• 972-1015: Grand Duke of Kiev
  • Vladimir the Great
  • Saint Vladimir Sviatoslavich Rurikid I

Vladimir I Svyatoslavovich the Great of Kiev, Prince of Novgorod,
Grand Prince of Kiev, was born circa 958 in Pskov, Pskov Rayon, Pskov Oblast, Russia to Svyatoslav I Igorevich of Kiev (c942-972) and Malusha (940-1020) and died 15 July 1015 Berestove, Kiev, Ukraine of unspecified causes. He married Olava (c960-c995) . He married Unnamed Greek nun . He married Rogneda Rogvolodovna of Polotsk (962-1002) . He married Malfrida (c965-1000) . He married Adela . He married Anna Porphyrogenita (963-1011) .


Vladimir Svyatoslavich the Great (Old East Slavic: Володимѣръ Свѧтославичь, Old Norse as Valdamarr Sveinaldsson, Russian: Влади́мир, Vladimir, Ukrainian: Володимир|, Volodymyr, Belarusian: Уладзiмiр, Uladzimir; c. 958 – 15 July 1015, Berestove) was Prince of Novgorod, Grand Prince of Kiev, and ruler of Kievan Rus' from 980 to 1015.[1][2]

Vladimir's father was prince Svyatoslav I Igorevich of the Rurik dynasty.[3] After the death of his father in 972, Vladimir, who was then prince of Novgorod, was forced to flee to Scandinavia in 976 after his brother Yaropolk had murdered his other brother Oleg and conquered Rus'. In Sweden, with the help from his relative Ladejarl Håkon Sigurdsson, ruler of Norway, he assembled a Varangian army and reconquered Novgorod from Yaropolk.[4] By 980 Vladimir had consolidated the Kievan realm from modern-day Ukraine to the Baltic Sea and had solidified the frontiers against incursions of Bulgarian, Baltic, and Eastern nomads. Originally a Slavic pagan, Vladimir converted to Christianity in 988[5][6][7] and Christianized the Kievan Rus'.[8]

Rise to the throne

Vladimir, born in 958, was the natural son and youngest son of Svyatoslav I of Kiev by his housekeeper Malusha. Malusha is described in the Norse sagas as a prophetess who lived to the age of 100 and was brought from her cave to the palace to predict the future. Malusha's brother Dobrynya was Vladimir's tutor and most trusted advisor. Hagiographic tradition of dubious authenticity also connects his childhood with the name of his grandmother, Olga Prekrasa, who was Christian and governed the capital during Svyatoslav's frequent military campaigns.

Transferring his capital to Pereyaslavets in 969, Svyatoslav designated Vladimir ruler of Novgorod the Great but gave Kiev to his legitimate son Yaropolk. After Svyatoslav's death in 972, a fratricidal war erupted in 976 between Yaropolk and his younger brother Oleg, ruler of the Drevlians. In 977 Vladimir fled to his kinsman Haakon Sigurdsson, ruler of Norway, collecting as many Norse warriors as he could to assist him to recover Novgorod. On his return the next year, he marched against Yaropolk. On his way to Kiev he sent ambassadors to Rogvolod (Norse: Ragnvald), prince of Polotsk, to sue for the hand of his daughter Rogneda (Norse: Ragnhild). The high-born princess refused to affiance herself to the son of a serf, so Vladimir attacked Polotsk, slew Rogvolod, and took Rogneda by force. Polotsk was a key fortress on the way to Kiev, and capturing Polotsk and Smolensk facilitated the taking of Kiev in 978, where he slew Yaropolk by treachery and was proclaimed knyaz of all Kievan Rus'.[9]

Years of pagan rule

Vladimir continued to expand his territories beyond his father's extensive domain. In 981, he conquered the Cherven towns from the Poles; in 981-982 he suppressed a Vyatichi rebellion; in 983, he subdued the Yotvingians; in 984, he conquered the Radimichs; and in 985, he conducted a military campaign against the Volga Bulgars,[10][11] planting numerous fortresses and colonies on his way.

