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Melnikova Elena A. Varangians and the Advance of Christianity to Rus' in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries  

Источник: Е. А. Мельникова. Древняя Русь и Скандинавия. Избранные труды. – М.: Ун-т Дмитрия Пожарского, 2011 (стр. 396-418)


One of the main purposes of the earliest Russian annalists, monks of the Kievan Cave monastery who wrote at the end of the eleventh and at the beginning of the twelfth centuries, was to depict the advance of Christianity in Eastern Slavic world1. The depiction of how East Slavic people joined the family of Christian nations allowed them to incorporate the history of their own people into the history of the world ("historia mundi") and the Christian church ("historia ecclesiastica")2. They had, however, rather little to tell about. Before the official adoption of the new faith in 988 (or 989) the chronicle preserved only a few mentions scattered here and there and providing information about events pertinent to the advent of Christianity.

Two of these entries were of crucial importance for the annalists' conception of Slavic early history. The first one is devoted to the voyage of Apostle Andrew up the Dnieper, the second one concerns the earliest teachers of Slavic nations, St. Cyril and St. Methodius. The tale about St. Andrew was an elaboration of a popular in the Middle Ages apocryphic story about his voyage to the lands on the northern shore of the Black Sea3. The Byzantine version of the apocryph became known in Rus' by the end of the eleventh century and was used to proclaim the original holiness of the Rusian land predicted by St. Andrew. Having reached the Kievan hills, St Andrew is said to announce: "So shall the favor of God shine upon them that on this spot a great city shall arise, and God shall erect many churches therein"4. The story provided the "apostolic" background for Christianity in Rus' and thus allowed the annalist to present Eastern Slavs as a chosen nation, even when pagans.

The second entry dealt with the introduction of Christianity among the Slavs by St. Cyril and St Methodius5. The information about their mission and activities in Moravia came to Rus' from Bulgaria. Though the saints preached Christianity in Moravia, far from Eastern Europe, their reputation as the apostles of the Slavs as well as their introduction of Slavic script made the annalists represent them as successors of St. Andronicus, "one of the Seventy, a disciple of the holy Apostle Paul" and teachers of all Slavic peoples including those who habitated in Eastern Europe:

Since Paul is the teacher of the Slavic race, from which we Russians too are sprung, even so the Apostle Paul is the teacher of us Russians... But the Slavs and the Russes are one people6.

Both legends based on literary, Byzantine or South-Slavic sources, were crucial for the annalists' concept of historia ecclesiastica of Rus'. They introduced Eastern Slavs into the Christian world even before the Slavs became Christians and emphasized the original belonging of the then pagan peoples to the true faith. In this perspective the Christianization at the times of Vladimir turned to be not an occasional act but the realization of inherent aspirations of the Eastern Slavs.

Contrary to the presentation of these paradigmatic concepts, the annalists' depiction of events immediately connected with the penetration of Christian ideas into Eastern Slavic world could not have rested on written sources. Byzantine writers and church hierarchs paid little attention to confessional developments among "Northern barbarians". The annalists had to rely only on historical memory current among their contemporaries. These recollections, however, were few and vague. Oral tradition about the events of the ninth and tenth centuries consisted mostly of heroic legends about the deeds of the Russian princes and their champions. That was an "epic his-tory" that emerged and took shape among the new warrior elite of the Old Russian state which consisted first utterly and later mostly of Scandinavians7.

Encounters with Christianity were not the theme of prime interest for the creators and transmitters of "heroic" historical tradition, so the recollections of Christian influences incorporated in the oral history that existed for about two centuries before it was put into writing were exceptionally scarce. In fact, the Russian annalists seem to know nothing about the spread of Christianity in Eastern Europe before the mid-tenth century when Kievan princess Ol'ga (< Helga) is told to have been baptized in Constantinople. This period of what one may call latent Christianity in Rus' and the role the Varangians played in it is the subject of this article8.


The earliest information about the events connected with the penetration of Christianity in Eastern Europe in the ninth century is preserved in Byzantine and Arabic sources contemporary or a little later than the events they tell about. According to them, one of the first grave and consequential encounters of Kievan princes and their retinues with Christianity took place already in the mid-ninth century. In 8609 the Rhos people10 attempted the first attack on Constantinople and besieged the city benefiting from the absence of the emperor with the army11. As Patriarch Photius wrote in his two homilies "On the attack of the Rhos" – one was pronounced during the siege (No. Ш) and anomerer immediately after the event (No. III), it was the miracle of Virgin Mary that saved the city from a disaster12. When her sacred vestment was carried round the walls and dipped in the waters of the Golden Horn, a storm began, the ships of the attackers were destroyed, and "the barbarians gave up the siege and broke camp". The siege of Constantinople by the "barbarians from the North" shocked the Christian world and caused many responses in literature and documents up to the twelfth century.

A description of presumably the same attack is preserved also in the "Primary Chronicle" s. a. 86613. The narration, however, was not based on any local tradition, oral or written, but it was borrowed from the Byzantine Continuation of the Chronicle of Georgius the Monk.

Askold and Dir attacked the Greeks during the fourteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Michael14. When the Emperor had set forth against the infidels and had arrived at the Black river, the eparch sent him word that the Russes were approaching Tsar'grad (Constantinople), and the Emperor turned back. Upon arriving inside the strait, the Russes made a great massacre of the Christians, and attacked Tsar'grad in two hundred boats. The Emperor succeeded with difficulty in entering the city. He straightway hastened with the Patriarch Photius at the Church of the Holy Virgin in Blachernae where they prayed all night. They also sang hymns and carried the sacred vestment of the Virgin to dip it in the sea. The weather was still, and the sea was calm, but a storm of wind came up, and when great waves straightway rose, confusing the boats of the godless Russes, it threw them upon the shore and broke them up, so that few escaped such destruction and returned to their native land15.

The only addition of the annähst to Gregorius's text concerns the names of the leaders of the Rus', Askold/Oskold (< Höskuldr) and Dir (< Dýr or Dýri). These names belonged to an oral tradition of two Varangian chiefs who seized Kiev, became its rulers and made a raid on Constantinople16. Whether right or not, the compiler identified the events depicted in the Byzantine chronicle with those related in a traditional tale. He did not know, however, other Byzantine writings describing the consequences of the attack.

At the end of 866 or in die first half of 867 Patriarch Photius wrote an encyclical letter inviting Eastern bishops to participate in the counsil that was to be held in Constantinople in 867. He mentioned the attack of the Rhos and consequent developments so important for the Eastern Church that Photius felt necessary to inform the bishops about them, m the first part of his letter he described the conversion of the Bolgars and the renovation of the Armenian Church. At the end of the letter he returns to the missionary activity of Constantinople and adds that not only the Bolgars changed their former impiousness for the faith in Christ but even the nation that had become the subject of multiple talks and left behind all others in their cruelty and blood-thirstiness, the so-called people of Rhos17 who besieged Constantinople several years earlier, became converted. They had also abandoned pagan beliefs and turned to the pure and unforged religion of the Christians. They had accepted a bishop and a preacher and they started to ardently practice Christian rituals18.

This passage of Photius is of cardinal importance. Not only the information it supplies but also the implications it suggests are of primary significance. First of all it states clearly that the Rhos people turned to Christianity and it was the same group of Rhos that launched the assault on Constantinople in 860 that became converted. If the identification of this group and the army of Askold and Dir is correct, it was the band of Vikings that made Kiev their stronghold and thus it was the first occasion when Christianity penetrated into the Middle Dnieper region19.

