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Volodymyr Velyky ["Vladimir the Great"]

Vladimir the Great was one of the greatest of Russian monarchs. His efforts were direc'ted at ridding himself of his Varangian warriors, who had begun to give him trouble, and also to the consolidation of his authority in his empire. He succeeded in both undertakings. He was a pagan when he ascended the Russian throne, and he manifested intense zeal in behalf of his gods, but his religion was very lax. He had six wives, who bore him twelve sons, among whom he subsequently divided his dominions; and he maintained about eight hundred concubines in several of the Russian cities. No woman in his dominions was safe from his violence.

Vladimir the Great was a great warrior and statesman. He conquered Red Russia and Lithuania, and rendered Livonia tributary. After completing his conquests he resolved to show his gratitude to his gods by offering a human sacrifice to them, and for this purpose he set apart the captives whom he had taken in war; but his courtiers persuaded him that the gods would be better pleased by the sacrifice of one of his own subjects, and therefore he sele'tled a young Varangian, the son of a Christian, and who had been educated in his fathers religion. The father refused to give up his son; and the populace, enraged at what they considered an insult to their religion and to their sovereign, attacked and murdered both father and son. The Russian Church canonized both as its only martyrs.

The fame of Vladimir the Great as a conqueror had by this time spread into the neighboring countries, and the four great religious bodies of the world made efi'orts to convert him to their respective faiths. The Eastern Bulgarians recommended to him the conquering religion of Mohammed, and his voluptuous imagination was excited by the description of its paradise and its lovely maidens, but his repugnance to circumcision and the interdiIion of wine could not be overcome. Said he: Wine is the delight of the Russians; we cannot do without it." He disliked Roman Catholicism, which the Germans offered him, because of its Pope, an earthly deity, which seemed to him a monstrous thing. He disliked Judaism, because it had no country, and he did not regard it as either rational to take advice from wanderers under the ban of heaven or desirable to be punished with them.

The Greek religion which Olga had professed had been expounded to Vladimir by a learned man from Constantinople, and be embraced it after due deliberation and was baptized. He at once overthrew the idols and closed their temples. His example was speedily followed by his subjects, who said: If it be not good to be baptized, the prince and the boyars would never submit to it. Thus the Greek Christian Church was established in Russia in A. D. 988. Vladimir the Great founded churches, schools and new towns during the remainder of his reign, and energetically applied himself to the work of establishing civilization and Christianity among his subjects.

Vladimir the Great was successful in several wars with the Petchenegs in the latter part of his reign. Domestic troubles embittered his last days. 'He had divided his dominions among his twelve sons, who soon became involved in civil war with each other. He had granted Novgorod to his son Yoraslav, but this son refused to pay the tribute due him as his vassal, and applied to the Varangians for assistance against his father. Vladimir, who was now an old man, took the field against his unnatural son, but died of grief in consequence of being under the necessity of so doing, AD 1015.

Concerning Vladimir the Great, Kelly says: This rough-hewn colossus had great qualities. If he was not always able to repress his turbulent neighbors, he generally frustrated their incursions. He caused deserts to be cleared by colonies established for that purpose. He built towns, and while he was rendering his country more flourishing he thought it his duty to provide for its embellishment, and invited from Greece architects and workmen eminent for their skill. By their means he raised convenient and substantial churches, palaces and other buildings. The young nobles were brought up in seminaries endowed by the prince, to which his bounty had attracted able masters rom Greece. Parents saw with horror these strokes aimed at ignorance, and the honors that were paid to foreign services. It was necessary to use violence in taking their children to place them in the new establishments, where they were to be taught reading and writing, unholy arts, identified with sorcery. Vladimir, who waded through the blood of his brother to the throne of Kiev, received from his nation the surname of the Great, was advanced to the rank of a saint, and is recognized by the Russian Church as coequal with the Apostles.





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