Although Christianity spread in the region under Oleg's rule, Vladimir had remained a thoroughgoing pagan, taking eight hundred concubines (along with numerous wives) and erecting pagan statues and shrines to gods.[12] He may have attempted to reform Slavic paganism by establishing the thunder-god, Perun, as a supreme deity.

Open abuse of the deities that most people in Rus' revered triggered widespread indignation. A mob killed the Christian Fyodor and his son Ioann (later, after the overall christening of Kievan Rus, people came to regard these two as the first Christian martyrs in Rus', and the Orthodox Church set a day to commemorate them, July 25). Immediately after the murder of Fyodor and Ioann, early medieval Rus' saw persecutions against Christians, many of whom escaped or concealed their belief.

Christianization of the Kievan Rus'

Vasnetsov Bapt Vladimir

The Baptism of Saint Prince Vladimir, by Viktor Vasnetsov (1890)

The Primary Chronicle reports that in the year 987, after consultation with his boyars, Vladimir the Great sent envoys to study the religions of the various neighboring nations whose representatives had been urging him to embrace their respective faiths. The result is described by the Nestor the Chronicler. Of the Muslim Bulgarians of the Volga the envoys reported there is no gladness among them, only sorrow and a great stench. He also reported that Islam was undesirable due to its taboo against alcoholic beverages and pork.[13] Vladimir remarked on the occasion: "Drinking is the joy of all Rus'. We cannot exist without that pleasure."[14] Ukrainian and Russian sources also describe Vladimir consulting with Jewish envoys (who may or may not have been Khazars), and questioning them about their religion but ultimately rejecting it as well, saying that their loss of Jerusalem was evidence that they had been abandoned by God. His emissaries also visited Roman Catholic and Orthodox missionaries. Ultimately Vladimir settled on Orthodox Christianity. In the churches of the Germans his emissaries saw no beauty; but at Constantinople, where the full festival ritual of the Byzantine Church was set in motion to impress them, they found their ideal: "We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth," they reported, describing a majestic Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sophia, "nor such beauty, and we know not how to tell of it." If Vladimir was impressed by this account of his envoys, he was even more attracted by the political gains of the Byzantine alliance.

1000 Vladimir 2

Vladimir the Great on the Millennium of Russia monument in Novgorod

In 988, having taken the town of Chersonesos in Crimea, he boldly negotiated for the hand of emperor Basil II's sister, Anna. Never before had a Byzantine imperial princess, and one "born in the purple" at that, married a barbarian, as matrimonial offers of French kings and German emperors had been peremptorily rejected. In short, to marry the 27-year-old princess to a pagan Slav seemed impossible. Vladimir was baptized at Kherson, however, taking the Christian name of Basil out of compliment to his imperial brother-in-law; the sacrament was followed by his wedding to Anna. Returning to Kiev in triumph, he destroyed pagan monuments and established many churches, starting with the splendid Church of the Tithes (989) and monasteries on Mt. Athos.

Arab sources, both Muslim and Christian, present a different story of Vladimir's conversion. Yahya of Antioch, al-Rudhrawari, al-Makin, Al-Dimashqi, and ibn al-Athir all give essentially the same account.[15] In 987, Bardas Scleros and Bardas Phokas the Younger revolted against the Byzantine emperor Basil II. Both rebels briefly joined forces, but then Bardas Phocas proclaimed himself emperor on 14 September 987. Basil II turned to the Kievan Rus' for assistance, even though they were considered enemies at that time. Vladimir agreed, in exchange for a marital tie; he also agreed to accept Christianity as his religion and to Christianize his people. When the wedding arrangements were settled, Vladimir dispatched 6,000 troops to the Byzantine Empire, and they helped to put down the revolt.[16]

Christian reign


The Pontic steppes, c. 1015

Vladimir then formed a great council out of his boyars and set his twelve sons over his subject principalities. According to the Primary Chronicle, he founded the city of Belgorod in 991. In 992 he went on a campaign against the Croats, most likely the White Croats (an East Slavic group unrelated to the Croats of Dalmatia) that lived on the border of modern Ukraine. This campaign was cut short by the attacks of the Pechenegs on and around Kiev.