Secondly, Photius mentioned a bishop and a preacher who came to Rus' and were hospitably accepted there. Photius was, however, not the only one to tell about the Byzantine mission to the Northern barbarians. In the mid-tenth century Byzantine Emperor and writer Constantine VII Porphirogenitos compiled a biography of Emperor Basileos I Macedonian (867-881) that is preserved as Book V of the so-called Theophanes Continuator20. Among pious deeds of his grandfather Constantine mentions the Christianization of the Rhos people attributing the initiative of sending the mission to the Rhos to the Emperor and Patriarch Ignatius who replaced Photius21. Constantine tells that the Emperor induced the people of Rhos to make an agreement with the help of ample gifts in gold, silver and silk vestments. He concluded a peace treaty with them and made them agree to be baptized by an archbishop consecrated by Patriarch Ignatius22. The mission was received benevolently by the Rhos. When the prince23, however, discussed the advantages of the new f aim with his elders they asked the archbishop to tell them more about his religion. The latter showed the Gospel and told about some of the miracles from New and Old Testament. The Rhos got very interested in the miracles and demanded that the archbishop should work a miracle himself. They insisted that if they did not see something like the story about the three young men in the stove, they would not believe him, say nothing about the baptism. With a pray the archbishop threw the Book into the fire set by his listeners. After some time the tire stopped burning and the Book appeared unspoiled and untouched by fire. The barbarians were fascinated by the magnitude of the miracle and became baptized without further hesitations.

The story about the inflammable Gospel book belongs to the topoi of hagiographic literature24. The short mentions about the peace treaty25 and the mission, on the contrary, reflected the realities of the situation.

The information of Photius supported by Constantine and. other Byzantine sources26 throws important light on the penetration of Christianity among the Rus'. Photius's phraseology in the homilies and his direct designation of the attackers as Rhos in the encyclic letter leaves no doubt that the fleet at the walls of Constantinople was a Viking band. Its starting point could have been in most probability Kiev ruled at that time, according to the "Primary Chronicie", by Scandinavian konungs, presumably Askold and Dir. Photius does not state that the bishop was sent at the request of the Rhos leaders27 but he emphasizes their wish to get baptized and their willingness to accept a bishop. Constantine on the contrary stresses the difficulties the Emperor had to make the Rhos Christians. He writes that the Emperor "convinced them to join in the saving baptizm and talked them into the acception of an archbishop who had been consecrated by Patriarch Ignatius".

The discrepancies in presenting the circumstances of the Christianization of the Rhos promoted a hypothesis that there might have been two missions to the Rhos sent at the interval of about two years28, which is hardly probable. It is much more plausible that the two records present the situation from different viewpoints and stress or exaggerate its various aspects. Photius was inspired by the success of his mission and the most important thing for him was the transformation – almost miraculous – of cruel barbarians into obedient Christians. In his turn Constantine was anxious to underline the achievements of his grandfather and his personal contribution into the matter of Christianization of barbarians. The more efforts needed the task, the more glorious was the result. In spite of possible exaggerations in both cases, however, there can be no doubt that the Rus' or at least their rulers not only had nothing against but were ready, if not willing, to adopt Christianity soon after the raid of 860.

The attitude of the Rus' to the possible change of religion could not have taken place if the new faith was utterly unknown to them. It presupposes their knowledge, however little, of Christianity29. Kievan Vikings had ample opportunities of getting acquainted with Christianity before 860, also by other ways than Byzantine missions. The raids of the Rhos on Byzantine provinces on the shores of the Black Sea started not later than in the beginning of the ninth century. The first expedition attested in Byzantine sources took place between 807 and 820. It was a sudden attack of "the barbarians of the Rhos, a people which is, as everyone knows, utterly wild and rough, devoid of any traces of humaneness" on the town of Amastris30. The plunder was stopped by a miracle at the grave of the late bishop of Amastris, St. George. The robbers were paralyzed and could move only after their leader promised not to disturb Christians any more31.

In the first half of the ninth century there appear Scandinavian names in the prosopography of the Byzantine nobility: Inger (< Ingvarr, Old Russian Igor'), the patriarch of Nicea c. 825, and Inger, famer of the mistress of Emperor Michael III and the wife of Emperor Basilios I who was called Eudocia Ingerina (ca. 841 – ca. 882)32. In 839 (or 838) a group of Rhos people who turned to be Swedes stayed in Constantinople being sent by their chakanus whoever it might be to Emperor Theophil33. Approximately at the same time three new military provinces, the Themes of Climata in the Crimea and Paphlagonia and the Ducate of Chaldia in Anatolia, were created by the Byzantine government They all located on the coasts of the Black Sea. According to W. Treadgold, their separation from larger themes was caused by the increasing attacks of the Rhos on coastal towns34. These are only a few cases that happened to be recorded, but rare as they are, they outline a broad spectrum of activities of Scandinavians in Byzantium already in the first half of the ninth century not limited only to warfare. Peaceful visits and life in Constantinople provided for the Norsemen better opportunities to become acquainted with Christian faith and rituals than occasional raids and robberies. Even the latter, however, resulted in capturing Christians and thus also contributed to the spread of Christianity among the Rus'.

The progress of the new faith among Scandinavians in Eastern Europe in the first half of the ninth century seems to be rather successful as an Arabic author writing in 840ies, an official of high standing and thus possessing vast information, Ibn Khordadbeh, wrote that the merchants of ar-Rus who traveled as far as Baghdad claimed to be Christians35. The Rus' merchants are usually suspected to only pretend to be Christians to avoid paying larger taxes, the main argument being that it was too early for Rus', be them Slavs or Scandinavians, to adopt Christianity. The genuine faith of tile Rus' merchants in Baghdad can never be established with certainty, but it is quite enough that at that time, even if pagans, they already knew sufficiently much about Christianity to use its rituals and traditions for their own benefit. The Western Vikings did the same, though several decades later36.

Thus in the first half of the ninth century Christianity was successfully penetrating into Viking bands who made Kiev their main base. Some of the Vikings could have got baptized during their stay in Constantinople and several years after the 860 attack on Constantinople the Rhos leaders (the prince or princes of Kiev) got converted together with (some of ?) their warriors.


The memories of the events connected with the Christianization of the Rus' in 860ies must have been, however, swept away by a new wave of the Vikings who seized Kiev at the last quarter of the ninth century37. The "Primary Chronicle" tells (s. a. 882) about a "prince" Oleg (< Helgi) who moved from "Novgorod" (i. е. Ladoga-Ilmen region) to Kiev, deceived Askold and Dir pretending to be a merchant, killed them and assumed power in Kiev. The annalist stresses that it was Oleg and his retinue who got the name of the Rus'38.

The new warrior elite of Kiev was obviously pagan. During the whole reign of Oleg (d. in 91139) and up to the mid-tenth century there exists no information about Christianity among the Rus' either in Old Russian or foreign sources. On the contrary, the annalists do not miss a chance to stress that Oleg and his retinue were pagans devoted to heathen rituals and knowing no God. It is worth noting that Askold and Dir are never accused of being pagans.

Annalist's invectives against Oleg's heathenism are supported by the earliest extant Old Russian document, the treaty concluded by Oleg with Byzantium in 911 after his successful attack on Constantinople in 907. The treaty was included in the "Primary Chronicle" and it is supposed to be translated from Greek at the end of the eleventh century40. One of the paragraphs stipulates that an oath shoull be sworn to confirm the treaty. The text of the oath leaves no doubt that the Rus' of that time were pagan. Christian Greeks were to swear "in the name of the Holy Cross and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity of your one true God", whereas "we (i. e. the Rus'. – E. M.) have sworn to your Emperor... according to our own faith and the custom of our nation"41. This custom was described earlier, in the preamble to the treaty of 907:

According to the religion of the Russes, the latter swore by their weapons and by their god Perun, as well as by Volos, the god of cattle42.

Even if the Christian community that could have appeared in Kiev in the third quarter of the ninth century still existed, as Dmitrij Obolensky maintains43, it had no influence on the new aristocracy and the number of Christians in Oleg's retinue, if any, was so small that no special provisions for them were necessary.

Still even during Oleg's reign the acquaintance of his warriors with Christianity started. The compiler of the "Primary Chronicle" adds after the text of Oleg's treaty:

The Emperor Leo honored the Russian envoys with gifts... and placed his vassals at their disposition to show them the beauties of the churches, the golden palace, and the riches contained therein. They thus showed the Russes much gold and many palls and jewels, together with the relics of our Lord's Passion: the crown, the nails, and the purple robe, as well as the bones of the Saints. They also instructed the Russes in their faith, and expounded to them the true belief44.

