Christianization of Rus

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Christianization of Rus’


the introduction of Christianity as the state religion in ancient Rus’ at the end of the tenth century. The breakdown of the primitive communal society and the rise of the class state created the conditions for the replacement of pagan religion by Christianity. As early as the mid-ninth century, because of close ties between ancient Rus’ and Byzantium, Christianity in its Greek Orthodox form had spread through the ruling class of Russia. Many of Prince Igor’s companions in the tenth century were Christians, and his wife, Olga, accepted Christianity around the year 955. However, it became the official state religion only in 988–989, with the mass baptism and Christianization of the Slavs that was carried out by Prince Vladimir Sviatoslavich. From that time Christianity was actively propagated by the feudal state and the developing church organization.

As the church became a component of feudal society, it aided the establishment of feudal methods of production, sanctifying authority and obedience and preaching the permanence and justice of an exploitative class society. The introduction of Christianity as the only state ideology helped to unite the territory and to strengthen the state of ancient Rus’.

A centralized organization of clergy was created. The unity of Russia’s religion with the religions of other European countries made the ancient Russian state part of a worldwide Christian society and brought Russia closer to Byzantium. The Russian church became part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and for a long time Byzantium sought to make ancient Rus’ dependent upon it. The acceptance of Christianity also led to changes in and enrichment of the culture of ancient Russian society. Painting and architecture, which was highly developed in Byzantium, as well as writing and literature, spread throughout Rus’. But at the same time, pagan folk art (decorative art, music, and dance) was suppressed.

The introduction of Christianity, which accompanied the introduction of the feudal order, met with opposition from the masses of the people. In the 11th century antifeudal revolts often took the form of movements in defense of paganism against the new religion. Up until the 13th century the spread of the Christian religion was largely confined to the towns. After the Mongol-Tatar invasion, Christianity also penetrated much of the countryside, although various survivals of paganism were preserved there right up to the 19th century.


Povest’ vremennykh let, parts 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
Bakhrushin, S. V. “K voprosu o kreshchenii Kievskoi Rusi.” In Istorik-Marksist, 1937, no. 2.
Budovnits, I. U. Obshchestvenno-politicheskaia mysl’ Drevnei Rusi (XI-XIV vv.). Moscow, 1960.
Rybakov, B. A. Pervye veka russkoi istorii. Moscow, 1964.
Tserkov’v istorii Rossii (IX v.-1917g.). [Critical essays.] Moscow, 1966.
Winter, E. Russland und das Papsttum, vol. 1. Berlin, 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Christianization of Rus' allowed Russia to find its civilizational identity, and its place between Europe and Asia.