Saint Vladimir was the grandson of Saint Olga, who became a Christian at Constantinople. Vladimir's father Svyatoslav divided his kingdom among his three sons. Vladimir, at that time a fierce pagan, was granted the principality of Novgorod. He made war against his brother Yaropolk, the Christian prince of Kiev, and took the city. Vladimir ruled well, though he indulged his passions.
Vladimir assisted the Byzantine Empire in the civil unrest of the late 10th century. He asked for the hand of Anna, the Byzantine Emperor's sister, in marriage, which was agreed on the condition that Vladimir would receive baptism and send more military assistance. The Greeks initially reneged on their part of the bargain, and after Vladimir moved his forces against Constantinople, they released Anna to him and granted him the title Caesar (Tsar/Czar). He was baptized by the Patriarch of Constantinople with the Christian name of Basil, and he married Anna.
Upon his return to Kiev, Vladimir commanded the people of Kiev to receive baptism in the River Dneipr. This baptism of Russia was the rebirth of the nation in Christ, which is commemorated on August 1.
Vladimir oversaw the destruction of pagan temples and idols, and the construction of churches in their place. Bishops were consecrated and schools were established to educate the people in the Christian faith. Under Vladimir's influence, the royalty of nearby kingdoms were baptized, and their peoples with them, uniting the Slavic lands in Orthodoxy.
The unity of the Russians was threatened in the early 11th century, and while on campaign in 1015, Vladimir fell ill and died. He was buried beside his wife in the Dormition Church of Kiev.
His feast is celebrated on July 15. He is given the title "Equal to the Apostles" for his efforts in spreading the Christian Faith to new lands.
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