found at Gnezdovo and Kiev, and the Middle Dnieper region is richest in finds of other symbols and rites associated with Christianity, specifically the burial grounds of Kiev and Chernigov (Shestovitsy). At Kiev, two women’s graves were found to contain small pendant crosses of the earliest type; they either belonged to necklaces or were hung independently from the neck. Each woman also was adorned with pairs of gilded, tortoiseshell-shaped brooches, and their necklaces had been strung with beads of amber, glass and rock crystal, as well as Muslim or Byzantine silver coins. These women were of considerable substance, as was a child also buried in a Kievan chamber-grave. On the child’s chest was laid a cross-shaped bracket that could well represent an improvised cross of ritual significance.25 Another pendant cross of an early type has been excavated in a woman’s chamber-grave at the Shestovitsy burial ground, and beneath a large barrow at the same site has been found a Byzantine cone-seal that had apparently been reused as a pendant. The bronze cone-seal lay in the wooden coffin of a boy buried beneath the center of the barrow and may have belonged to the contents of a belt bag. It probably came into use as a pendant because of the facing bust of Christ incised on the seal’s field. The image is unmistakable, if crude, and very probably had ritual significance, as did the beaver’s ankle joint that seems also to have been put in the now-vanished bag. Judging by the half of a Samanid dirham also found near the boy, and by other considerations, the date of the boy’s burial is likely to be between ca. 950 and Vladimir’s conversion in 988/9. The terminus ante quem is provided by the chamber-grave of an adult, very likely the boy’s father, located on the edge of the barrow and furnished with weaponry and a richly ornamented bag. The barrow also contained two simple pit burials, whose occupants may have been the warrior’s servants. Such displays of un-Christian funerary ritual came to an end with Vladimir’s conversion.26
These graves at Kiev and Shestovitsy belonged to wealthy persons, members of the politico-military elite, while the two pairs of tortoiseshell brooches suggest that the women had Scandinavian cultural traits, as do features of a fair number of other graves at both Kiev and Shestovitsy.27 It is no less likely that the crosses were regarded as amulets devoted to the Christian religion, and their ritual significance is not diminished by the fact that amulets with plainly non-Christian connotations are found in some graves, notably those of children: the young were, one suspects, being given every possible chance for the life to come. Syncretism and eclecticism are also apparent in the choice of amulets worn by the more or less Christian inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean region in Late Antiquity and the early Byzantine period.28 Moreover, the literary sources offer clear evidence that the Rus warriors and traders ensconced on the Middle Dnieper were in regular and intensive trading exchanges with Byzantium by the mid-tenth century. This, in turn, should make one hesitant to dismiss outright the cultic significance of the finds mentioned above. The contemporary Byzantine sources tend to confirm what the archaeological complexes would lead one to suppose: that members of the elite were adopting the new religion more or less of their own volition. The literary sources’ evidence of Christian males also corrects the impression that the archaeological evidence of the dozen or so burials under discussion could, if viewed in isolation, suggest that the majority of persons with Christian leanings or relatives were women and children. Yet they also suggest that some of the first Rus to embrace the new religion were indeed women.
Literary Evidence of “Privileged Christians” in Rus and Likely Byzantine Connections
The clearest indication that many prominent members of the Rus elite were avowedly Christian by the mid-tenth century, and that the Christian God was their primary and probably sole object of devotion, comes from the treaty negotiated between Rus and Byzantium in 944. The treaty mentions the baptized Rus negotiators of the treaty who had sworn to uphold its terms “by the Holy Cross set before us.” It further stipulates: “if any of the princes or any Rus, whether Christian or non-Christian, violates the terms ..., he shall deserve death by his own weapons and be accursed of God and of Perun.”29 Thus some of the Rus who had negotiated the terms and already sworn to abide by them were deemed to be Christian. The treaty further assumes that some of the princes, as well as lesser members of the elite, who were yet to ratify the treaty in Rus, would likewise be Christians, and this presumably reflects the fact that a significant number of them were, at the very least, passing themselves off as Christians. It has been shown that the Church of St. Elijah, where the Rus negotiators had sworn their oaths in Constantinople, was located in the imperial Great Palace.30 The treaty’s church is probably identical with the church dedicated to Saint Elijah that has been described as “a magnificent palace oratory,” entered through the adjoining church of the Mother of God of the Pharos.31 That the Christian Rus were singled out for ceremonial display by the palace authorities is shown by the Book of Ceremonies’ allocation of a specific station for “the baptized Rhos” (i.e., Rus) at the palace reception for Muslim envoys from Tarsus in May 946. They were to be positioned among the guards of honor “with standards, holding shields and carrying their own swords” outside the Chalke, the monumental vestibule leading into the imperial palace.32
Taken together, these scraps of evidence suggest that encouragement was given by the imperial authorities to those Rus who became Christian, and also that it was not uncommon for visiting Rus to be baptized in Constantinople itself, quite possibly in a palace church. This would presumably have involved a formal commitment to the new religion, rather than merely recourse to Christianesque amulets or incantations. That Byzantine Christianity did appeal to members of the elite, and that its ritual could be sedulously observed, is illustrated by an extreme, but probably not utterly atypical, episode involving not warriors or traders, but a woman, Olga. Sometime in the mid-tenth century this princess, whom we have already encountered playing the part of Helena to her grandson Vladimir’s Constantine, paid a visit to Constantinople and was baptized there. The exact date of her visit is highly controversial, and powerful arguments have been presented in favor of both 946 and 957, the two main candidate years. There appears to be no compelling reason why the visit must be dated to 946, the year proposed by several eminent revisionists, for both codicological evidence and general historical considerations can readily accommodate a visit in the year 957, the date that the Book of Ceremonies has long been taken to intimate.33 In any case, it is noteworthy that Olga continued to practice as a Christian for many years until her death in 969. In accordance with her instructions, no funeral feast was held for her, and a priest whom she had “maintained,” presumably through all the years since her baptism, conducted the funeral service.34 In the course of her visit to Constantinople, Olga had formed a spiritual bond with the emperor, becoming his goddaughter and adopting the name of his wife, Helena, as her Christian name. The Book of Ceremonies records that she received two formal receptions in the palace, and its description of the ceremonial suggests that a broad cross-section of the Rus elite accompanied her. Numerous traders, envoys of “the princes of Rhosia,” and envoys’ retainers attended the receptions and feasts, and these State occasions most probably served to demonstrate Olga’s pre-eminence over the other Rus. Alone among them, she saluted the empress merely by bowing her head, and she took dessert with the imperial family at a small golden table.35 This privilege may have been extended to Olga in her capacity as head of a formidable people who had shown their striking power against the Byzantines in 941;36 but it also could well represent special treatment in respect of her baptism and her new spiritual bonds with the emperor, whatever the precise date of her baptism may have been.
