Feast day: July 15 / July 28
Vladimir was the son of Sviatoslav of Kiev (now called Kyiv, located in Ukraine) and the grandson of Saint Olga of Kiev. Sviatoslav gave Vladimir rule over Novgorod and gave Kiev to his half-brother Yaropolk. After Sviatoslav’s death, Vladimir, with many warriors, marched against Yaropolk. Vladimir killed Yaropolk and then was proclaimed ruler of all Kievan Rus, which is modern-day Ukraine and part of Russia.
Christianity had spread in Kievan Rus, but Vladimir remained a pagan, with numerous wives and concubines, and he built pagan statues and shrines to gods. Persecutions of Christians sprang up, and they were forced to escape or conceal their beliefs.
In 988, Vladimir asked for the hand of Anna, the sister of Emperor Basil II. The emperor’s family was Christian. Vladimir was baptized, and took the Christian name of Basil, to honor his prospective brother-in-law. Vladimir then proceeded to destroy the pagan monuments and establish many Christian churches. This began the Christian reign of Vladimir.
He lived Christian teachings through acts of charity, handing out food and drink to the less fortunate, and trying to go out to the people who could not reach him. He founded churches, established schools, protected the poor, and introduced ecclesiastical courts. Today, he is an honored symbol of a good ruler in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
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