Day of Baptism of Rus Celebrated in Ukraine
The Day of Remembrance of Prince Volodymyr of Kyiv is celebrated on July 28. He was the grandson of the Holy Princess Olha, whose day of remembrance is celebrated on July 24. Prince Volodymyr not only converted to Christianity himself but also helped to make Christianity the state religion of the Kyivan Rus. Therefore, 28 July is celebrated as a state holiday in Ukraine, the Day of Baptism of the Kyivan Rus.
The prince was born in 954 in Kyiv. He ruled in Kyiv for 35 years from 980 to 1015.
There are many versions as to the place and time of the prince’s baptism. The chronicle mentions the year 988. There is a controversy as to whether he was baptized in Kyiv or Chersonese. After his baptism, the prince ordered the Kyivans to be baptized and to throw the pagan idols in the Dnipro River. The baptism of the Kyivans was more or less nonviolent, whereas in other principalities it was imposed with fire and sword.
Many churches, including the Tithe Church, were built on his instruction.
However, Christianity appeared in the Ukrainian lands long before the baptism of Volodymyr. The spread of Christianity in Ukraine is dated back to the 1st century and is associated with the stay of Apostle Andrew on the hills of Kyiv. His mission to the Crimea is an established historic fact. There is detailed historic information about the first Christian martyrs in the Crimea. In particular, one of the first Roman bishops, Pope Clement I, perished there as a martyr. His head was later found by Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
Various sources mention baptism of the Kyiv Prince Askold in 860, during his campaign against Constantinople. Some historians assume that the prince then attempted to baptize the Kyivans and even brought bishops to establish the church hierarchy. However, in 882, he was killed and the religious reform failed due to strong resistance of the pagans.
However, Christian communities remained in Kyiv, which fact is indicated by an agreement between Rus and Constantinople concluded in 941 under Prince Ihor.
A new rise of Christianity in Rus began under Princess Olha who was recognized equal to the Apostles as well as Prince Volodymyr.
In the western Ukrainian lands, Christianity spread in the 9-10th centuries from Moravia where the church was established by Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
Therefore, the baptism of Rus by Prince Volodymyr was the completion of the long process of Christianization of Kyivan Rus.
The Day of Baptism of Kyivan Rus, July 28, became an official holiday in 2008 according to a presidential decree of Viktor Yushchenko.