Viewed thus, the archaeological data seems to tally with the literary evidence quite well, indicating that within a couple of generations of establishing themselves on the Middle Dnieper, the Rus elite’s interest in Byzantium’s religion led many of its members to undergo formal baptism, and that this interest manifested itself at the highest level. There is also an intriguing parallel between the high proportion of female Rus graves containing crosses and the ceremonial attention that seems to have been paid to the high-status women who accompanied Olga at her court receptions. She made her first entrance “with the princesses who were her own relatives and their principal servants,”37 and although an anepsios (cousin) and other male kinsmen of the princess feature in the Book of Ceremonies’ description, the “princes of Rhosia” would seem mostly to have stayed away, merely sending their envoys to accompany Olga’s party to Byzantium. Other Rus besides Olga could have been baptized during her visit to Constantinople, and it is tempting to draw a connection between the apparent weighting of Olga’s entourage in favor of high-status women and the high proportion of Rus graves with Christian traits that belonged to females. This is not to claim that these graves necessarily belonged to Olga’s former traveling companions, baptized together with her in Byzantium. There is anyway the risk that our reliance on evidence of Christian traits in burial ritual may lead us to overlook such Rus males who received pagan-style burials even though they had been baptized and stayed fully committed to the new religion. But it is hard to deny that the quite diverse forms of evidence -- archaeological from Russia and literary from Byzantine ceremonial records -- seem to show particularly serious, sustained interest in Christian rites and practice on the part of women. While noting that an affinity of wealthy women for Christianity in Nordic trading emporia is also suggested by the burial evidence from Birka and by figures such as Frideburg, one may still argue that conditions along the “East Way,” particularly its southerly stretches, were exceptionally precarious. The insecurity endemic in what seems to have been an ‘every-man-for-himself’ society was compounded by the hazards of the Rus’ annual trading voyage to Byzantium, upon whose “travail and terror” Emperor Constantine himself remarked. Judging by his description, a large proportion of the Rus elite set off every spring on the annual voyage to Byzantium, and they would have spent much of the year either away on their travels or gathering tribute from the Slav tributaries.38 Moreover, the same emperor noted the ease with which nomadic raiders could, if so disposed, “enslave their women and children and ravage their land.”39 The unusually high proportion of wealthy burials in the Middle Dnieper region that are cenotaphs -- graves containing goods, but no trace of a body -- offers further testimony that many able-bodied Rus males perished far from base, whether violently or through misadventure on the road.40
In a scenario such as this along the East Way, so far as the customs, ritual, and rights of individual Rus households were maintained, it may well have fallen to free-born wives of Rus warriors and traders to provide the vital element of continuity. At the same time they also had opportunities to innovate, albeit under pressure of circumstances. Princess Olga, herself, serves as an example of the highly influential role of prematurely widowed women in a violent, but not utterly anarchic, society.41 She assumed responsibility for her small son, and for the paramount headship over the Rus after her husband, Igor, was slain by a group of rebellious Slavs, the Derevlians. They had resisted his attempts to collect extra tribute from them, and they seem to have even threatened Olga in her chief town at Kiev. She seems to have quashed the Slavs’ uprising quite summarily and harshly, and set about reimposing tribute on them and regularizing the inflow of tribute in several other regions, a major feat of organization. At an unknown date, but before setting off for Byzantium, she began to keep a priest, Gregory, in her company and she traveled south with him and a party whose highest-ranking members appear mostly to have been female.42
A picture showing a significant number of eminent Rus as already Christian well before Vladimir’s time is beginning to emerge, and this is at variance with Ilarion’s “authorized version” of the conversion of Rus. At the same time, one may be gaining the impression that Vladimir’s conversion was the culmination of a lengthy process, in which his grandmother had played a key role. There is some substance to this impression, and yet it is misleading if it implies that the arrival of Christianity as the ‘official’ religion of the ruler together with the entire ‘people’ of Rus was inevitable -- merely a matter of time following the lead set by Olga-Helena. Ilarion may be oversimplifying with his portrayal of the conversion as an act of providence, and in some way preordained. But in alluding to Olga’s visit to Constantinople only briefly and in figurative terms, Ilarion may well be doing justice to the actual balance of power and probabilities.43 In the mid- or even later tenth century, the establishment of Christianity as the official or state religion of Rus was far from being a foregone conclusion. And this, in turn, takes us back to the third and fourth questions raised at the outset of this paper. They can only be answered in a preliminary fashion here, but their effect may be to vindicate Ilarion’s insistence on the pivotal role of Prince Vladimir and his “strength ... and might.”
THE ADVANCE OF CHRISTIANITY WAS NOT INEVITABLE, BECAUSE ...
The Byzantine Imperial ‘Establishment’ Was Not Committed to the ‘Conversion of Rus’
A Byzantine religious mission was actually dispatched to the north at the Rus’ own request, not long after their first attack on Byzantium in 860 C.E. This mission does not seem to have made any lasting conversions or even to have left discernible traces among the Rus, and the precise location for which its bishop headed is uncertain.44 Byzantine rhetoric and the ceremonial of the palace were apt to highlight the emperor’s duty, as “equal of the Apostles,” to spread the Word and make Christians of those who were still unbelievers.45 At first sight, it might appear that this accounts for the evidence of baptism among those Rus most exposed to Byzantium, in the south, and Olga’s baptism at Constantine VII’s hands would seem to project a shining example of the emperor’s performance of his missionary role. This would, however, be rather too hasty a conclusion. In reality, the imperial Byzantine attitude towards mission work was deeply ambivalent, and on the whole, relatively cool.46 Emperors were generally more inclined to keep barbarian peoples at arm’s length as “lesser breeds without the Law,” countenancing mass conversions only of those groupings ensconced on Byzantine territory in a subordinate position, their elites being ripe for absorption within the empire’s political culture. The imperial authorities were much more willing to court and baptize individual notables hailing from foreign elites, ‘creaming them off’ from the residue and, not infrequently, inducing them to relocate to Byzantine territory and enter the imperial service. There are numerous examples of Bulgars and South Slavs who gained prominence in this way in Byzantium through the eighth and ninth centuries.47 However, in the case of peoples capable of self-determination and military might, Byzantine emperors were hesitant to convert them with their rulers en bloc, and thereby raise them to the level of organized, wholly legitimate, Christian powers. One effect would be for their rulers to expect treatment by the emperor as equals or near equals, an interrelationship clearly expressed by marriage ties. Constantine VII was much exercised by the precedent set by the marriage of a princess of the ruling house, Maria Lecapena, to the Christian Tsar Peter of Bulgaria in 927. In his De administrando imperio, he flatly asserted that such marriages were unlawful and “unseemly,” irrespective of whether the barbarian suitor was a Christian.48 It is very possible that Constantine had in mind the Rus, and specifically Olga, as likely petitioners for some sort of marriage tie, and if one were to place her visit in the year 946, he might have been writing in the aftermath of a proposal put to him by word of mouth in his palace. In any case, there were some Byzantines who argued that the Christian faith of the prospective bridegroom of a princess, and the overall public interest, could justify foreign marriages, and Constantine was determined to scotch their arguments.
This reserved attitude of Constantine in particular, and of the imperial Establishment in general, towards the conversion of whole polities of barbarians was an important obstacle in the conversion of Rus by its rulers “from the top down.” Constantine did not send a bishop or a full-blown religious mission back to Rus with Olga, nor did he subsequently supply one, even though she is likely to have requested a team of churchmen at some stage. This is not to deny the existence of evangelizing impulses, or at least some outward-bound form of Christian witness and self-sacrifice, among Orthodox holy men. It may well be that individual Orthodox monks spread the Word -- or simply wandered -- among communities to the north of the Black Sea and the steppes. Moreover, clergymen in the Crimean town of Cherson were active in assisting with Byzantine mission work, and the archbishop was from time to time given the task of arranging ecclesiastical affairs in Khazaria.49 Cherson is known to have been a frequent port of call of Rus traders in the ninth and tenth centuries, and it may be no coincidence that parallels to the silver sheet metal crosses, discussed earlier, have been observed in the ornamentation of churches at Cherson.50 Yet none of these outflows of Christian example or deliberate evangelization could make up for a general lack of political will to sponsor “state” conversions on the part of the Byzantine imperial Establishment.