In his later years he lived in a relative peace with his other neighbors: Boleslav I of Poland, Stephen I of Hungary, Andrikh the Czech (questionable character mentioned in A Tale of the Bygone Years). After Anna's death, he married again, likely to a granddaughter of Otto the Great.

In 1014 his son Yaroslav the Wise stopped paying tribute. Vladimir decided to chastise the insolence of his son and began gathering troops against him. Vladimir fell ill, however, most likely of old age, and died at Berestovo, near Kiev. The various parts of his dismembered body were distributed among his numerous sacred foundations and were venerated as relics.


Until his baptism, Vladimir I of Kiev was described by Thietmar of Merseburg as a great libertine (Latin: fornicator maximus). He had a few hundred concubines in Kiev and in the country residence of Berestovo. He also had official pagan wives, the most famous being Rogneda of Polotsk. His other wives are mentioned in the Primary Chronicle, with various children assigned to various wives in the different versions of the document. Therefore, speculations abound.

Norse wife

Norse sagas mention that, while ruling in Novgorod in his early days, Vladimir had a Varangian wife named Olava or Allogia. This unusual name is probably a feminine form of Olaf. According to Snorri Sturluson the runaway Olaf Tryggvason was sheltered by Allogia in her house; she also paid a large fine for him.

Several authorities, notably Rydzevskaya ("Ancient Rus and Scandinavia in 9-14 cent.", 1978), hold that later skalds confused Vladimir's wife Olava with his grandmother and tutor Olga, with Allogia being the distorted form of Olga's name. Others consider that Olava was a real person and the mother of Vysheslav Vladimirovich, the first of Vladimir's sons to reign in Novgorod, indicating that he was Vladimir's the eldest son and heir. On the other hand, there is no evidence that the tradition of sending the eldest son of Kievan monarch to Novgorod existed at such an early date.

The scholars who believe that this early Norse wife was not fictitious, suppose that Vladimir could have married her during his famous exile in Scandinavia in the late 970s. They usually refer an account in Ingvars saga (in a part called Eymund's saga) which tells that Eric VI of Sweden married his daughter to a 'konung of fjord lying to the East from Holmgard'. This prince may have been Vladimir the Great.

Greek wife

During his unruly youth, Vladimir begot his eldest son, Svyatopolk, relations with whom would cloud his declining years. His mother was a Greek nun captured by Svyatoslav I in Bulgaria and married to his lawful heir Yaropolk I. Russian historian Vasili Tatishchev, invariably erring in the matters of onomastics, gives her the fanciful Roman name of Julia. When Yaropolk was murdered by Vladimir's agents, the new sovereign raped his wife and she soon gave birth to a child. Thus, Svyatopolk was probably the eldest of Vladimir's sons, although the issue of his parentage has been questioned and he has been known in the family as "the son of two fathers"

Wife from Polotsk

Rogneda of Polotsk is the best known of Vladimir's pagan wives, although her ancestry has fuelled many speculations.[17]

The Primary Chronicle mentions three of Rogneda's sons - Izyaslav of Polotsk, Vsevolod of Volhynia and Yaroslav the Wise. Other chronicles also consider that she had two more sons, Mstislav (who died short time after birth) and Mstislav of Chernigov. Following an old Yngling tradition, Izyaslav inherited the lands of his maternal grandfather, i.e., Polotsk. According to the Kievan succession law, his progeny forfeited their rights to the Kievan throne, because their forefather had never ruled in Kiev supreme. They, however, retained the principality of Polotsk and formed a dynasty of local rulers, of which Vseslav the Sorcerer was the most notable.

