Irina Yakubin and Mariya Gershkovich, University of California, Los Angeles
The UC Undergraduate Journal of Slavic and East/Central European Studies, Vol.4 (2011-12)
Religion has played a significant role in the history of the Slavs. Though Orthodox Christianity is practiced today by millions of people in Russia and Eastern Europe, it was not the first religion of Kievan Rus’. A polytheistic religion, which attributed natural occurrences to gods and goddesses, prevailed among the early Slavic people. Toward the end of the tenth century, Prince Vladimir of Russia adapted the Byzantine Empire’s version of Christianity, supposedly converting all of Kievan Rus’ to monotheism. In truth, converting Rus’ was a centuries-long process that required modifying the Byzantine faith to traditional beliefs. In other civilizations, the Christian religion underwent similar modifications intended to accommodate local customs; thus the conversion of Rus’ is not an isolated case study. Some argue that Rus’ did not truly convert until the fourteenth century when the Czar enforced tougher laws aimed at upholding religious piety (Fedotov). As evidenced by the renewed popularity of pagan beliefs in Russia and Eastern Europe in the twenty-first century, contemporary Slavs are rediscovering their Pagan roots.