More of an Oligarchy than a Monarchy in Mid-Tenth-Century Rus -- a Likely Hindrance to Wholesale Conversion of the Elite
Both archaeological and literary evidence indicates that wealth, resources, and power were not concentrated overwhelmingly in the hands of a single ruler and subordinates wholly dependent on him or her. The numerous, ostentatiously large, and well-furnished barrows at Shestovitsy and Gnezdovo suggest as much, as do Byzantine references to the simultaneous existence of several “princes of the Rus,” not all of whom were necessarily related by ties of blood or marriage. The Book of Ceremonies implies the existence of some twenty “princes of Rhosia” and seems to distinguish them from the other “male kinsmen” of Princess Olga, while Constantine VII, in his description of the Rus’ way of life, states that “their princes with all the Rus” set off each winter on tribute-collecting rounds.51 The inference that there were several different families possessing material substance, high status, and some measure of authority gains further support from the text of the Rus’ treaty with Byzantium of 944. In the treaty, the names of twenty-two persons besides Igor, Olga, and their small son Sviatoslav are listed as having sent their envoys to negotiate and swear to the terms of the treaty.52 There are, moreover, indications that Igor may have exercised power in tandem with a prince named Oleg or Helgi.53 And while some notables were Christian by the mid 940s, they seem to have adopted the new faith of their own volition, for example through baptism at the hands of clergymen at Byzantium. Judging by the wording of the 944 treaty, there already were Christian princes who had presumably taken the plunge, without reference to the still-pagan Prince Igor. This, too, points to a certain plurality of those in power, and if the commitment of such princes amounted to more than occasional opportunistic claims to be Christian, it brought them a certain seniority in the faith, and thereby perhaps status, in relation to any paramount prince that might attempt conversion. In other words, the fact that individual members of the Rus elite were adopting Christianity in the mid-tenth century was not necessarily conducive to its adoption by the topmost prince.
The tide was not flowing uniformly in Christianity’s favor and it could well be that paganism, whether in the form of personal talismans or organized rites, was thriving pari passu with the Christian cult. In fact, the most elaborately furnished chamber-graves and the largest barrows raised over boat-burnings at Gnezdovo are datable to the middle or second half of the tenth century. The chronological profile of amulets that are clearly pagan is also suggestive. The second half of the tenth century is the peak period for finds of Thor’s hammerlets in the eastern lands; this is also the probable date of an amulet of a Valkyrie that has been excavated at Gnezdovo.54 And in, most probably, the 960s, the largest extant barrow in Rus, the Chernaia Mogila (Black Barrow) was raised at Chernigov. The array of goods found there included a Scandinavian-style ritual cauldron, a bronze figurine of Thor, weaponry, and riding gear. The figural designs on the casings of two drinking horns evoke concepts of sacral rulership harbored among the Khazars and other Eurasian cultures.55 This grave, which was probably that of a leading magnate in Chernigov, suggests eclectic yet robust commitment to pagan rites on the part of the occupant, or his next of kin. It is likely enough that he acknowledged the prince of Kiev as paramount, but he probably would not have depended primarily on the Kievan prince for income or status, and he may well have kept armed retainers of his own. It has been pointed out that the term used in the Book of Ceremonies for the representatives of the Rus princes received with Olga in the Great Palace is the relatively modest one of apokrisiarios. This term bears the connotation of plain envoy rather than ambassador with extensive discretionary powers (presbys) and this, too, points to a clear distinction between the paramount prince, exercising some sort of headship, and the other princes.56 Even so, the very fact that the princes regularly sent their own representatives implies that they did not consider themselves necessarily bound by the undertakings sworn by the paramount prince's representative. Their assent to agreements could not be taken for granted, even if, in practice, considerations of self-interest led to a high degree of cooperation among the leading members of the elite on the Middle Dnieper.57
These considerations about the fairly diffuse distribution of resources and power among the Rus elite suggest that a paramount prince or princess who converted to Christianity was not assured of carrying all the other princes with them. In fact there are indications of resentment at, if not resistance to, attempts by Olga to foster Christianity. These are conveyed in schematic form by the Primary Chronicle’s tale of Sviatoslav’s response to Olga upon being urged to adopt her faith. He is said to have excused himself with the plea: “my retainers will laugh at this!”58 An account of a German religious mission to Rus written by Adalbert of Trier suggests that the prospects for full-scale conversion were not bright. Adalbert himself had led the mission, sent in response to a request from Olga for “a bishop and priests for [ ... her] people.” Presumably Bishop Adalbert and his lord, Otto I of Germany, had expected the conversion of the entire population of Rus.59 This is not what came about. Adalbert and his companions left Rus within about a year of their arrival in 961, seeing that he was “wearing himself out to no purpose” and alleging that Olga’s invitation had been fraudulent. Adalbert states that several in his party were killed on the return journey and he himself barely escaped. This could mean that their attackers were motivated by a specific hostility toward Christian churchmen, rather than by material greed or general antipathy towards strangers.60 The elaboration of pagan funerary rites and amulets such as Thor’s hammers may well represent a reaction against the spread of Christian symbols such as pendant crosses, among the Rus, as among the Danes, Swedes, and Gotlanders.61 But the reaction in Rus, at least, was liable to occur among senior members of the elite and to take violent as well as symbolic form.
It is quite likely that, after her own baptism, Olga would have wanted to spread the Word with the help of senior churchmen who would be capable of ordaining new priests. She was, however, risking resentment, or worse, on the part of pagan notables of the ilk of the future occupant of the Black Barrow of Chernigov. Her approach towards evangelization, therefore, would have been necessarily cautious, making no attempt at coercion, at least in respect of fellow members of the elite. The Primary Chronicle’s account of her efforts to persuade her son to convert corroborates this supposition. Such caution would have been prudent, taking into account the more or less oligarchic structure of the Rus polity but, no less understandably, her expectations would have fallen well short of Bishop Adalbert’s conception of the scope of a duly constituted religious mission.
MIGHT A MULTI-CULTURAL/”MULTI-CULT” RUS HAVE BEEN FEASIBLE?
It seems to me that there is no compelling reason why Rus should not have taken this course, and there are signs that a melange of cults was developing in tenth-century Rus, reflecting the diffusion of political power. Even if the majority of the elite had favored a particular monotheist religion, this need not necessarily have led to the exclusion of other monotheist religions or of other, less organized or clearly focused, cults. The example of Khazaria is instructive in that its multi-ethnic political structure, with its reliance on tribute collection and a transit trade in luxury goods, is in many ways reminiscent of Rus. The elite together, it seems, with the majority of the population of Khazaria proper, adopted Judaism as their sole professed religion soon after 861, but this did not lead to the conversion to Judaism of the various groups of nomads or other populations under their dominion. The Khazars actively catered to this heterodoxy, rather than merely tolerating the perpetuation of, for example, a Christian see in Itil, their chief city. In the mid-tenth century -- long after the Khazar ruler’s formal conversion -- Christian and Muslim as well as Judaist “judges” were posted in Itil. There also was a special judge appointed to provide for the disputes and interests of the “pagans,” amongst “the Slavs, the Rus and the other pagans.” When a case proved particularly knotty, it was, reportedly, referred to the Muslim qadis for adjudication. 62
Khazaria ceased to function as a political power after Prince Sviatoslav Igorevich’s devastating expedition against it in the mid 960s. But Sviatoslav himself seems to have attempted some form of politico-cultural syncretism from the new base that he established on the Lower Danube a few years later. He adopted the guise and lifestyle of a steppe nomad, yet still swore to uphold the terms of his agreement with Byzantium by the Slavic god of lightning and power, Perun.63 Our main Byzantine source for Sviatoslav’s campaigns in the Balkans, Leo the Deacon, emphasizes the rudely pagan quality of the Rus’ religious rites, but one should not rule out the possibility that some of Sviatoslav’s warriors were, in fact, baptized Christians. His mother Olga was, after all, under the spiritual care of a priest, with her in Kiev until her death. In any case, from his base in the Danube delta Sviatoslav presided for some two years over a Christian Bulgarian subject-population without arousing major opposition: many Bulgarians actively supported his overlordship, and a puppet Bulgarian Tsar reigned in nearby Preslav. Sviatoslav’s stay on the Lower Danube lasted only a few years, from 968 to 971 (interrupted by a forced return to Kiev), but he may have had his reasons for supposing that pagan Rus and steppe nomads might coexist indefinitely, side-by-side with a Christian population, under his overlordship. He would scarcely have made the attempt, had he attributed Khazaria’s downfall to the fact that it had housed several different religious cults within its bounds.