If the entry is not modeled after the account of Vladimir's mission to Constantinople before adopting Christianity in 988, as Dmitrij Likhachev suspected45, it can be viewed as an important evidence of the proselytizing efforts of the Byzantine church. It seems not necessary that among those "Russes" who benefited from the excursion and the instructions, should be Christians, as Henrik Birnbaum would like to think46. But it can point to the fact that the Patriarchate never stopped attempts and used any chance of pressing Christian ideas on the Rus' heathens.


It is only in the middle of the tenth century that a new rise of Christian activities begins to be attested in the sources. The next treaty with Byzantium concluded by Kievan prince Igor' (< Yngvarr) in 944 witnesses that there appeared Christians among the Rus' warriors and their number grew so large that two forms of oaths became required. "Those of us (i. e. the Rus'. – E. M.) who are baptized have sworn in the Cathedral, by the church of St. Elias, upon the Holy Cross set before us...". The rest of the Rus' took oaths upon "their shields, their naked swords, their armlets, and their other weapons..."47.

The Rus' that participated in the conclusion of the treaty belonged to the elite of the Old Russian state. It was a new warrior elite that emerged less than a century earlier after Oleg's seizure of Kiev. By the 940ies the Rus' comprised both Norsemen and Slavs – according to the names of the members of the princely family, emissaries and witnesses mentioned in the treaty – though the proportion of non-Scandinavians was still very small48. The spread of Christianity among the warrior elite seems very rapid and so substantial that the Christians had to be taken special account of.

A rather wide spread of Christianity in the 940ies is further substantiated by other clauses of the treaty that make provisions for both Christians and heathens among the Rus':

If any inhabitant of the land of Rus' thinks to violate this amity, may such of these transgressors as have adopted the Christian faith incur condign punishment from Almighty God in the shape of damnation and destruction forevermore;

May whosoever of our compatriots, Prince or common, baptized or unbaptized, who does so violate them (the oaths. – E. M.), have no succor from God, but may he be slave in this life and in the life to come, and may he perish by his own arms...;

If any of the princes or any Russian subject, whether Christian or non-Christian, violates the terms of this instrument, he shall merit death by his own weapons, and be accursed of God and of Perun because he violated his oath...49

The compilers of the treaty took pains to assure accurate maintenance of the terms by both pagans and Christians. They formulated oaths and specified punishments for breaking the oaths in details. The provisions for Christians and non-Christians are well balanced with probably a somewhat slight stress on the Christian beliefs, which can be due to the Christianity of the compilers of the treaty.

The treaty also mentions the church dedicated to St. Elias where the Christian Rus' was to take the oath. That is the earliest evidence of churches in Rus'. The church is usually supposed to have been located in Kiev in the trade and artisan quarters outside the fortified part on the Kievan hills50. In Old Russian the church is defined by the term sobornaja that much later, with the establishment of the church organization, would designate a cathedral. The English translation "the Cathedral" bases on this meaning of the word. It seems, however, highly problematic if there could have been a cathedral proprio nomine in Kiev at that time which presupposes the existence of other (parish) churches subordinated to the cathedral. It is much more probable that it was the only church existing in Kiev at that moment and it was perceived as the main church, i. e. the Cathedral from the point of view of the translator of the treaties in the late eleventh century51. If this was the case, its location in the commercial quarters of the city was only natural. On the one hand, merchants were most liable to accept new cultural impulses, and the first appearance of a church in a heathen country is often connected with trade centers52. On the other hand, merchants played an important role in the conclusion of the treaty of 944 – twenty six of them are named in the preamble to the treaty as probable witnesses and some of them must have been Christians.

Igor's reign (ca. 912-945) was notable for various and regular connections with Byzantium. Though attacks on Byzantine territories continued (the "Primary Chronicle" tells about two raids launched by Igor' in 941 and 944), trade seems to become the main form of Rus' and Byzantine relations. Its maintenance was regulated by Oleg's treaty and new rules were introduced in the treaty concluded by Igor'. Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus provides a vivid picture of the "manner of life" of the Kievan warrior elite whom he calls Rhos in the ninth chapter of his treatise "De administrando imperio". He depicts them collecting tributes on Slavic tribes in autumn and then selling collected goods, including slaves, at the markets of Constantinople in the summer time53. According to Constantine, it was a stable system accounting for the enrichment of the Kievan elite and the growth of the Old Russian state. At the same time it promoted the absorption of new cultural ideas, including Christianity by those participating in the trade with Byzantium. Thus, in the interval between Oleg's seizure of Kiev in 882 and Igor's treaty of 944 the new warrior elite of the early Russian state turned to Christianity. It still consisted mostly of Scandinavians as the names of the Rus' participants of the conclusion of the treaty show. Among 25 principles on whose behalf the treaty was contracted 18 have Old Norse personal names. The same number of persons with Norse names belonged to the group of the representatives (envoys) who totally amounted to 26. The percentage of merchants with Scandinavian names was even higher– 21 out of 26. Other names include Slavic (Svjatoslav, Predslava, and Volodislav among the principals; Sinko and Bo-rich among the merchants) and Finnish ones (Pubskar, Kanitsar, etc.) and probably ethnic names used as by-names (envoys Libi and Jatyjag). Thus, though the ethnic content of the upper stratum of the society started to change and the Rus' princes began to give Slavic names to their children, the nobility of the mid-tenth century still consisted mostly of Norsemen. And it was they who turned to Christianity first and foremost.

The highest nobility of the Rus' was, however, still pagan. Neither Igor' nor his wife Ol'ga (< Helga) was Christian at the time of the conclusion of the treaty. According to the Primary Chronicle, Igor' ratified the treaty in Kiev in the presence of Byzantine envoys and the procedure was performed in accordance with pagan rites:

In the morning, Igor' summoned the envoys, and went to a hill on which there was a statue of Perun. The Russes laid down their weapons, their shields, and their gold ornaments, and Igor' and his people took oath (at least, such as were pagans), while the Christian Russes took oath in the Church of St Elias54.

Igor' remained a heathen until his death that is reported to have taken place a year after the ratification of the treaty. When Igor' was killed by the Drevljane (in the autumn of 945 according to the "Primary Chronicle" or more probably in 946) Ol'ga avenged her husband and performed pagan burial rituals55:

She bade her followers pile up a great mound and when they piled it up, she also gave command that a funeral feast should be held56.

When the representatives of the Drevljane became drunk she ordered to massacre them. The annalist interpreted the event as the third stage of Ol'ga's revenge on Drevljane. The action, however, makes one think of funeral sacrifices still practiced by Scandinavians in the tenth century57. Whatever the interpretation of the massacre of the Drevljane may be, there can be no doubt that at that moment Ol'ga adhered to pagan beliefs and practiced pagan rituals.

Thus, in the mid-tenth century the conversion to Christianity was not at all universal even among the Kievan elite. Especially important was that the princely family still abstained from the new faith thus making the conversion a personal act neither promoted nor supported by the state. The mid-tenth century looks like the time of a new advance of the Christian faith but its first steps were slow.


It is only some time after Igor's death that his widow Ol'ga showed interest in the new faith. Under the year 6463 from the Creation which corresponds to 954/5 AD the "Primary Chronicle" tells that she undertook a voyage to Constantinople where she is said to be baptized by Emperor Constantine VII who became her godfather58. She received a Christian name of Helena "after the ancient Empress, mother of Constantine the Great" and, probably, after the Empress Helena Lakapina.

The narration about Ol'ga's baptism is greatly influenced by the annalist's unreserved admiration of her deed. He stresses that she was the first Russian ruler to adopt the true faith and thus anticipated the Christianization of the whole country by her grandson Vladimir. The annalist puts a laudation of Ol'ga into the mouth of the Patriarch:

Blessed art thou among the women of Rus'. For thou hast loved the light, and quit the darkness. The sons of Rus' shall bless thee to the last generation of thy descendents.

