Role of Christianity in the Development of Russia

Why did Vladimir adopt Christianity, and why did he decide to convert the Russian people as well? Although his mother, Olga, also adopted Christianity during her rule, she did not attempt to convert her people. What political factors influenced Vladimir in his choice to convert the people, as opposed to Olga’s choice to leave them to their pagan faith? Vladimir was canonized and remembered for his grand “baptism of Russia” – wouldn’t Olga want to be remembered in that way as well? True, Vladimir was looking to unite Russia and to develop a strong national culture, but I assume these desires would be present in Olga’s time too. I’m curious about the timing of this Grand Baptism, particularly because similar conversions were taking place in Poland, Denmark, Hungry, and Norway as well. How did Christianity spread so quickly in this particular time period, and not earlier?

Religion undoubtably plays a strong role in a state’s identity, and the Kievan Russians’ acceptance of Christianity both opened up opportunity for exposure to Byzantine culture, while also creating a firm separation from the Roman Catholic Church. How would Russia’s history be changed if Christianity came to the land from Rome and not from Byzantium? Would the same Russian suspicions of the West be present? If Russia had joined the Roman Catholic Church instead of remaining outside of it (and therefore remaining outside of Latin civilization as a whole), an entirely different Russia could have formed.

At what point does the Church begin to threaten a ruler’s power rather than aide it? The adoption of Christianity helped Vladimir in uniting his people just as it did for his son, Iaroslav, but there must come a point when people unite under religion to tear down an autocrat. Religious beliefs cannot always be in line with a ruler’s need for control, and I wonder if Vladimir harbored fears of this mass conversion threatening his future as the ruler of Russia.

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