There are, in fact, hints as to what might be termed peaceful co-burial, if not coexistence, on the part of Christians and non-Christians in the tenth-century burial ground on the Starokievskaia Hill at Kiev. Excavations in the southeastern part of the burial ground have revealed a Christian-style pit burial and coffin in which lay a child wearing an ornate cast-silver cross around its neck. Only eleven meters away was a chamber-grave containing a man together with a horse and riding gear of fairly straightforwardly pagan character, as well as other chamber-graves.64 On the same part of the hill, Ukrainian archaeologists have found a trench in which, they claim, burnt offerings of animals had been made repeatedly. Perhaps more plausibly, they identify a structure whose layout recalls the three apses of a church as a pagan sanctuary, in whose central part may have stood a wooden idol. The bones of birds, pigs, and cattle that fill it had apparently been chopped up into segments, as if prepared for offerings, rather than being the remains of numerous meals thrown in a rubbish pit. Among other finds in the structure was a pendant cross, which clearly had been manufactured for religious ends.65 If this really was a shrine, it perhaps may have incorporated some Christian symbolism and amulets by way of syncretism. At all events, it is significant that no separate Christian burial ground seems to have been instituted on Starokievskaia Hill. The aforementioned structures and burials all date from before ca. 990, when the burial ground was cleared to make way for the building of Vladimir’s Church of the Mother of God and a new street plan. The intermingling of pagan and Christian burial rites on the same site is suggestive of mutual acquiescence and it is quite possible that Christian ritual, practiced on the Middle Dnieper without formal episcopal direction for two or three generations, was beginning to assimilate local characteristics. In parts of Sweden, such as Uppsala, Christians seem to have coexisted with pagans and “there is no certain evidence for totally separate Christian grave fields.”66 In this respect, at least, practices at Kiev would seem to have been comparable to those in the vicinity of Old Uppsala in the tenth and eleventh centuries.
PRINCE VLADIMIR’S ROUTE TO BAPTISM: FORCE, LEGITIMACY-DEFICIT, AND CULTS OF VICTORY
Considering the possibility that the Christian cult might have coexisted with pagan cults indefinitely, perhaps over time becoming ‘contaminated’ by them, while also having some effect on their rites,67 one may address the issue of Vladimir’s role in making Christianity the prevalent, or ‘official’, religion of Rus. This is not the occasion to enter into the questions of exactly when and why Vladimir eventually opted for Byzantine Christianity rather than other available monotheistic cults. Attention will focus instead on the fact that Vladimir seems to have enjoyed a rather freer hand than his predecessors in determining which form public worship should take and the extent to which his subjects should participate in it. This development is perhaps as noteworthy as the fact that he ultimately nailed his colors to Christianity. Three aspects of Vladimir’s position will be reviewed briefly: the apparent diminishing of constraints on the ruler’s choice of forms of governance and worship; Vladimir’s particular need for cults legitimizing his rule and assuring him of manifest victory; and the momentary lifting of Byzantine reservations about conversions of entire “barbarian” peoples and foreign husbands for imperial princesses.
Vladimir’s route to ascendancy on the Middle Dnieper differed quite markedly from that of his predecessors. While his first years of rule can hardly be described as secure, Vladimir gained control through distinctive, often ruthless, methods, and he may not have had to reckon with well-established notables as collaborators and constraints in quite the way that his grandfather or grandmother did in mid century. The clearing of the decks was partly fortuitous and partly his own bloody handiwork. Sviatoslav’s campaigns on the Danube had involved heavy losses for the Rus, and they probably cost the lives of many senior members of the elite, as well as of Sviatoslav himself. The seizure of Polotsk, a key location abutting on the East Way, by a Scandinavian, Rogvolod (Ragnvaldr in Old Norse), and the encampment of another adventurer, Tury, on the river Pripet suggest that gaps in the ranks and opportunities opened up after Sviatoslav’s demise. Vladimir, unlike his predecessors, had to fight his way to control of the Middle Dnieper, relying primarily on the company of warriors raised while he was in exile in Scandinavia. He overpowered autonomous magnates such as Rogvolod, whom he put to death, and subsequently he seized Kiev from his own half-brother, Iaropolk. The Primary Chronicle does not conceal the fact that Vladimir induced Iaropolk to come and parley, and then had him felled as he walked into their intended meeting hall.68 Vladimir won his struggle for mastery thanks to the treachery of the commander of the warriors inside Kiev; to his Scandinavian war band and longstanding links with the Novgorodians (who provided a militia in support of his drive for Kiev); and to his non-noble Slavic kinsmen, especially his uncle Dobrynia, the brother of his mother, Sviatoslav’s unfree housekeeper. Our sources are too sparse to sustain more detailed attempts to reconstruct the scenario. But it seems that Vladimir, seeking to institute his regime in Kiev from about 978 onwards, did not have to contend with many wealthy and entrenched fellow princes on the Middle Dnieper, while the very fact that he was himself half Slavic facilitated the forging of ties with local Slavs.
The manner in which Vladimir, “a slave’s son,” had wrested the Kievan throne for himself may have opened up ample leeway for choosing political allies and agents, and for adopting a style of governance. However, his need for the legitimization of his regime became all the more pressing, in contrast to his predecessors who had inherited the throne peacefully by blood right, and presumably, with the assent of fellow princes. This most probably accounts for Vladimir’s active promotion of a public, but neither monotheistic nor exclusive, cult soon after seizing power. Its political overtones are plain enough from the Primary Chronicle’s description. Six wooden idols were set up outside the princely hall, while Vladimir’s uncle Dobrynia did much the same in Novgorod. The centerpiece of the Kievan exhibition was a richly ornamented figure of Perun, the god of lightning and power, already singled out by Vladimir’s predecessors, but other gods of seeming appeal to the populations of the region also were enlisted to the prince’s cause.69 What is less remarked upon is that the public cult was very closely bound up with the concept of military victory for the ruler: the gods were expected to deliver success in war in return for human sacrifices. Having fought his way back to the throne from overseas exile, Vladimir had reason to brand his long line of successes as god-given, and to try systematically to maintain it through honoring the gods and requiring his subjects to join in the celebrations.
Quite early in Vladimir’s reign, after subjugating the Iatviagi, a people on Rus’ western approaches, he ordered human sacrifices to be offered up to the gods in thanksgiving. The public practice of his victory cult is not reported to have aroused opposition from the Christians, Muslims, or Jews then living in Kiev. According to the Primary Chronicle, it was only when the lot for sacrifice fortuitously fell on the son of a well-to-do Christian that trouble arose. The Christian, a Scandinavian (probably named Tury) who had returned from Byzantium to live in Kiev, objected and both he and the boy were slain.70 This tale may be cited as evidence of the problems posed by sponsoring a religious cult that was offensive to Christian sensibilities, while still maintaining intensive commerce with the Christian Byzantines. But perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the episode is that Vladimir was apparently able to enforce a cult which, though neither exclusive nor utterly mandatory, contained elements of coercion and, literally, the sacrifice of high-status individuals. His princely regime was, in the sphere of communal worship, markedly more dirigiste than seems to have been the case in Rus previously.71 The leeway that Vladimir enjoyed probably owed much to his violent seizure of power and, one may suggest, for that selfsame reason, that he had a particular lasting need to demonstrate the legitimacy of his rule through association with the gods, staging blood sacrifices to them outside his residence. This was conspicuous public display, but the thanksgiving offerings for victory also carried connotations of a compact with the gods such as have been noted earlier in this essay. Moreover, Vladimir probably wished to continue to be seen to be enjoying military success, and a steady stream of sacrifices was a medium for proclaiming his triumphs, a kind of counterpart to the Byzantine emperors’ elaborate rites of victory.