The same motifs permeate the eulogy of Ol'ga following the report of her death under the year of 969. In the annalist's representation of early Russian history Ol'ga appears a crucial, probably symbolic figure, the harbinger of the fates of the Old Russian state.

According to his conception, the annalist interpreted Ol'ga's visit to Constantinople as a voyage in order to join to Christianity. The same interpretation is maintained by most of modern scholars who argue that the main goal of Ol'ga's travel was a religious one.

Several minor discrepancies were, however, pointed out and raised discussions. One of them is the silence of Constantine VII about the baptism of Ol'ga during her stay in Constantinople though he described two receptions given to her at the Byzantine court in many details in his treatise "De cerimoniis"59. Constantine depicts several magnificent ceremonies that where aimed at both to honor Ol'ga as a ruler of a neighbouring state important for Byzantine foreign policy and to impress the barbarian princess with the luxury and splendour of the Byzantine court. Constantine also enumerates the gifts granted to Ol'ga and her suite. In this context the absence of mentions about an event of paramount importance for Byzantium – religious incorporation of a dangerous neighbour into the Byzantine commonwealth with possible political consequences – as well as a great success of Byzantine diplomacy seems strange and unexplainable60.

Among other members of Ol'ga's suite who were bestowed with gifts Constantine names a priest, Gregorius by name. The presence of a priest in Ol'ga's nearest surroundings who must have come to Constantinople together with her from Kiev made specialists wonder if Ol'ga could have become a Christian earlier in Kiev61. There is no doubt that baptism was accessible in Kiev where there were many Christians in the princely retinue and the church of St. Elias had been functioning since 945. It seems probable that Ol'ga was converted and became a Christian some time before her visit to Constantinople. Her conversion then must have been inspired by Christians among the Kievan elite that still consisted mostly of Varangians.

The assumption that Ol'ga was baptized in Kiev is further corroborated by the narration about the events after Ol'ga's return from Constantinople:

The Greek Emperor sent a message to her saying, "inasmuch as I bestowed many gifts upon you, you promised me that on your return to Rus' you would sent me many presents of slaves, wax, and furs, and dispatch soldiery to aid me". Ol'ga made answer to the envoys that if the Emperor would spend as longa time with her in the Pochayna [river] as she had remained on the Bosporus, she would grant his request. With these words she dismissed the envoys62.

The passage points to at least two things that contradict the annalist's presentation of the aims of Ol'ga's voyage and most probably reflect relations other than stated in the chronicle. The first point is the demand of the Byzantine Emperor to send warriors to him according to their agreement in Constantinople. The exchange of gifts and especially the rendering of military aid63 must have been the results of political negotiations.

The second point is Ol'ga's negative attitude to her reception at the court of Constantine VII. According to the narrative of Ol'ga's stay in Constantinople, she was received with great honours and the Emperor was so amazed by "her intellect" that he proposed her to become his wife. There is nothing to suspect lack of respect towards Ol'ga. Moreover if her main aim was to be baptized, the princess had no reasons to feel unsatisfied as her goal was brilliantly fulfilled; she had not only been baptized but the Emperor became her godfather.

The narration, however, presents Ol'ga unsatisfied and even irritated by her stay. She indignantly remarks that she had to wait too long a time on the Bosporus to be received by the Emperor which she took as an offence. The two parts of the story contradict each other and they seem to reflect principally different narrative strategies. The first part of the narration, though permeated with folklore motifs, is shaped in accordance with the annalist's tendency to glorify Ol'ga as the first Christian ruler in Rus'. The second part seems to reflect a non-Christian tradition depicting Ol'ga's voyage as a political undertaking, not necessarily very successive (from the Russian point of view) and having left unpleasant memories. It seems that the chronicle tale about Ol'ga's visit to Constantinople developed out of a folklore motif of heroic matchmaking and included few, if any, Christian connotations. Suffice it to point out here that the exposition to the chronicle narrative presents Ol'ga very little interested in being baptized:

Ol'ga went to Greece, and arrived at Tsar'grad. The reigning Emperor was named Constantine, son of Leo. Ol'ga came before him', and when he saw that she was very fair of countenance and wise as well, the Emperor wondered of her intellect He conversed with her and remarked that she was worthy to reign with him in his city. When Ol'ga heard his words she replied that she was still a pagan, and that if he desired to baptize her, he should perform this function himself; otherwise, she was unwilling to accept baptism. The Emperor, with the assistance of the Patriarch, accordingly baptized her64.

Ol'ga puts forward conditions on which she would agree to get baptized so that it is the Emperor who appears to be the initiator of her baptism and not she herself. The first "conversation" as well as the next one in the course of which the Emperor proposes her to become his wife remind of heroic competitions of the bride with the claimants with the final victory of the bride:

After her baptism, the Emperor summoned Ol'ga and made known to her that he wished her to become his wife. But she replied, "How can you marry me, after yourself baptizing me and calling me your daughter? For among Christians that is unlawful, as you yourself must know". Then the Emperor said, "Ol'ga, you have outwitted me". He gave her many gifts of gold, silver, silks, and various vases, and dismissed her, still calling her his daughter65.

The final remark "You have outwitted me" looks like a vestige of the verbal competition won by Ol'ga in the original tale. But no matter how this tale was complicated with folklore motifs it belonged to the historical tradition and had a relation about Ol'ga's real visit to Constantinople as its subject. The political goals of her visit must have been reflected, even if in an obscure way, in this tale, and that determined the last part of the chronicle narration. But for the annalist who knew mat Ol'ga was a Christian and that Christianity came to Rus' from Byzantium it was only natural to reinterpret the voyage of Ol'ga to Constantinople as a quest of the true faith. Thus, Ol'ga's dissatisfaction with her visit could belong to the historical core of the tale and point to the fact that her visit was not entirely successful.

The failure to achieve her aims or their only partial fulfilment might very well explain the events that followed Ol'ga's visit to Constantinople if the date 957 for her voyage is accepted.

In 959 Ol'ga sent an embassy to Otto I of Germany asking for a bishop and priests, probably to introduce Christianity on a wider level. The mission of Adalbert spent about a year in Rus' and returned to Magdeburg in 962 without success. Though the extant sources provide no information about the reasons of Ol'ga's appeal to the German emperor, her embassy is viewed in the context of contradictions between Byzantium and Germany and is interpreted as an attempt of a Russian ruler to play on these contradictions and to gain by exploiting them66. At the same time Ol'ga's appeal to German (i. e. Roman) church could reflect rather vague, unofficial religious connections of Rus' with Byzantium which could hardly be the case if Ol'ga were baptized in Constantinople.

Thus, Ol'ga's baptism seems to reflect a new step in the process of penetration of Christianity into Rus': the growth of authority of the new faith among the Russian elite and the appearance of people baptized in Kiev and not only in Byzantium.

Christianization of Ol'ga did not mean, however, a wide spread of the new faith. Nothing is known about Christians outside Kiev, the seat of the "Russian" princes. Ol'ga's baptism looks more like a private act, and her son, a warrior prince Svjatoslav, the first prince with a Slavic name, felt no inclination to Christianity. The annalist stresses Ol'ga's attempts to persuade him into Christianity and formulates Svjatoslav's refusal with the words probably borrowed from oral tradition: "How shall I alone accept another faith? My followers will laugh at that"67. In fact, far from all his followers and relatives would laugh at Svjatoslav. Even twenty years earlier, as we have seen, the number of Christians among Igor's hird was large enough to make special provisions for their oath. But Christianity was and remained until 988 the faith not of princes but of their followers. Even if the eldest son and successor of Svjatoslav Jaropolk was baptized68, the spread of Christianity before 988 was far from wide. Two other Svjatoslav's sons were heathens and after his accession to Kievan throne Vladimir renovated pagan cult by introducing a pantheon of several gods chosen from various tribal traditions with a supreme god Perun whose cult was supposed to become an official one69.

For several decades before the official Christianization in 988 there seems to be a co-existence of Christians and pagans both among the ruling clan of the Rurikides70 and among the Russian elite. This co-existence, however, was not as peaceful as one would gather from the sources discussed earlier.