Bohemian wife

Vladimir apparently had a Czech wife, whose name is given by Vasily Tatishchev as Malfrida. Historians have gone to extremes in order to provide a political rationale behind such an alliance, as the Czech princes are assumed to have backed up Vladimir's brother Yaropolk rather than Vladimir. Malfrida is thought to be the mother of Svyatoslav of the Drevilians, killed during the 1015 internecine. According to some chronicles, Mstislav of Chernigov could have also been Malfrida's and not Rogneda's son.

Bulgarian wife

Another wife was a Bulgarian lady, whose name is given by Tatishchev as Adela. Historians have disagreed as to whether she came from Volga Bulgaria or from Bulgaria on the Danube. According to the Primary Chronicle, both Boris and Gleb were her children. This tradition, however, is viewed by most scholars as a product of later hagiographical tendency to merge the identity of both saints. Actually, they were of different age and their names point to different cultural traditions. Judging by his Oriental name, Boris could have been Adela's only offspring.

Anna Porphyrogenita

Anna Porphyrogenita was the daughter of Byzantine Emperor Romanos II and the Empress Theophano. She was also the sister of Emperors Basil II Bulgaroktonos (The Bulgar-Slayer) and Constantine VIII. Anna was a Porphyrogenita, a legitimate daughter born in the special purple chamber of the Byzantine Emperor's Palace. Anna's hand was considered such a prize that Vladimir became Christian just to marry her. They are supposed to have had a daughter Theofana

German wife

Anna is known to have predeceased Vladimir by four years. Thietmar of Merseburg, writing from contemporary accounts, mentions that Boleslav I of Poland captured Vladimir's widow during his raid on Kiev in 1018. The historians long had no clue as to identity of this wife. The emigre historian Nicholas Baumgarten, however, pointed to the controversial record of the "Genealogia Welforum" and the "Historia Welforum Weingartensis" that one daughter of Count Kuno von Oenningen (future Duke Konrad of Swabia) by "filia Ottonis Magni imperatoris" (Otto the Great's daughter; possibly Reginlint, claimed by some as illegitimate daughter and by others legitimate, born from his first marriage with Eadgyth of Wessex married "rex Rugorum" (king of Russia). He interpreted this evidence as pertaining to Vladimir's last wife.

It is believed that the only child of this alliance was Maria Dobroniega, who married Casimir I of Poland between 1038 and 1042. As her father Vladimir died about 25 years before that marriage and she was still young enough to bear at least five children, including two future Polish dukes (Boleslaw II of Poland, who later became a king, and Wladyslaw Herman), it is thought probable that she was Vladimir's daughter by the last marriage.

Yaroslav's parentage

There is also a case for Yaroslav's descent from Anna. According to this theory, Nestor the Chronicler deliberately represented Yaroslav as Rogneda's son, because he systematically removed all information concerning Kievan ties with Byzantium, spawning pro-Varangian bias (see Normanist theory for details). Proponents allege that Yaroslav's true age was falsified by Nestor, who attempted to represent him as 10 years older than he actually had been, in order to justify Yaroslav's seizure of the throne at the expense of his older brothers.

The Primary Chronicle, for instance, states that Yaroslav died at the age of 76 in 1054 (thus putting his birth at 978), while dating Vladimir's encounter and marriage to Yaroslav's purported mother, Rogneda, to 980. Elsewhere, speaking about [Yaroslav I Vladimirovich of Kiev (c978-1054)|Yaroslav]]'s rule in Novgorod (1016), Nestor says that Yaroslav was 28, thus putting his birth at 988. The forensic analysis of Yaroslav's skeleton seems to have confirmed these suspicions, estimating Yaroslav's birth at ca. 988-990, after both the Baptism of Kievan Rus and Vladimir's divorce of Rogneda. Consequently, it is assumed that Yaroslav was either Vladimir's natural son born after the latter's baptism or his son by Anna.