Viewed against this background, Vladimir’s course of actions in the mid 980s perhaps gains some elucidation. Around that time he seems to have suffered something of a reversal at the hands of the Muslim Volga Bulgars. At any rate, he was obliged to come to terms with them on a more or less equal footing, and this is the only one of Vladimir’s early campaigns against neighboring peoples depicted by the Primary Chronicle as less than overwhelmingly successful.72 It may be no coincidence that the Bulgars are represented in the next entry of the Chronicle as sending a mission to convert Vladimir to Islam, just after making peace with him. With the arrival of the Bulgar religious mission, the Chronicle introduces its stylized account of Vladimir’s “examination of the faiths.” It could well be that the missionaries had, in reality, been invited in by Vladimir. Jolted by a seemingly unprecedented military setback, and thus by the “non-delivery” of his gods, he may have begun considering whether one of the established monotheist religions would not meet his needs more effectively, dignifying his status and bringing in actual victories, tribute, and political success. In other words, a preoccupation specifically with military victory, as well as with personal kudos and authority, pervades Vladimir’s seemingly erratic quest for a befitting cult. His hold over Kiev and ability to exact tribute from a vast and still expanding catchment area were scarcely in question, but a setback at the hands of worshippers of a single God may have led him to make further enquiries about Him. The Rus had shown similar interest in the Byzantines’ God after their relatively ineffective raid on Constantinople in 860, and they had certainly requested a mission.73 But there was, in the mid to late 980s, no inevitability that Vladimir would turn to the Byzantines’ God, and we have a hint that he took serious soundings about Islam, although casting far beyond the Volga Bulgars for instruction. According to an Arabic source, a certain V.Iadmir, “king” of the Rus, wanted to become Muslim together with his people, and his envoys announced his desire to the ruler of Khorezm in Central Asia. Reportedly, the latter sent back “someone to teach them the religious laws of Islam.”74 This is most probably an echo of Vladimir’s enquiries about the major monotheistic religions.
Without trying to determine the exact sequence of what passed between Vladimir and Emperor Basil II of Byzantium in the late 980s, one may point to a drastic, if fleeting, change in the balance of advantage between the Rus and Byzantine rulers. As noted above, the Byzantine imperial Establishment was generally almost as loath to dispatch major religious missions to other rulers of substance as it was to let imperial princesses be married to them. But about the time that Vladimir was casting around for a convincing replacement for Perun and the other gods who had, if not failed altogether, at least failed to deliver, the Byzantine emperor happened to face a major rebellion from his military commanders. Leading the greater part of the regular army units and the provincial fleets, the rebels overran most of Asia Minor and were by 988, beleaguering the capital.75 At this point a deal was struck between Vladimir and Basil. Vladimir received a Rus military force amounting to a fair-sized army -- 6,000 warriors according to one contemporary writer -- and their support seems to have been decisive in repulsing the rebel forces from the vicinity of Constantinople and leading to the eventual suppression of the revolt.
In return for seemingly decisive military aid and for keeping Basil on his throne, Vladimir gained a Purple-born bride, in the form of the emperor’s sister, Anna. He also took the baptismal name of Basil, in honor of the emperor, who probably became his godfather. Anna was accompanied by a full-blown religious mission led by senior churchmen (metropolitans) empowered to ordain priests and dedicate churches, and technical aid soon arrived in the form of craftsmen who built splendid brick and stone churches, notably the Tithe-Church on Starokievskaia Hill. Next to this church were raised monumental halls for the prince and his court, and these, too, were built of stone and decorated with mosaics and wall paintings.76 At some stage Vladimir himself led an expedition against Cherson and sacked the town. Various explanations for this action are possible. The siege and capture of Cherson could have been a ‘first strike’, inducing the already beleaguered Basil to agree to a marriage and religious mission in return for Rus military aid. Or, it may have been in retaliation for Basil’s failure to honor an initial agreement along similar lines, forcing him to abide by it. Or still, the capture of Cherson could even have been carried out on Basil’s behalf if, as A. Poppe has proposed, the town had sided with the rebellious generals.77 Whichever of these explanations is preferred, it does not affect the essential fact that the circumstances surrounding Vladimir’s baptism were unprecedented and momentary. For urgent domestic reasons, a Byzantine emperor was willing to treat with a powerful yet still restlessly aspirational ruler of Rus, and to respond positively to his wishes. Vladimir’s specific requests were probably not so very different from those of his grandmother, Olga-Helena, a generation earlier, but now he had the leverage. In fact, he seems at the time to have projected his exploits at Cherson in triumphalist terms, seizing antique statuary from there and installing it outside the Church of the Mother of God adjoining his palace.78 This “show” church stood on the site of pagan sanctuaries and had trophies of victory standing outside it.
POINTS IN FAVOR OF ILARION’S “AUTHORIZED VERSION”
Whether Vladimir’s acceptance of Christianity from Byzantium and the imposition of the new religion on his subjects should be deemed fortuitous or in fulfillment of divine providence is perhaps a matter of faith. But the general thrust of the evidence presented above suggests that effective imposition of Byzantine Christianity by a Rus ruler on his or her people was far from inevitable; the religious life of the Rus might have taken many alternative forms; and the compact reached between Vladimir and Basil II resulted from a highly unusual set of circumstances, specifically, a close convergence of interests between the two potentates. Vladimir happened to enjoy an unusually masterful and yet ideologically inchoate position of dominance in Rus in the 980s. This made him all the more determined and effective a propagator of the Faith, once he had opted for Byzantine Christianity rather than polytheism or some other form of monotheism (such as Islam). To that extent, he really was instrumental in bringing about a mass baptism, and the turn of events was quite extraordinary. If that is so, Ilarion’s insistence on Vladimir’s free volition in adopting Christianity, and his acclamation of Vladimir’s choice as being a “wondrous miracle” are not misplaced.