Five years before the official Christianization of Rus' in 988 the "Primary Chronicle" records a splash of confrontation between Christians and pagans in Kiev.

On his return from a successful raid Vladimir and his elders decided to make a sacrifice to pagan gods71. They cast lots and the lot fell – "through the devil's hatred" as the annalist put it – upon a young Varangian who together with his father returned from Byzantium. Both Varangians "adhered to the Christian faith". The messengers of the prince came to the house and demanded that the youth should be given to them. The father refused to do this and pronounced an invective exposing the false gods of pagans and proclaiming the mightiness of the true God. The citizens took up arms, attacked the Varangians and killed them.

In the year of 6491 (983). Vladimir marched on the Jatyjagians72, conquered them, and seized their territory. He returned to Kiev, and together with his people made sacrifice to the idols. The elders and the boyars then proposed that they should cast lots for a youth and a maiden, and sacrifice to the gods whomsoever the lot should fall upon.

Now there was a certain Varangian whose house was situated at the spot where now stands the Church of the Holy Virgin, which Vladimir built This Varangian had come from Greece. He adhered to the Christian faith73, and he had a son, fair in face and in heart, on whom, through the devil's hatred, the lot fell. For the devil, though he had dominion over all the rest, could not suffer this youth. He was like a thorn in the devil's heart, and the accursed one was eager to destroy him, and even aroused the people thereto. Messengers thus came and said to the father, "Since the lot has fallen upon your son, the gods have claimed him as their own. Let us therefore make sacrifice to the gods". But the Varangian replied, "These are not gods, but only idols of wood. Today it is, and tomorrow it will rot away. These gods do not eat, or drink, or speak; they are fashioned by hand out of wood. But the God whom the Greeks serve and worship is one; it is he who has made heaven and earth, the stars, the moon, the sun, and mankind, and has granted him life upon earth. But what have these gods created? They are themselves made. I will not give up my son to devils".

So the messengers went back and reported to the people. The latter took up arms, attacked the Varangian and his son, and on braking down the stockade about his house, found him standing upon the porch. They then called upon him to surrender his son that they might offer him to the gods. But he replied, "If they be gods, they will send one of their number to take my son. What need have you of him?" They straightway raised a shout, and broke up the structure under them. Thus the people killed them, and no one knows where they are buried.

For at that time the Russes were ignorant pagans. The devil rejoiced thereat, for he did not know that his ruin was approaching...74

After Christianization of Rus' the two Varangians became the first Russian martyrs and their vita was composed not later than 1113 when its shortened version was included in the "Primary Chronicle"75. It has many common features with the narration about the Christianization of Rus' by St. Vladimir in the "Primary Chronicle" and it is believed to belong to the same author76. The chronicle narration preserves some clearly hagiographic features and is considered to render the original vita.

An expanded text about the martyrdom of the two Varangians reads also in the "Synaxaire" (Old Russian Prolog, beginning of the thirteenth century), a collection of short lives of saints arranged in calendar order, for 12 July77. The "Prolog" text provides several important additions to the chronicle. First, it indicates the day of their commemoration that must be the exact date of their martyrdom – July, 12. Second, it gives the Christian name of the son – Ioann78 that remained unknown to the compiler of the "Primary Chronicle". These minor but important addenda suggest that the author of the "Prolog" text used not only the narration of the "Primary chronicle", probably an earlier version preceding the "Chronicle", but he also had another source – a short note about the martyrdom of the Varangians that included the date and the name of the originally supposed victim79.

An abridged version of the vita of the two Varangians was also incorporated into several redactions of "The Prolog Life" of St. Vladimir (for 15 July, not later than the first half of the thirteenth century). It is supposed that the legend about the Varangian martyrs was an integral part of the earliest life of St Vladimir and served to contrast his pre-Christian godlessness, ferocity, polygamy to his saintly life after baptism80. Basing on his study of the "Life" where the place of the baptism of Kievan citizens "at the place where nowadays mere is the church of saint martyrs81 of Tur" was defined, A. Shakhmatov suggested that the secular name of the father was Þorr or Þórir82. The church of Tur or Tury ("Turova bozhnitsa") in Kiev is also mentioned in other sources without any connection with the Christianization83. This identification of the name is, however, open to doubts. First, the name of Tur in the possessive form Turova occurs only in latest manuscripts of the "Life". In earlier copies it reads either Petr's (Petrova) or of Boris and Gleb84. Second, the location of this church does not coincide with the location of the Desjatinnaja church that was built, according to the "Primary Chronicle", on the site of the house of the Varangians85. According to all available sources the citizens of Kiev were baptized in the Pochaina river, a tribute to the Dnieper. The Pochaina was used as a harbour and its shores beneath the Kievan hills were occupied by the Podol, a trade and artisan quarter of the city. The Desjatinnaja church was located on the hills within the fortified "princely" quarters. Thus, even if there was a church near the site where the Kievan inhabitants were baptized and it was called after a Tur or Tury (the name most probably of Old Norse derivation), it is impossible to identify this person with the Varangian martyr86.

The incorporation of the legend about the martyrdom of the two Varangians into several works of different character, both secular (chronicle) and clerical ("Life of St. Vladimir", "Prolog") is an unusual phenomenon for Ancient Rus'. The event must have shocked the Christian community of Kiev and stories about the death for faith of the two Varangians spread rapidly and widely so that the narration of their exploit soon took shape and was used by different Christian authors writing for various purposes. A wide circulation of the legend must have been promoted also by the fact that the house of the Varangians stood at the place where Vladimir built the first church after the Christianization – the church was dedicated to Holy Virgin, it was the earliest one to be bestowed with the tithe which gave rise to its name "the Tithe church" (Desjatinnaja tserkov') and it enjoyed extraordinary popularity in Kiev. It is in the Desjatinnaja church that the first annals started to be written down and it is with this church that the origin of a short note on the martyrdom of the Varangians is connected. The clerics of the church were well aware and could not forget that their church rested on the remains of the martyrs or at least on the site they were martyred.

The martyrdom of the two Varangians produced an indelible impression on the inhabitants of Kiev. It became a symbolic event for the Christian community that must have existed in Kiev before the official Christianization and a milestone for the Christians after 988. In the eleventh century their cult seems to start developing87. They are mentioned as the example of devoted service to God and as the first Christians to suffer for the sake of their belief. Already in the mid-eleventh century the metropolitan Hilarion referred to the martyrs: "And now we do not build heathen temples but construct Christ's churches; and now we do not immolate each other to devils but Christ is sacrificed for our sake and < sacrificed> and fragmented as a sacrifice to God and Father. And now we do not perish by partaking of sacrificial blood but we are saved by receiving the Lord's sacred blood"88. In the first half of the thirteenth century bishop Simeon, one of the authors of the "Patericon" of the Kiev Cave monastery, called them the first "Citizens of the Russian world crowned by Christ"89.

The narration of the martyr Varangians in the "Primary Chronicle" stresses not only the main road the Christianity advanced to Rus', i. e. from Byzantium, but it also suggests the existence of a Christian commune in Kiev before the official Christianization in which Varangians played an important role.


The scarcity of information in Old Russian literature about the advance of Christianity to Rus' seems to be mainly due to the sources the annalists had at their disposal. These were first and foremost heroic tales orally transmitted from the times of the historical event till the late eleventh century. Being pagans and interested in the heroic appeal of what they related, the storytellers paid no attention to matters of faith and the missionary activities could hardly supply themes for their stories.

Still the comparison of the scattered mentions in sources of different origin and from different regions of medieval world maintaining relations with Ancient Rus' allows some conclusions.

First, the sources make it obvious that the main center from which Christianity spread in Eastern Europe was Byzantium.

Second, Scandinavians, trading, serving to Russian princes, and settling in Rus', were most active in transferring Christian ideas from Byzantium to Rus'. Their activities in Eastern Europe defined the main phases of the penetration of Christianity. The first wave of Vikings that reached Byzantium by the beginning of the ninth century became ready for adopting Christian faith by the 860ies when a Christian mission was sent to Rus' from Constantinople.