Had Yaroslav an imperial Byzantine descent, he likely would not have been reluctant to advertise it. Some have seen the willingness of European kings to marry Yaroslav's daughters as an indication of this imperial descent. Subsequent Polish chroniclers and historians, in particular, were eager to view Yaroslav as Anna's son. Recent proponents invoke onomastic arguments, which have often proven decisive in the matters of medieval prosopography, but these may be worthless in this case specifically because of the great shift to Christian names just then experienced in the Rus royal dynasty, an unpheaval more than enough to explain all unprecedented names if they are Christian. It is curious that Yaroslav named his elder son Vladimir (after his own father) and one of his daughters Anna (as if after his own mother). Also, there is a certain pattern in his sons having Slavic names (as Vladimir), and his daughters having Greek names only (as Anna). However, in the absence of better sources, Anna's maternity remains a pure speculation.

Obscure offspring

Vladimir had several children whose maternity cannot be established with certainty. These include two sons, Stanislav of Smolensk and Sudislav of Pskov, the latter outliving all of his siblings. There is also a daughter, named Predslava, who was captured by Bolesław the Brave in Kiev and taken with him to Poland as a concubine. Another daughter, Premyslava, is attested in numerous (though rather late) Hungarian sources as the wife of Duke Ladislaus, one of the early Arpadians. Vladimirovna, an out-of-marriage daughter (d. 1044), married to Bernard, Margrave of the Nordmark. Pozvizd (prior to 988–?), a son of Vladimir according to Hustyn Chronicles. He, possibly, was the Prince Khrisokhir mentioned by Niketas Choniates.

Other Daughters

Some information in this article or section has not been verified and may not be reliable.
Please check for any inaccuracies, and modify and cite sources as needed.
Anton Losenko

Vladimir and Rogneda (1770).

The fate of all Vladimir's daughters, whose number is around nine, is uncertain.

Statue of St Volodymyr

Modern statue of Vladimir in London with the inscription "Ruler of Ukraine"

Significance and legacy

Saint Vladimir's Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in Kiev, is dedicated to Vladimir the Great, as is the University of Kiev. The Russian Order of St. Vladimir and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in the United States are also named after him. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the feast day of St. Vladimir on 15 July.

The memory of Vladimir was also kept alive by innumerable Ukrainian and Russian folk ballads and legends, which refer to him as Krasno Solnyshko (the Fair Sun). The Varangian period of Eastern Slavic history ceases with Vladimir, and the Christian period begins.


Offspring of Vladimir I of Kiev and Olava (c960-c995)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Vysheslav Vladimirovich of Novgorod (c977-c1013) 977 1013 Novgorod

Offspring of Vladimir I of Kiev and Unnamed Greek nun
Name Birth Death Joined with
Svyatopolk I Vladimirovich of Kiev (c980-1019) 980 1019 Daughter of Bolesław I the Brave (c995-1018)

Offspring of Vladimir I of Kiev and Rogneda Rogvolodovna of Polotsk (962-1002)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Izyaslav Vladimirovich of Polotsk (c978-1001) 978 1001
Yaroslav I Vladimirovich of Kiev (c978-1054) 978 20 February 1054 NN
Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden (1001-1050)
Mstislav Vladimirovich (c982-c982) 982 982
Mstislav Vladimirovich of Chernigov (c983-1036) 983 1036 Chernigov, Chernihiv Rayon, Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine Anastasia
Vsevolod Vladimirovich of Volhynia (c984-1013) 1084 1113
Predslava Vladimirovna (c983-c1025) 983 1025
Premyslava Vladimirovna (c985-1015) 985 1015
Mstislava Vladimirovna (c986-c1030) 986 1030

Offspring of Vladimir I of Kiev and Malfrida (c965-1000)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Svyyatoslav Vladimirovich of the Drevilians (c982–1015) 982 1015 Skole, Skole Rayon, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine

Offspring of Vladimir I of Kiev and Adela
Name Birth Death Joined with
Boris Vladimirovich of Rostov (986-1015) 986 24 July 1015
Gleb Vladimirovich of Murom (987-1015) 986 1015
Stanislav Vladimirovich of Smolensk (c988-c1015) 988 1015
Sudislav Vladimirovich of Pskov (c992-1063) 992 1063