In fact, Ilarion’s overall presentation of Vladimir as a figure of pivotal importance undergoing a personal conversion, a new Constantine, is not so wide of the mark, and there is considerable substance to his rhetoric: “How shall we marvel at your goodness, your strength and your might? What thanks shall we offer you? You, through whom we came to the knowledge of God; you, through whom we were delivered from idolatrous delusion …”.79 Ilarion, like the somewhat later Rus Primary Chronicle, portrays the mass baptism in terms of violence instigated by the ruler against false gods and pays quite detailed attention to their former cult: “No longer do we slay one another as offerings for demons, for now Christ is ever slain and segmented for us as an offering to God and the Father. No longer do we drink the blood of the offering and perish, for now we drink the pure blood of Christ.”80 He is quite specific that organized cults had been functioning on the eve of Vladimir’s baptism:
[P]agan shrines were torn down, and churches set up; the idols were smashed and icons of saints were installed; the demons retreated ... and bishops ... performed the bloodless sacrifice before the holy altar; priests and deacons and all the clergy ... adorned the holy churches and clothed them in beauty; ... monasteries rose on the hills; monks appeared; men and women great and small, and all people, filling the holy churches, sang praises .... 81
Archaeological evidence confirms Ilarion’s statement about the destruction of pagan shrines, and this suggests that his emphasis on actions taken against idols and “the murk of our idolatry” is no mere figure of speech. Deliberate destruction is discernible at Kiev, notably in the great burial ground on Starokievskaia Hill, where the pagan sanctuaries seem to have been burnt as a means of purifying and clearing the site before the construction of the Church of the Mother of God and other buildings began. There is also evidence of the destruction of a sanctuary at the suggestively-named site of Peryn’ near Novgorod: the wooden idol at the center, almost certainly of Perun, seems to have been cut from its base.82
One further correlation between Ilarion’s sermon and archaeological evidence may be noted, pointing to certain limitations in the changes wrought by Vladimir. Ilarion makes significant, if tacit, qualifications as to the geographical distribution of the mass baptism, even while praising Vladimir for planting the Cross “throughout all your land.” His more detailed descriptions of the implementation of Vladimir’s order are mostly set in towns or cities: “cities were graced by the cross,” and “the thunder of the Gospels resounded throughout all the cities.”83 Ilarion seems almost to conceive of the Christianization work by Vladimir and its continuation by Iaroslav in terms of the building activities and worship performed in Kiev itself, where Iaroslav “entrusted your [Vladimir’s] people and city to the holy, all-glorious Mother of God.”84 This stylized imagery of a new realm centered on a sacred city does not represent wholesale application of unassimilated Byzantine political and religious concepts to Rus. A process of quite careful selection of imagery on Ilarion’s part is implied by his depiction of the Byzantine empire itself. He represents Vladimir as learning about the Byzantines’ land, and the prayerful life of the countryside as well as the towns: “how devout are their cities and villages” -- an amplification that Ilarion does not apply to Rus after the conversion.85 Archaeological data and the less stylized Primary Chronicle confirm the impression that only a limited proportion of the population, those who were directly under the prince’s sway, initially worshipped the new God and His saints. The evidence of Christian church buildings, personal devotion as expressed by cross medallions and other Christian symbols, and burial grounds broadly conforming to Orthodox funerary norms is fullest for the towns of the Middle Dnieper region and the forts and settlements founded by Vladimir within an approximately 250 kilometer radius of Kiev.86 Churches were also built, and public Christian rites enforced, within the urban network of population centers strung along the river ways between the Middle Dnieper and Novgorod. Occasionally archaeological evidence supports the Primary Chronicle’s statement that churches were built on the sites of former shrines that had housed idols. Soon after Vladimir’s baptism, flamboyantly pagan funeral practices among the elite such as boat-burnings and elaborately furnished chamber-graves were discontinued, and the main burial grounds at Gnezdovo seem to have been abandoned. But over a century after Vladimir’s conversion, extensive tracts of thinly populated forest set back from the riverways were still only slightly touched by the princes’ commands or priests’ visits. The degree of outward and visible conformity to Orthodox Christian norms by ordinary folk largely corresponded with the areas where princely authority was regularly tangible. In the late eleventh century, a Byzantine-born metropolitan of Rus noted among the enquiries put to him by Rus clergymen: “you say that only boiars and princes get married with proper ceremony and blessing, while the common people do not; that the common people take wives as if by abduction, with much leaping and dancing and hooting.”87
The archaeological and later literary evidence tends to bear out the picture presented by Ilarion’s Sermon on Law and Grace, that Christianity was at first mainly the preserve of the new princely elite and of the towns. To that extent, his “authorized version” is a rhetorical yet not inaccurate rendering of the magnitude of the changes that had occurred. The high-flown expressions of wonder, gratitude to Vladimir, and relief that the Rus had been “delivered from idolatrous delusion”88 registered an underlying reality: but for the new Constantine’s momentous decision to be baptized and to impose baptism on as many of his subjects as possible, and his ability to enforce it effectively, the rites, cults, and beliefs of Rus could well have unfolded in a variety of directions. Various forms of ‘bastardized’ Christianity might have featured among them and coexisted, without Orthodox churchmen having had effective means of laying down the line. Vladimir’s success in introducing a full-blown religious mission from Byzantium and instituting an organized Church in Rus was due to a most unusual combination of personal ability and convictions, and overall political circumstances. Ilarion had solid theological grounds as well as ulterior political motivation for eulogizing the role of the “apostle among rulers”89 as the guarantor of enlightenment and ordered piety.
Ilarion, Slovo o zakone i blagodati, in Des Metropoliten Ilarion Lobrede auf Vladimir den Heiligen, ed. 1. Müller (Wiesbaden, 1962), 101; Sermons and Rhetoric of Kievan Rus’, trans. S. Franklin (Cambridge, MA, 1991), 18.
A. A. Alekseev, “O vremeni proizneseniia Slova o zakoni i blagodati mitropolita Ilariona,” Trudy otdela drevnerusskoy literatury 51 (1999): 289-91.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, ed. V. P. Adrianova-Peretts and D. S. Likhachev, 2nd ed. (St. Petersburg, 1996), 58; Russian Primary Chronicle, trans. S. H. Cross and O. P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Cambridge, MA, 1953), 125.
Ilarion, Slovo, 102; Sermons, trans. Franklin, 18.
Ilarion, Slovo, 118-19; Sermons, trans. Franklin, 23.
Ilarion, Slovo, 105; Sermons, trans. Franklin, 19.
L. Abrams, “Eleventh-century Missions and the Early Stages of Ecclesiastical Organization in Scandinavia,” Anglo-Norman Studies 17 (1995): 21-40 at 35-40; S. Brink, “Tidig kyrklig organization i Norden-aktörerna i sockenbildningen,” in Kristnandet i Sverige: Gamla källor och nya perspektiv, ed. B. Nilsson (Uppsala, 1996), 269-90 at 274-76, 285-89; idem, “The Formation of the Scandinavian Parish, with some Remarks regarding the English Impact on the Process,” in The Community, the Family and the Saint: Patterns of Power in Early Medieval Europe, ed. J. Hill and M. Swan (Turnhout, 1998): 20-25, 37; L. Lager, “Runestones and the Conversion of Sweden,” in The Cross goes North: Processes of Conversion in Northern Europe, AD 300-1300, ed. M. Carver (York, 2003), 497-507 at 504-6.
On the problem of assessing “Christianization” and “conversion” in ill-documented situations, see L. Abrams, “Conversion and Assimilation,” in Cultures in Contact: Scandinavian Settlement in England in the ninth and tenth centuries, ed. D. M. Hadley and J. D. Richards (Turnhout, 2000), 135-53 at 136-39, 143-48; idem, “The Conversion of the Danelaw,” in Vikings and the Danelaw, ed. J. Graham-Campbell, et al. (Oxford, 2001), 31-44. The issue of corporate changes in ritual and observance versus the experiences and beliefs of individuals was discussed by James Muldoon, “Introduction: the Conversion of Europe,” in Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages, ed. James Muldoon (Gainsville, FL, 1997), 1-10. See also J. D. Ryan, “Conversion versus Baptism? European Missionaries in Asia in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries,” in Varieties of Religious Conversion, 146-67 at 161-62. An individual’s concept of Christianity could still be informed by pre-existing pagan gods and spirits (and vice versa), as B. Meyer pointed out: “Modernity and Enchantment: the Image of the Devil in Popular African Christianity,” in Conversion to Modernities: the Globalisation of Christianity, ed. P. van der Veer (New York-London, 1996), 199-230 at 210-11, 217-22.
Ibn Khurradadhbih, Kitab al-Masalik wa’l Mamalik, ed. T. Lewicki, Zródla arabskie do dziejów slowianszczyzny I (Wroclaw-Cracow, 1956), 76-77; S. Franklin and J. Shepard, The Emergence of Rus: 750-120 (London, 1996), 42-43.
J. Darrouzès, Notitiae Episcopatuum Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae (Paris, 1981), 31-32, 245; J. Shepard, “The Khazars’ formal adoption of Judaism and Byzantium’s northern policy,” Oxford Slavonic Papers 31 (1998): 11-34 at 18-21.
Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 30. Turkic characters have been noted on a number of other Oriental coins from the hoard and this tends to support the likelihood of a Khazar connection: E. A. Mel’nikova, A. B. Nikitin, and A. V. Fomin, “Graffiti na kuficheskikh monetakh petergofskogo klada nachala IX veka,” Drevneishie gosudarstva na territorii SSSR. Materialy i issledovaniia 1982 g. (Moscow, 1984), 26-47 at 26, 36-38; E. A. Mel’nikova, Skandinavskie runicheskie nadpisi. Novye nakhodki i interpretatsii (Moscow, 2001), 107.
Rimbert, Vita Anskarii, ed. W. Trillmich and R. Buchner, in Quellen des 9. und 11. Jahrhunderts zur Geschichte der Hamburgischen Kirche und des Reiches (Darmstadt, 1978), 64-67, 104-5. On the composition date of the Vita, see Ian Wood, The Missionary Life. Saints and the Evangelisation of Europe 400-1050 (London, 2001),125 and 138 n. 36.