The subsequent new wave of Norsemen that reached Kiev in 882 put an end to the initial process of Christianization. It is only some sixty years later that the next rise of Christian commune starts to be reflected in the Old Russian sources. It is worth noting that the earliest record of this process was preserved in a document and not in the narrative part of the "Primary Chronicle".

For the next forty years before the official Christianization took place, Christianity made a slow progress among the warrior elite of the state still consisting mainly of Scandinavians. There can be no doubt, however, that by that time a large proportion of warriors were Slavs who shared the fates of their Northern comrades-in-arms. Nevertheless the rulers of the state but for princess Ol'ga and probably Jaropolk refrained from adopting the new faith. More than that, under the first years of the reign of Vladimir a revival of paganism took place. The annalist relates about new sanctuaries to Perun constructed in Kiev and Novgorod and human sacrifices to Perun. One of the victims of this practice were two Varangians in 983 who became the first Russian martyrs. It was the baptism of prince Vladimir that opened a wide way to Christianity for Slavic population.


1. According to D. S. Likhachev, a narration about the Christianization of Rus' constituted the initial core of the earliest chronicle compilation. Cf. Лихачев Д. С. Русские летописи и их культурно-историческое значение. М.; Л., 1947. С. 20-25.

2. Cf. Weber G. W. Intellegere historiam. Typological Perspectives of Nordic Prehistory (in Snorri, Saxo, Widukind and Others) // Tradition og historieskrivning. Kilderne til Nordens ældste historie / K. Hastrup, P. Meulengracht Sørensen. Aarhus, 1987. P. 100-102.

3. Cf. von Rauch G. Frühe christliche Spuren in Rußland // Saeculum. 1956. Bd. 7. P. 40-67; Dvornik F. The Idea of Apostolicity in Byzantium and the Legend of Apostle Andrew. Cambridge (Mass.), 1958. (Dumbarton Oaks Studies 4). P. 41-45 and n. 10, 13; Müller L. Die Taufe Russlands. Die Frühgeschichte des russischen Christentums bis zum Jahre 988. München, 1987. S. 9-16.

4. The Russian Primary Chronicle. Laurentian text / Transl. and edited by S. H. Cross and O. P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor. Cambridge (Mass.), 1953. P. 54.

5. Cf. Cyrillo-Methodiana: zur Frühgeschichte des Christentums bei den Slaven 863-1963 / M. Hellmann. Köln, 1964; Tachiaos A.-E. N. Cyril and Methodius of Thessalonika: the Acculturation of the Slavs. Thessaloniki, 1994; Флоря Б. Н., Турилов A. A., Иванов C. A. Судьбы кирилло-мефодиевской традиции после Кирилла и Мефодия. СПб., 2000.

6. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 63.

7. Melnikova E. A. The Eastern World of the Vikings. Göteborg, 1996. P. 93-128. (Gothenburg Old Norse Studies 1).

8. The first to stress the distinction between die period of the official Christianization of Rus' after 988 (989) and the period of the spread of Christian beliefs and practices among Eastern Slavs was N. K. Nikolskij (Никольский H. K. Повесть временных лет как источник для истории начального периода русской письменности и культуры. К вопросу о древнейшем русском летописании. Л., 1930. Sections 1-9). Since then there appeared a number of works on Christian influences in Rus' before 988 most of which present general surveys of the extant information. Among more important contributions I would like to name here the book by L. Müller (Müller L. Die Taufe Russlands) and the introductory chapter to Vladimir Vodoff (Vodoff V. Naissance de la Chrétienté rosse. La conversion du prince Vladimir de Kiev (988) et ses consequences (XIе – XIII siècles). P., 1988), as well as the article of Henrik Birnbaum (Birnbaum H. Christianity before Christianization. Christians and Christian Activity in pre-988 Rus' // Christianity and the Eastern Slavs. Vol. 1: Slavic Cultures in the Middle Ages / B. Gasparov, O. Raevsky-Hughes. Berkeley; Los Angeles, 1993. P. 42-62).

9. The so-called Bruxelles Chronicon provides an exact date of the attack – June 18, 860. Cf. Кузенков П. В. Византийские источники о первом крещении Руси. Тексты, перевод, комментарий // ДП 2000 год. М., 2003. С. 155-157.

10. Here and further I use the designation of the Rus' people found in the source under discussion (Rhos in Byzantine sources, ar-Rus in Arabic sources and Rus' in Old Russian chronicles) to avoid explanations of what could be the ethnicity of Rus' in each case. It is a common opinion that Byzantine and Arabic authors of the ninth and tenth centuries viewed both Rhos and ar-Rus people as Norsemen. At the same time the Eastern Slavic and Fennic ethnic components cannot be excluded altogether even at the early stages although they did not play an active role. As to Old Russian term Rus', its content underwent a complicated transformation during the ninth and tenth centuries – from the designation of the new Old Russian warrior elite of Scandinavian origin to the definition of ethnically different people and territories under the rule of Rus' princes. Cf. Melnikova E. A., Petrukhin V. Ja. The Origin and Evolution of the Name rus'. The Scandinavians in Eastern-European Ethno-Political Processes before the 11th Century // Tor. 1991. Vol. 23. P. 203-234.

11. Vasiliev A. The Russian Attack on Constantinople in 860. Cambridge (Mass.), 1946.

12. Photii Homilii / B. Laourdas. Thessaloniki, 1959. P. 29-52; English transl.: The Homilies of Photius Patriarch of Constantinople / С Mango. Cambridge (Mass.), 1958. P. 82-95 (No. III), 95-110 (No. IV).

13. On the difference of dates see: Кузенков П. В. Византийские источники. С. 162-164, примеч. 1, 2, 41.

14. In fact the attack took place in the nineteenth year of the whole and in the fifth year of sole rule of Emperor Michael.

15. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 60.

16. Ibid.

17. In his homilies Photius never mentioned the name of the attackers calling them "northern barbarians".

18. Photii Patriarchae Constantinopolitani Epistulae et Amphilochia. Leipzig, 1983. Vol. I: Epistularum pars prima / B. Laourdas et L. G. Westerink. P. 39-53 (ep. 2).

19. Several attempts have been made to suggest an earlier Christianization of the Rus'. The most ambitious and at the same time the least convincing hypothesis was put forward by K. Ericsson who supposed that the first Russian convert was Kyj, the legendary ruler of Kiev, and that the conversion took place in about 834 (Ericsson K. The Earliest Conversion of the Rus' to Christianity // The Slavonic and East European Review. 1966. Vol. 44. P. 99-121). His final conclusion is based on his reliance on late Russian sources and highly improbable historical constructions concerning the struggle between iconodules and iconoclasts and its reflection in the "Primary Chronicle" (severe criticism of his hypothesis see in: Birnbaum H. Christianity before Christianization. P. 44-45). A. Avenarius thought – and probably not without right – that a bishopric could not have been established in Rus' in 867, immediately after or in connection with the initial stage of Christianization. A foundation of a bishopric under such circumstances was contrary to the usual practice of Byzantine patriarchate. Earlier attempts to convert the Rhos people, therefore, must have taken place (Авенариус А. Христианство на Руси в IX в. // Beiträge zur byzantinische Geschichte im 9. – 10. Jahrhunderts / V. Vavřinek. Praha, 1978. P. 308-310). There is, however, no information to support this assumption.

20. Life of Basileos I // Patrologiae cursus completes. Series Graeca / J. Migne. P., 1863. T. 109. Col. 359-362; Кузенков П. В. Византийские источники. С. 125-129.

