Ukraine celebrates the 1033rd anniversary of the Christianization of Kyiv Rus'. The holiday will be held amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, which, unfortunately, will bring in some adjustments.
Let's explain in more detail what is being celebrated.
What is it about?
In Ukraine, the holiday is officially called the Day of Christianization of Kyiv Rus' – Ukraine. This is a state holiday, which was established by the decree of President Viktor Yushchenko for July 25, 2008. The holiday is being celebrated on July 28 annually.
This date has a reason behind it. According to the legend, on this day in 988, Vladimir the Great (the ruler of Kyivan Rus' from 980 to 1015, - ed.) got a new religion and came back to Kyiv to christen the people of Rus’. Actually, the exact day of the Christianization was not determined. It was indicated approximately as August 14 (under the old calendar) in 988.
History of the event
The conversion to Christianity was the standard practice of Byzantium in relations with warlike pagan nations. Later, the same tactic was applied to Kyiv Rus’, when Constantinople Patriarch Photios I sent missionaries to Kyiv. Some sources claim that at that time Kyiv princes Askold and Dir were baptized with “boyars” and a certain number of people. Others assure that the first Christianization in Kyiv Rus’ occurred at the time of Basil I (867-886) and Patriarch Ignatius (867-877).
It is noted that the first ruler of Kyiv Rus’, who officially adopted the Christianity of Byzantine rite, was Olga of Kyiv. She tried to achieve Christianity and recognition of Rus’ as an equal Christian empire by Byzantium. Olga was christened with the name “Helena.” Prince Yaropolk I of Kyiv also expressed sympathy for Christians and Christianity. He was killed by the Varangians on the orders of his brother Vladimir the Great, who later baptized Rus’.
It is known that Vladimir the Great decided to christen Rus’ due to political reasons, primarily hoping to unite warring territories and strengthen his power.
According to Tale of Bygone Years, Vladimir was proposed to convert to Muslimism, a Hebrew religion, Catholicism, but he chose Orthodox Christianity.
Vladimir was christened in Chersonesus and got a new name – Vasily. He also christened his children and the lieges and got married to Anna from Byzantium.
Mass Christianization of the people was held in Dnipro. However, not all the people were willing to refuse paganism, but they were “convinced”. Sometimes, with the use of a weapon.
How will it be celebrated?
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine has already refused from holding large-scale events on the Day of Baptization due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Due to the quarantine restrictions, the Holy Synod made a decision to hold the celebration of the 1033rd anniversary of the Christianization of Kyiv Rus'-Ukraine on July 27-28, 2021, in Kyiv and eparchies without the organization of pilgrimage and traditional Cross Procession – as it took place last year,” the message said.
However, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate made a decision to hold festivities. On July 27, the thanksgiving service will be held at Saint Volodymyr Hil. It will be headed by Metropolitan Onufriy.
After the end of the service, the Cross Procession will take place to Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and an all-night vigil will be held there.
On July 28, Metropolitan Onufriy will head Divine Liturgy at the square near the Dormition Church.