Vladimir the Great Finds a Faith

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Vladimir The Great

Vladimir The Great

From The Russian Chronicle
10th Century A.D.

Only a lust for conquest exceeded Prince Vladimir’s lust for women, which, they say, rivaled Solomon’s. Vladimir had four sons and two daughters by his lawful wife, Rogned. In addition, a Greek and a Czech a woman each bore him a son. Another Czech woman bore him two sons. A Bulgarian woman bore him two sons. Then, there were his concubines: 300 at Vyshgorod, 300 at Belgorod, and 200 at Berestovo.  He also seduced young girls and married women.

Vladimir had conquered many peoples and consolidated the Kievian empire from Ukraine to the Baltic. In 985 Vladimir successfully attacked the Bulgars, but they refused to pay tribute. They felt he had no religion because his people worshipped wooden idols. They asked him to adopt their Mohammedan faith.

“Tell me about your faith,” Vladimir said.

“We believe in one God, the almighty,” they said, “and Mohammed is his prophet.”

Vladimir listened and nodded. “Continue.”

“We practice circumcision and drink no wine. After death there can be complete satisfaction of your carnal desires.”

While Vladimir enjoyed women in this life and liked the idea of enjoying them in the hereafter, circumcision and abstaining from pork and wine held no appeal.  “No,” he told them. “No. The Russians find great joy in drinking, and I cannot deny them this pleasure. Dismissed.”

Then, German Christians, emissaries of the Pope, who heard about the activities of the Bulgars visited Vladimir to evangelize. However, their religion did not interest him. Fasting? Eating and drinking for the glory of God? “Our fathers had no such rules,” he told them. “Dismissed.”

Jewish Khazars arrived to tell Vladimir of the one G-d, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They said they believed in circumcision, in abstaining from pork and hare, and in observing a holy day of rest each week.

Vladimir asked, “Where is your native land?”

“In Jerusalem,” they said, “but G-d was angry at the sins of our forefathers, and now we are exiled, living among others in many lands.”

“How can you possibly expect me to accept the faith of a people denied their native land, a people sent away by their own God? I cannot even consider such a thing. Need I say any more? Dismissed.”

Then the Greeks sent a scholar to Vladimir. The man had little good to say about the Mohammedans. There was little praise for the German Christians, who the scholar said had modified the faith. And the Jews? Well, they killed and persecuted their prophets, which is why God destroyed their cities. The scholar knew how to persuade with details and told Vladimir long stories from the holy book (which, by the way, is the Hebrew holy book), of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Isaiah, and of Christ, recounting everything from the world’s beginning to its end of days. Vladimir believed and accepted that particular God, that faith, and Vladimir was baptized in 988 at St. Basil’s in Kherson. He settled down with one wife.  

The Russians burned their wooden idols.

And so Vladimir the Great planted his seeds.

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