Day of the Baptism of Rus’ Date in the current year: July 15, 2024

Day of the Baptism of Rus’ The Day of the Baptism of Rus’ is an annual observance commemorating the baptism of Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great and the start of the Christianization of Kyivan Rus’. It is celebrated on July 15 in Ukraine and on July 28 in Russia.

Volodymyr the Great (also known as Vladimir the Great; canonized as Saint Vladimir by the Eastern Orthodox Church) was Prince of Novgorod from 970 and Grand Prince of Kyiv from 978 until his death on July 15, 1015. Born circa 958, he was the youngest and illegitimate son of Prince of Kyiv and Prince of Novgorod Sviatoslav I.

In 970, Sviatoslav appointed his legitimate sons Yaropolk and Oleg as subordinate princes of Kyiv and Drelinia (the land of the Drevlians) respectively, and designated Volodymyr as Prince of Novgorod. After Sviatoslav’s death in 972, Oleg and Yaropolk went to war against each other. Yaropolk killed Oleg in 977 and sent his men to Novgorod; Volodymyr fled abroad, assembled a mercenary army, defeated and killed Yaropolk in 978, and proclaimed himself the knyaz (prince) of all Kyivan Rus’.

For the first decade of his rule, Volodymyr remained a pagan, although his grandmother Olga of Kyiv, Sviatoslav’s mother, was a Christian and the first ruler of Kyiv to be baptized. According to the Ukrainian Primary Chronicle, missionaries representing various religions arrived in Kyiv in 986, trying to convert Volodymyr. He ultimately rejected all religions except for Eastern Christianity, but was in no hurry to convert.

Volodymyr was eventually baptized in 988 because he wanted to marry Anna, the sister of the Byzantine Emperor Basil II. He was baptized in Chersonesus in Crimea, returned to Kyiv, and proceeded to baptize his family and his subjects. In Ukraine, the Chrisitanization of Kyivan Rus’ by Volodymyr is viewed as the event that cemented Ukrainian statehood.

The Day of the Baptism of Rus’ coincides with the feast day of Saint Vladimir. It is observed on July 15, but churches that use the Julian calendar celebrate it on July 28 in the Gregorian calendar due to the difference between the Julian and Gregorian/Revised Julian calendar. This is the reason why Ukraine and Russia celebrate the holiday on different dates.

In Ukraine, the Day of the Baptism of Rus’ (officially named the Day of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus’ – Ukraine) was established by President Viktor Yushchenko in 2008 to commemorate the 1020th anniversary of the Christianization of Kyivan Rus’.

For fifteen years, it was celebrated on July 28. However, in 2023 the Orthodox Church of Ukraine switched to the Revised Julian calendar to distance itself from the Russian Orthodox Church, and the holiday was moved to July 15. It coincides with Ukrainian Statehood Day, a public holiday established by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2022.

In Russia, the Day of the Baptism of Rus’ was established in 2010 to “commemorate an important historical event that had a significant impact on the social, spiritual and cultural development of the peoples of Russia and on the strengthening of Russian statehood”. It is observed annually on July 28. Like all commemorative dates in Russia, it is not a non-working day unless it falls on a weekend.

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Day of the Baptism of Rus’, observances in Russia, observances in Ukraine, Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great