“... huius religionis normam profuturam sibi sentientes.” Rimbert, Vita Anskarii, 90-91.
There is, however, no reason to dismiss all such assemblies, among Swedes or other northern peoples, as hagiographical topoi and this episode is devoid of the miracles that fill some chapters of the Vita. See Wood, Missionary Life, 129-31.
Ibn Fadlan, Voyage chez les Bulgares de la Volga, trans. M. Canard (Paris, 1988), 74-75.
Constantine VII De administrando imperio chap. 9, ed. G. Moravcsik and R. J. H. Jenkins, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC, 1967), 60-61.
I. G. Dobrovol’sky, I. V. Dubov, and I. K. Kuz’menko, “Klassifikatsiia i interpretatsiia graffiti na vostochnykh monetakh (kollektsiia Ermitazha),” Trudy Gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha 21 (1981): 53-77 at 57-59, 66-67; E. A. Mel’nikova, “Graffiti na vostochnykh monetakh iz sobraniy Ukrainy,” Drevneishie gosudarstva vostochnoi Evropy. 1994 g. (Moscow, 1996), 248-84 at 253-54, 256, 259, 274-78, 284; idem, Skandin. runicheskie nadpisi, 107-8, 111-12, and 112 tablitsa 9.
Ibn Rusta, Kitab al-A’lak al-nafisa, ed. T. Lewicki, in Zródla arabskie do dziejów slowianszczyzny II.2 (Wroclaw, Warsaw, Cracow, Gdansk, 1977), 42-43; tran.s. G. Wiet, Les atours précieux (Cairo, 1955), 165.
Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 43-44.
Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 46-49, 61, 87-89.
G. L. Novikova, “Skandinavskie amulety iz Gnezdova,” in Smolensk i Gnezdovo (k istorii drcvnerusskogo goroda), ed. D. A. Avdusin (Moscow, 1991), 175-99 at 177. Also in the eastern lands there have been found a total of 70 iron neck-rings without hammerlets; 18 of these were found at Gnezdovo.
D. A. Avdusin and T. A. Pushkina, “Three chamber-graves at Gniozdovo,” Fornvännen 83 (1988): 20-33; Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 158-59.
N. G. Nedoshivina, “Srednevekovye krestovidnye podveski iz listovogo serebra,” Sovetskaia Arkheologia no. 4 (1983): 222-25.
Nedoshivina, “Srednevekovye krestovidnye podveski,” 224-25.
M. K. Karger, Drevnii Kiev, vol. I (Moscow-Leningrad, 1958), 208-11, 174-76. Karger, while denying that the pendant crosses bore any relation to Christian crosses (212) drew attention to very close analogies found in graves at Birka, and subsequent scholars incline to accept that they had Christian connotations for their wearers or for those undertaking the funerals: Nedoshivina, “Srednevekovye krestovidnye podveski,” 224; V. I. Petrukhin, Nachalo etnokul’turnoy istorii Rusi IX-XI vekov (Smolensk-Moscow, 1995), 221, 224, 228, 230; V. I. Petrukhin and T. A. Pushkina, “Old Russia: the earliest Stages of Christianization,” in Rom und Byzanz im Norden. Mission und Glaubenswechsel im Ostseeraum während des 8.-14. Jahrhunderts, II, ed. M Müller-Wille, 3rd ed. (Stuttgart, 1997), 247-58 at 249-50.
J. Shepard, “A cone-seal from Shestovitsy,” Byzantion 56 (1986): 252-74.
Shepard, “Cone-seal,” 254-6; Petrukhin, Nachalo etnokul’turnoy istorii, 96-99, 225.
J. G. Gager, ed., Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World (New York-Oxford, 1992), 219-22, 224-25, 232-34; J. Russell, “The archaeological context of magic in the early Byzantine period,” in Byzantine Magic, ed. H. Maguire (Washington, DC, 1995), 35-50.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 26; Russian Primary Chronicle, 77. The treaty, originally drafted in Greek, survives through the incorporation of a Slavic translation into the Primary Chronicle. The authenticity of the text as a whole is not in serious doubt.
J. Malingoudis, Die russisch-byzantinischen Verträge des 10. Jhds. aus diplomatischer Sicht (Thessalonica, 1994), 46-47 and n. 100.
P. Magdalino, “Observations on the Nea Ekklesia of Basil I,” Jahrbuch der österreichischen Byzantinistik 37 (1987): 51-64 at 61; idem, “Basil I, Leo VI and the Feast of the Prophet Elijah,” Jahrbuch der österreichischen Byzantinistik 38 (1988): 193-96; R. Janin, Le siège de Constantinople et Ie patriarcat oecuménique III, in Les églises et les monastères (Paris, 1969), 136-37, 232-36.
Constantine VII, De cerimoniis aulae byzantinae, II. 15, ed. I. I. Reiske (Bonn, 1829), 579. See C. Mango, The Brazen House: A Study of the Vestibule of the Imperial Palace of Constantinople (Copenhagen, 1959), 21-22, 97-98.
Constantine VII De ceremoniis II. 15, 594, 598. A re-dating from 957 to 946 was first proposed by G. G. Litavrin and has been reaffirmed with revisions in his Vizantiia, Bolgariia, Drevniaia Rus’ (IX-nachalo XlIv.) (St. Petersburg, 2000), 174-90. This re-dating was corroborated on independent grounds by O. Kresten, “Staatsempfänge” im Kaiserpalast von Konstantinopel um die Mitte des 10. Jahrhunderts: Beobachtungen zu Kapitel II, 15 des sogenannten “Zeremonienbuches” (Vienna, 2000); and by C. Zuckerman, “Le voyage d’Olga et la première ambassade espagnole à Constantinople en 946,” Travaux et Mémoires 13 (2000): 647-72. However, the codicological evidence does not necessarily exclude a dating of 957 for the text describing the reception for Olga, and this dating is not far removed from the date of 954-955 indicated by an independent (albeit not unfailingly accurate) source, the Rus Primary Chronicle, 82, and Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 29; Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 137. See J. Featherstone, “Preliminary remarks on the Leipzig manuscript of De ceremoniis,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 95 (2002): 457-79 at 472-79; idem, “Olga’s visit to Constantinople in De ceremoniis,” Revue des études byzantines 61 (2003): 241-51.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 32; Primary Chronicle, 86.
Constantine VII De cerimoniis 11.15, 597.
Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 113-15.
Constantine VII De cerimoniis 11.15, 594.
Constantine VII De administrando imperio chap. 9, 58-59, 62-63.
Constantine VII De administrando imperio chap. 4, 52-53.
Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 121.
Continuity of households seems to have been provided elsewhere in the Scandinavian world, by Danish and Swedish women of substance. They, too, apparently had opportunities to introduce and display Christian rites and worship, rather than always having to uphold pagan customs and norms: J. Staecker, “The Cross Goes North: Christian Symbols and Scandinavian Women,” in The Cross Goes North, 463-82 at 472, 479-80.
Gregory is mentioned by name as attending the two imperial receptions, unlike the other members of Olga’s entourage, and he received eight miliaresia at each of them. This singular and fairly high-profile role for Gregory tends to support the view that Olga was receiving some sort of religious instruction from him by the time of her voyage to Byzantium: Constantine VII De cerimoniis 11.15,597-98.
Therefore Ilarion need not have been deliberately excluding the role of women in the manner of thirteenth-century Scandinavian conversion narratives. But he shared with Snorri Sturluson a certain respect for force majeure in discrediting paganism: R. Mazo Karras, “God and Man in Medieval Scandinavia,” in Varieties of Religious Conversion, 100-14 at 103-11.
Theophanes Continuatus IV. 33, V. 97, ed. I. Bekker (Bonn, 1838), 196, 342-44; Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 54-55.