21. The discrepancy in attributing the initiative of sending a mission to Rhos between Photius (he himself and Emperor Michael III) and Constantine (Patriarch Ignatius and Emperor Basileos) aroused a discussion of how many missions were sent to Rhos, one or two. It is usually explained by Constantine's tendency to distort information about the reign of Michael HI in favour of his murderer and successor Basileos I. Cf. Grégoire H. Études sur le neuvième siècle // Byzantion. 1933. T. VIII. P. 531; Авенариус А. Христианство на Руси. С. 311-31Z

22. About the relations between Photius and Ignatius and the attribution of the mission to Ignatius in Theophanes Continuator cf. Кузенков П. В. Византийские источники. С. 127, примеч. 3.

23. Constantine uses the term archont to designate the leader of the Rhos in the same way as he does it in the 9th chapter of "De administrando imperio" (Constantine Porphyrogenitus. De administrando imperio / Greek text ed. by Gy. Moravcsik. Engl. transl. by R. J. H. Jenkins. Washington, 1967. Vol. 1).

24. Ševčenko I. Religious Missions Seen from Byzantium // Harvard Ukrainian Studies. 1988/1989. Vol. 12-13. P. 23-24. This tale was included later in the sixteenth century Nikon Chronicle s. a. 876 (The Nikonian Chronicle: From the Beginning to the Year 1132 / S. A. Zenkovsky. Princeton, 1984. Vol. 1. P. XXXVI).

25. The conclusion of a treaty is considered doubtless by some Russian historians on the ground of the well attested tenth century practice to make an agreement after a Russian attack on Constantinople (in 907, 944, 971). Cf. Сахаров A. H. Дипломатическое признание Древней Руси // ВИ. 1976. № 6. С. 33-64; Idem. Дипломатия Древней Руси: IX – первая половина X века. М., 1980. С. 78-81. It seems, however, that Constantine's remark about a treaty could have been based not on real information but introduced because of his own experience of concluding a treaty with prince Igor' in 944 after Igor's raid on Constantinople.

26. Кузенков П. В. Византийские источники.

27. As it is maintained by some historians who believe that a special embassy was sent from Kiev to ask for a Christian mission. Cf. Сахаров A. H. Дипломатия Древней Руси. С. 78-80.

28. Cf. Dvornik F. Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IХе siècle. P., 1926. P. 146.

29. A. Avenarius supposed that there must have been earlier missions to .Eastern Europe as the establishment of a bishopric was usually practiced by Byzantine authorities only after the conclusion of the first stage of the Christianization in the country (Авенариус А. Христианство на Руси. С. 308-309). No traces, however, of such missions can be found in either written or archaeological materials.

30. The translation is cited after Pritsak O. At the Dawn of Christianity in Rus'. East Meets West // Harvard Ukrainian Studies. 1988/1989. Vol. 12-13. P. 94.

31. The episode is included in the "Life of St. George of Amastris" written ca. 820 by Ignatius, later an archbishop of Nicaea. The text and Russian translation cf. Васильевский В. Г. Труды. Пг., 1915. Т. 3. С. 1-71. On the date of the compilation of the "Life" cf. Ševčenko I. Hagiography of the Iconoclast Period // Iconoclasm: Papers given at the 9th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies. Birmingham, 1975. P. 127.

32. Mango C. Eudocia Ingerina, the Normans and the Macedonian Dynasty // Zbornik radova bizantoloshkog instituta. Beograd, 1973. Vol. XIV/XV. P. 18-19.

33. Annales de Saint-Bertin / F. Graf et al. P., 1964. P.30-31. An important indication of strengthening connection between Byzantium and the North in the times of Theophil is the appearance of Byzantine coins in Eastern Scandinavia. Cf. Hammarberg I., Malmer В., Zachrisson T. Byzantine Coins Found in Sweden. Stockholm, 1989. P. 14 ff. (Commentationes de Nummis Saeculorum IX-XI in Suecia repertis. N.S. 2).

34. Treadgold W. Three Byzantine Provinces and the First Byzantine Contacts with the Rus' // Christianity and the Eastern Slavs. 1993. Vol. 1. P. 132-144.

35. Bibliotheca geographorum arabicorum / M. J. de Goeje. Lugduni Batavorum, 1889. Т. VI: Liber viarumet regnorum auctore... Ibn Khordâdhbeh. P. 154.

36. Cf. the tales about Western Viking stratagems based on Christian beliefs or rituals such as Hastings's siege of Luna.

37. The silence of the annalists about the Christianization of Askold and Dir is sometimes explained by their wish "to suppress or expunge from the text" pertinent information "in order not to detract from Vladimir's 988 achievement" (Birnbaum H. Christianity before Christianization. P. 48. Cf. Ericsson K. The Earliest Conversion of the Rus'. P. 98). This assumption would be interesting if it were possible to prove that the annalists possessed information about the Christian mission at the times of Askold and Dir. Their knowledge of this period, however, was very poor and vague. It is even a matter of controversy if Askold and Dir both existed and ruled together or the annalists combined the two (cf. Birnbaum H. Christianity before Christianization. P. 45-46). It seems to be due to the character and content of the oral tradition that survived by the time of the chronicle-writing.

38. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 61. The compiler of the "Primary Chronicle" never states that Askold and Dir belonged to the Rus'. They are specified as Varangians (s. a. 862), i. e. Scandinavians.

39. According to the First Novgorod Chronicle, he died in 922 or 923, but the date of the "Primary Chronicle" is considered to be even if not correct, still closer to reality.

40. Malingoudi J. Die rassisch-byzantinischen Verträge des 10. Jahrhunderts aus diplomatischer Sicht. Vardas, 1994; Каштанов С. М. Из истории русского средневекового источника. Акты X-XVI вв. М., 1996.

41. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 68.

42. Ibid. P. 65. The names of Slavic gods Perun and Volos whose cults were still alive in the twelfth century, might have been introduced by the translator of the treaty who could hardly know about Old Norse gods. His choice of these two gods was natural enough for the late eleventh century, Perun being the supreme god of thunder (cf. Gimbutas M. Perkunas/Perun – the Thunder God of the Baits and the Slavs // Journal of Indo-European Studies. 1973. Vol. 1/4) and Volos being the most popular pagan god among the peasants. It was supposed that the original mention of Thor in the oath was substituted by the name of Perun (Иванов В. В., Топоров В. Н. Перкунас // Мифы народов мира. М., 1982. Т. 2. С. 303-304).

43. The "bridgehead which Byzantine Christianity had secured on the middle Dnieper was probably never wholly destroyed... a Christian community survived and even increased, at least in Kiev" (Obolensky D. The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe 500-1500. L., 1971. P. 184).

44. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 69.

45. Лихачев Д. С. Комментарии // ПВЛ-1950. Ч. 2. С. 280.

46. Birnbaum Н. Christianity before Christianization. P. 49.

47. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 77.

48. Melnikova E. A. The Lists of Old Norse Personal Names in the Russian-Byzantine Treaties of the Tenth Century // SAS. 2004. Årg. 22.

49. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 74, 77.

50. For its location see Tolochko P. P. Drevnij Kiev. Kiev, 1983. P. 58. It was suggested that St. Elias church might have been situated in Constantinople. The main argument in favour of this surmise is that the treaty was to be signed and ratified in Byzantium (Malingoudi J. Die russisch-byzantinischen Verträge. P. 46). Neither Oleg nor Igor'; however, is supposed to travel to Byzantium to sign the treaties. Therefore the procedure of taking oaths guaranteeing the maintenance of the treaties and most probably following the ratifying of the treaties could rather take place in Kiev where not only his emissaries but the great prince personally could perform the ceremony as was the case with Igor'.

51. I cannot agree with H. Birnbaum that it might have been a parish church (Birnbaum H. Christianity before Christianization. P. 50-51) as there obviously could not exist parish organization at that time.

52. The penetration of Christianity into Scandinavian countries also started from larger trade centers like Hedeby, Ribe, and Birka.

53. Constantine Porphyrogenitus. De administrando imperio. Vol. 1. P. 62-63.

54. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 77.

55. The tale of Ol'ga's revenge on Drevljane is permeated with pagan motifs some of which are connected with Old Norse beliefs and practices.

56. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 80.