Offspring of Vladimir I of Kiev and Anna Porphyrogenita (963-1011)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Theofana Vladimirovna of Kiev (c990-c1020) 990 1020 Ostromir Konstantinovich (c995-c1060)

Offspring of Vladimir I of Kiev and Unknown von Schwaben (-)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Maria Dobroniega of Kiev (c1011-1087) Casimir I of Poland (1016-1058)
Agatha Vladimirovna of Kiev (c1014-c1070) 1014 1070 Edward Æþeling of England (1016-1057)

Offspring of Vladimir I of Kiev and unknown parent
Name Birth Death Joined with
Pozvizd Vladimirovich (c985-c1030) 985 1030


Offspring of Svyatoslav I Igorevich of Kiev (c942-972) and Predslava
Name Birth Death Joined with
Oleg Svyatoslavich of the Drevlyans (bef957-977) 957 877 Ovruch
Yaropolk I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c959-980) 959 11 June 980 Kaniv Greek nun

Offspring of Svyatoslav I Igorevich of Kiev (c942-972) and Malusha (940-1020)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) 958 Pskov, Pskov Rayon, Pskov Oblast, Russia 15 July 1015 Berestove, Kiev, Ukraine Olava (c960-c995)
unnamed Greek nun
Rogneda Rogvolodovna of Polotsk (962-1002)
Malfrida (c965-1000)
Anna Porphyrogenita (963-1011)
Unknown von Schwaben (?-?)
Sfengus Svyatoslavich (c960-c1020) 1020 990

See Also


  1. ^ Companion to the Calendar: A Guide to the Saints and Mysteries of the Christian Calendar, p. 105, Mary Ellen Hynes, Ed. Peter Mazar, LiturgyTrainingPublications, 1993
  2. ^ National geographic, Vol. 167, p. 290, National Geographic Society, 1985
  3. ^ Vladimir I (Grand Prince of Kiev), Brittannica Encyclopedia
  4. ^ Den hellige Vladimir av Kiev (~956–1015), Den katolske kirke website
  5. ^ Volodymyr the Great, Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  6. ^ Saint Volodymyr the Baptizer: Wetting cultural appetites for the Gospel, Dr. Alexander Roman, Ukrainian Orthodoxy website
  7. ^ Ukrainian Catholic Church: part 1., The Free Library
  8. ^ Vladimir I, Encyclopædia Britannica
  9. ^ Den hellige Vladimir av Kiev (~956–1015), Den Katolske Kirke
  10. ^ Janet Martin. Medieval Russia. Cambridge University Press. 1995. pp. 5, 15, 20.
  11. ^ John Channon, Robert Hudson. The Penguin historical atlas of Russia. Viking. 1995. p. 23.
  12. ^ Vladimir I (Grand Prince of Kiev), Brittannica Encyclopedia
  13. ^ Moss, Walter G. (2002), "A History of Russia Volume I: To 1917" (London: Anthem Press), p. 18.
  14. ^ Moss, 18.
  15. ^ Ibn al-Athir dates these events to 985 or 986 in his The Complete History
  16. ^ "Rus". Encyclopaedia of Islam
  17. ^ this article Site with arguments regarding her Yngling royal descent.


Preceded by
Yaropolk I
Prince of Kiev and Novgorod
Succeeded by
Svyatopolk I
NAME Vladimir 01 Of Kiev
SHORT DESCRIPTION Ukrainian Saint and prince
DATE OF DEATH 15 July 1015
PLACE OF DEATH village of Berestove (today a part of Kiev)

Footnotes (including sources)

Afil, Thurstan, MainTour

Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015)
Born: 958 Died: 1015
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Svyatoslav Igorevich
Prince of Novgorod
Succeeded by
Yaropolk Svyatoslavich
Preceded by
Yaropolk Svyatoslavich
Prince of Novgorod
Succeeded by
Vysheslav Vladimirovich
Preceded by
Yaropolk Svyatoslavich
Grand Prince of Kiev
Succeeded by
Svyatopolk Vladimirovich