The Christianization of Kieven Rus’ and Piast Poland
By Stephen Szypulski
The Troika Journal, Volume 1 Issue 2 (2011)
Introduction: As tenth century Piast Poland and Kievan Rus’ leaders confronted the political and social changes of their times, each land’s respective leaders chose to seek religion as a means of guaranteeing their interests. The roles and characteristics of Vladimir and Mieszko are important because their personal and political relationships shaped the futures of their governed societies. Although both came from pagan and ethnically Slavic backgrounds, the leaders diverged in the branch of Christianity each chose, although, both conversions took place each region within a similar time frame. The effects from the infusion of these new religious ideas and cultures came slowly and can be attributed to the unique social and political experiences each land faced.
Christianity is believed to have existed in minimal form in Keivan Rus’ for around a century before its official initiation took place. Vladimir’s grandmother, Olga, who is considered the matriarch of Rus’ Christianity, was asked by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII for “slaves, wax, and honey,” according to the Primary Chronicle, thereby prompting a trip to Constantinople, where she received baptism, probably around 954 or 955. Politically, her status may have been elevated after her baptism, yet her intention to receive a mission for Rus’ did not go as planned in Constantinople, because she later requested that Otto I of Saxony, in 959, send a mission of bishops to her lands.