57. Cf. the report of Ibn Fadhlan of the burial of a Rus' merchant in Bulgar in 922: Ibn Fozlan's und anderer Araber Berichte über die Russen älterer Zeit / С. М. Frähn. St-Petersburg, 1823.

58. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 82. The date of Ol'ga's visit to Constantinople is debatable. The date of the "Primary Chronicle" does not correspond to the possible dates of the visit suggested by Constantine VII. He states in his treatise "De cerimoniis" that the two receptions of Ol'ga at the court took-place on Wednesday, 9 September, and Sunday, 18 October, which makes 946 and 957 the only possible years. The latter date, however, corresponds to the year 6466 which is the year of Ol'ga's voyage in the Novgorod Karamzin Chronicle that is considered to base on early non-extant sources. For arguments in favour of this date as well as for the literature see Назаренко А. В. Древняя Русь на международных путях. М., 2001. С. 219-263. See also: Müller L. Die Taufe Russlands. S. 72-86; Featherstone 7. Ol'ga's visit to Constantinople // Harvard Ukrainian Studies. 1990. Vol. 14. No. 3/4. P. 293-312; Fennel J. L. When was Olga Canonized? // Christianity and the Eastern Slavs. Vol. 1.1993. P. 77-82; Литаврин Г. Г. Византия и славяне. СПб., 1999. A critical survey of historiography see: Назаренко А. В. Древняя Русь. С. 219-311.

59. Konstantin Porphyrogenitus. De cerimoniis aulae Byzantine // Corpus Scriptores Historiae Byzantinae. Bonn, 1829. Т. V, 1.594.15-598.12. English transl.: Featherstone J. Ol'ga's visit to Constantinople. P. 292-312.

60. Ol'ga's baptism in Constantinople is mentioned, however, in the Continuation of the Chronicle of Regino of Prüm for the years 907-967 that is believed to be written by Adalbert after his return from Rus' (Reginonis abbatis Prumiensis Chronicon cum continuatione Treverensi / F. Kurze. // MGH SRG. 1890. B. 50. S. 170-172) and by Ioann Scylitza, a Byzantine author of the second half of the eleventh century (Iohannis Scylitzae Synopsis historiarum / I. Thum. В.; N.Y., 1973. P. 240.77-81). Cf. Назаренко А. В. Древняя Русь. С. 263ff., 266ff.

61. This hypothesis was first suggested by A. A. Shakhmatov (Шахматов A. A. Разыскания о древнейших русских летописных сводах. СПб., 1908 (repr. М., 2001). С. 117). It was also supposed that Ol'ga could be baptized after her return from Constantinople (Arrignon J.-P. Les relations diplomatiques entre Byzance et la Russie de 860 à 1044 // Revue des etudes slaves. 1983. T. 55. P. 129-137). A critical survey of literature on the place of Ol'ga's baptism cf.: Назаренко А. В. Древняя Русь. С. 270-271.

62. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 83.

63. That is the first occasion when dispatching of military help to Byzantine Emperors is mentioned in either Old Russian or Byzantine sources.

64. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 82.

65. Ibid.

66. Назаренко А. В. Древняя Русь. С. 311-338.

67. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 170.

68. A. Nazarenko argued that Jaropolk was the "rex rugorum" mentioned in "Genealogia Welforum" who married one of the daughters of count Kuno of Eningen and a granddaughter of emperor Otto I. A. Nazarenko connected this remark with the information in Annals of Lampert of Hersfeld about a Russian embassy that came to Quedlinburg on the Easter of 973 (Назаренко A. B. Древняя Русь. С. 339-390; cf. Успенский Ф. Б. Скандинавы. Варяги. Русь. Историко-филологические очерки. М., 2002. С. 153-154) and suggested that Jaropolk being a Christian or willing to baptize sent an embassy to emperor Otto II asking for a new mission.

A short reign of Jaropolk who was murdered by the order of his younger brother Vladimir in 978 was practically unknown to the late eleventh-century annalists but for the tale about Vladimir's advance to Kiev, the treason of Jaropolk's commander-in-chief Blud (< Blóði ?) who lured Jaropolk into a trap and the murder of Jaropolk by two Varangians. It must have been, however, a part of a tradition about Vladimir who appears to be the hero of the tale and not Jaropolk. In this context the information about Jaropolk being a Christian had very few chances to survive and to reach the annalists.

69. Васильев M. A. Язычество восточных славян. M., 1999; Петрухин В. Я. Древняя Русь: Народ. Князья, Религия // Из истории русской культуры. М., 2000. Т. 1: Древняя Русь. С. 257-261.

70. The fall of Jaropolk in 978 is sometimes explained by a pagan reaction to his attempt to introduce Christianity and his treacherous commander-in-chief is viewed as the head (or representative) of the heathen party. In this case Vladimir came to power on the wave of the pagan uprising (Назаренко A. B. Древняя Русь. С. 361).

71. On human sacrifices in the East-Slavic world see Карпов А. Ю. Владимир Святой. M., 1997. P. 142-145 and references.

72. A Baltic tribe.

73. In two early versions of the "Primary Chronicle", the "Hypatian Chronicle" and the "First Novgorod Chronicle" there is an important addition: "Не secretly adhered to the Christian faith" (my italics. – E. M.).

74. The Russian Primary Chronicle. P. 95-96. Cf. Колесов В. В. Сказание о варяге и сыне его Иоанне // Русская речь. 1981. Ла5. С. 101-107; Poutsko V. Les Martyrs varegues de Kiev (983) // Analecta Bollandiana. 1983. Т. 101. P. 363-385.

75. It is common opinion that a legend about the two Varangian martyrs, if not their vita, was composed much earlier than the compilation of the "Primary Chronicle", probably several years after the Christianization of Rus'.

76. D. S. Likhachev called this narration "The saga of the initial spread of Christianity" (Лихачев Д. С. Комментарии. С. 326).

77. Павлова Р. Жития русских святых в южнославянских рукописях // Slavjanska filologija. Sofia, 1993. Т. 21. P. 103-104; Шахматов A. A. Как назывался первый русский святой мученик? // Известия Императорской Академии Наук. 1907. Сер. 6. Май. С. 262. The resume of Shakhmatov's article was published by F. Merchant: Marchant F. P. The First Christian Martyr in Russia // Saga-Book of the Viking Society. 1908-1909. Vol. VI. P. 28-30.

78. This name is repeated in several chronicles of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (Sofijskaja I, Novgorodskaja IV, Voskresenskaja, Nikonovskaja, etc.). The Christian name of the father – Feodor– was attested for the first time much later, not earlier than in the seventeenth century and can't be considered authentic.

79. Карпов А. Ю. Владимир Святой. С. 146.

80. Назаренко А. В. Древняя Русь. С. 448.

81. The words "saint martyrs" are in dual number.

82. Шахматов А. А. Как назывался первый русский святой мученик? С. 261-264.

83. Cf. Ипатьевская летопись. М., 1998 (ПСРЛ. Т. 2). С. 322 (s. a. 1146).

84. This attribution must be a later interpolation as the cult of Boris and Gleb murdered in 1015 was established only by the end of the eleventh century. At the time of the Christianization of Rus' neither of them were born.

85. During archaeological excavations of 1908 remains of a wooden building 5.5x5.5 meters were unearthed near the southern apse of the church. These remains are identified with the house of the Varangian martyrs (Толочко П. П. Древний Киев. С. 38-39). It is also believed that one of the burials found beneath the foundations of the church belong to one of the Varangians (Каргер M. К. Древний Киев. M.; Л., 1958. Т. 1. С. 174-176).

86. Cf. Карпов А. Ю. Владимир Святой. С. 385-386, примеч. 8.

87. Poutsko V. Les Martyrs varegues. P. 374-377.

88. Иларион. Слово о законе и благодати / A. M. Молдован // БЛДР. 1997. Т. 1. С. 38. German transl.: Müller L. Des Metropoliten Ilarion Lobrede auf Vladimir den Heiligen und Glaubensbekenntnis. Wiesbaden, 1962.

89. Киево-Печерский Патерик / Д. Абрамович. Киев, 1931. С. 102.