Biographies Russian Rulers Rurikid Grand Prince Vladimir

Grand Prince Vladimir

Born: Unknown

Vladimir was the son of Prince Svyatoslav the Brave of Kiev and a housekeeper called Malusha. In 970, he was elected the prince of Novgorod. Six years later, he learnt that one of his brothers, Yaropolk, had murdered another, Oleg, at the instigation of his uncle Dobrynya. Vladimir assembled an army of Varanghians and marched on Kiev. On the way, he defeated the Polovtsian prince, Rogvold, and took his daughter Rogneda (Yaropolk’s bride) as his wife. Vladimir then sent hired assassins on to Kiev, where they murdered Yaropolk. He thus became the grand prince of Kiev at the age of thirty-three.

Vladimir fought a series of wars against the enemies of Kievan Rus. He defeated the Poles and the Volga Bolgars and overcame the Radimich, Pechenegs, Khazars, Livonians and Estonians. After winning these wars, Vladimir decided to enjoy the peace. He was famed for his lavish banquets and other entertainments. The prince was passionate about women and had over eight-hundred wives from different nations. As these women practised different religions, his neighbours hoped to use them to convert Vladimir and his people to their own faith. After studying the different religions and sending emissaries to various lands, Vladimir’s choice fell on the Greek Orthodox Church.

The adoption of Christianity brought culture and learning to Kievan Rus. Religious schools were opened, churches were built and decorated with frescoes and ornaments of silver and gold. Vladimir’s character changed and he became kind and compatible. When his son, Prince Yaroslav of Novgorod, broke away from Kiev, however, Vladimir declared him an outlaw and raised an army against him. He died on the way to Novgorod, at the village of Berestov on 15 July 1015. When two of Vladimir’s sons – Boris and Gleb – were later murdered by their cousin, Prince Svyatopolk, they were canonised as the first Russian saints.

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