See L. Simeonova, “In the depths of tenth-century Byzantine ceremonial: the treatment of Arab prisoners of war at imperial banquets,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 22 (1998): 75-104 at 91-100.
J. Shepard, “Spreading the Word: Byzantine Missions,” Oxford History of Byzantium, ed. C. Mango (Oxford, 2002), 230-47 at 232-38. See also T. S. Noonan’s suggestively titled study, “Why Orthodoxy did not spread among the Bulgars of the Crimea during the early Medieval Era: an early Byzantine Conversion Model,” in Christianizing Peoples and Converting Individuals, ed. G. Armstrong and I. N. Wood (Turnhout, 2000),15-24 at 17, 21, 24.
H. Ditten, “Prominente Slawen und Bulgaren in byzantinischen Diensten (Ende des 7. bis Anfang des 10. Jahrhunderts),” Studien zum 8. and 9. Jahrhundert in Byzanz, ed. H. Köpstein and F. Winkelmann (Berlin, 1983), 95-118.
Constantine VII De administrando imperio chap. 13, 74-75.
Nicholas I, Patriarch of Constantinople, Letters, ed. and trans. L. G. Westerink and R. J. H. Jenkins (Washington, DC, 1973), 314-15, 388-91.
A. Musin, “Two Churches or Two Traditions: Common Traits and Peculiarities in Northern and Russian Christianity ... ,” in Rom und Byzanz im Norden, 275-95 at 279; D. Obolensky, “Byzantium, Kiev and Cherson in the tenth century,” Byzantinoslavica 54 (1993): 108-13; Shepard, “Spreading the Word,” 241-43.
Constantine VII De cerimoniis 11.15, 597, 598; Constantine VII De administrando imperio chap. 9, 62-63.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 34-35; Primary Chronicle, 73.
Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 115-16.
Novikova, “Skandinavskie amulety,” 18; Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 127; T. A. Pushkina, “Podveska-amulet iz Gnezdova,” in Norna u istochnikov Sud’by. Sbornik statei v chest’ Eleny Aleksandrovny Mel’nikovoi, ed. T. N. Jackson et al. (Moscow, 2001), 313-16.
Petrukhin, Nachalo etnokul’turnoi istorii, 99-100, 170-93; Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 121-22; 166.
Constantine VII De cerimoniis 11.15, 597-98; Zuckerman, “Voyage d’Olga,” 671 and n. 77.
Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 119-21, 124-25, 129-30, 133-35.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 46; Primary Chronicle, 84.
Adalbert, Continuatio Reginonis, ed. A. Bauer and R. Rau, in Quellen zur Geschichte der Sächsischen Kaiserzeit, (Darmstadt, 1971), 214-15.
Adalbert Continuatio Reginonis, 218-19.
Staecker, “The Cross Goes North,” 467-70.
Masudi, Les prairies d’or, trans. C. Barbier de Meynard and P. de Courteille, rev. C. Pellat (Paris, 1962), 162.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 34; Primary Chronicle, 90; Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 149-51.
I. E. Borovs’ky and O. P. Kaliuk, “Doslidzhennia kyivs’kogo dytyntsia,” in Starodavniy Kyiv. Arkheolohichni doslidzhennia 1984-1989, ed. P. P. Tolochko et al. (Kiev, 1993), 3-42 at 8-9.
Borovs’ky and Kaliuk, “Doslidzhennia,” 11-12. The layout is shown in Illustration 1, p. 4.
C. Nilsson, “Early Christian Burials in Sweden,” in Christianizing Peoples, 73-82 at 80. See also A.-S. Gräslund, “New Perspectives on an Old Problem: Uppsala and the Christianization of Sweden,” in Christianizing Peoples, 61-71 at 65-67.
It has been observed of early Anglo-Saxon England that “we seem to be faced with non-stop religious development and fluctuation in which paganism and Christianity were never hermetically separate”: I. N. Wood, “Some Historical Re-identifications and the Christianization of Kent,” in Christianizing Peoples, 27-35 at 35.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 55; Primary Chronicle, 92-93.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 56; Primary Chronicle, 93; Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 155.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 38-39; Primary Chronicle, 95.
Human sacrifices could, according to Ibn Rusta, be ordered quite summarily in ninth-century Rus, but significantly the orders were given by shamans, not the ruler: Ibn Rusta, Kitab al-A’lak al-nafisa, 40-43; Les atours précieux, 164. There is no firm evidence of a cult organized under the supervision of the Rus princes before the Primary Chronicle’s account of Vladimir’s “pantheon” of idols. Attempts have been made to dismiss as hagiographical topoi the Chronicle’s circumstantial details of Vladimir’s pagan pantheon and bloodshed in the years before baptism, including his responsibility for the deaths of the Scandinavian Christian and his son. He is not, however, absolved from responsibility for the death of his brother Iaropolk. See J. Korpela, Prince, Saint and Apostle: Prince Vladimir Svjatoslavič of Kiev, his Posthumous Life, and the Religious Legitimization of the Russian Great Power (Wiesbaden, 2001), 80-83, 91-92.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 39; Primary Chronicle, 96; V. I. Petrukhin, Drevniaia Rus’: Narod. Kniaz’ia. Religiia, in Iz istorii russkoy kul’tury, I (Drevniaia Rus’) (Moscow, 2000), 264.
Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 54.
Marwazi, trans. V. Minorsky, in Sharaf aI-Zaman Tahir Marwazi on China, the Turks and India (London, 1942), 36; J. Shepard, “Some remarks on the sources for the conversion of Rus,” in Le origini e lo sviluppo della cristianità slavo-bizantina, ed. S. W. Swierkosz-Lenart (Rome, 1992), 59-95 at 76-77.
W. Treadgold, History of the Byzantine State and Society (Stanford, 1997), 517-18.
Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 164-65.
A. Poppe, “The political background to the baptism of Rus. Byzantine-Russian relations between 986-989,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 30 (1976): 197-244; Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 162-63 and n. 69; Petrukhin, Drevniaia Rus’, 270-73.
Povest’ Vremennykh Let, 52; Primary Chronicle, 116.
Ilarion, Slovo, 107; Franklin, trans., Sermons and Rhetoric, 20.
Ilarion, Slovo, 90; Franklin, trans., Sermons and Rhetoric, 14.
Ilarion, Slovo, 105-6; Franklin, trans., Sermons and Rhetoric, 19-20.
Borovs’ky and Kaliuk, “Doslidzhennia,” 11; V. V. Sedov, “Drevnerusskoe iazycheskoe sviatilishche v Peryni,” Kratkie Soobshcheniia Instituta Istorii Material’noi Kul’tury 50 (1953): 92-103 at 98-99; idem, “Novye dannye o iazycheskom sviatilishche Peruna,” Kratkie Soobshcheniia Instituta Istorii Material’noi Kul’tury 53 (1954): 105-8; Petrukhin, Drevniaia Rus’, 273-74.
Ilarion, Slovo, 106; Franklin, trans., Sermons and Rhetoric, 19.
Ilarion, Slovo, 123-24; Franklin, trans., Sermons and Rhetoric, 24.
Ilarion, Slovo, 103; Franklin, trans., Sermons and Rhetoric, 18.
V. V. Sedov, “Rasprostranenie khristianstva v drevnei Rusi,” Kratkie Soobshcheniia Instituta Arkheologii 208 (1993): 3-11 at 4-7, and map fig. 1 on 5; Petrukhin and Pushkina, “Old Russia,” 255-56, and map fig. 2 on 254; Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 173-76.
Metropolitan John II, Canonical Responses, no. 30, in Russkaia Istoricheskaia Biblioteka, VI (St. Petersburg, 1880), cols. 1-20 at col. 18, trans. in Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, 230.
Ilarion, Slovo, 107; Franklin, trans., Sermons and Rhetoric, 20.
Ilarion, Slovo, 126; Franklin, trans., Sermons and Rhetoric, 25.