KievanRus/Ukraine history

Dear All,

The impetus for this discussion was Father Ambrose’s claim that the ROC-MP has patriarchal hegemony over the whole Ukraine. I responded by stating that (among other things) the UOC-MP is in the minority among Apostolic Christians. Fr. A informed us that the UOC-MP has more church infrastructure in the Ukraine than any other Apostolic Church. I replied that what counts is the number of adherents, not infrastructure. Fr. A (strangely) responded with even more info about church infrastructure. As discussion progressed, a claim was made that the Ukraine has historically been Orthodox. The following is a refutation of this Orthodox claim.

This presentation will be partitioned. Initially, I intended to try to cut down the essay to perhaps 4 initial postings (at least less than Fr A’s disallowed 7 posts), but I was informed by the moderator that absolutely only ONE initial post is permitted. God works in mysterious ways. Now I don’t have to cut out any information just to save space. After each section, I would appreciate input/criticisms/corrections/acknowledgements – whatever. After all issues have been dealt with concerning the data in the first post, I will post the next section, and so on, and so on. Be aware that since the essay was not originally designed to be partitioned, the sections may seem to end/start abruptly:

Christianity was brought to the Swedes by the Church of Rome through St. Ansgar in 829. With the consent of King Björn, he laboured for the conversion of souls a whole year, with only some success. In 852, he returned an archbishop and made great strides, a work continued by his successor Rimbert. At this time, according to the chronicles of Nestor, an indigenous Slavic tribe of the lands on the east coast of the Baltic Sea called the Ilmen, sent messengers to Sweden, inviting them to settle their lands. By the end of the ninth century, the Varangians (Swedish adventurers) had established themselves on the eastern bank of the Baltic Sea and penetrated as far east as present-day Minsk (what became the principality of Polotsk). From the north down the Dnieper River, the Swedes under Oleg moved south, establishing themselves at Novgorod in 862, and capturing the city of Kieff from the Khazars in 882. Some of these settlers/conquerors were Latin Catholics. Igor, son of Rurik, a kinsman of Oleg, succeeded him as ruler of Kievan-Rus. Igor’s wife was St. Olga, whose son was Sviatoslav, father of St. Vladimir.

SIDEBAR: The word “Rus” was a synonym for the Varangians, etymologically derived from the Finnish word for the Swedes “Routsi.”

St. Olga was baptized at Constantinople in 959. Upon return to Kiev and desiring to share her new faith, she petitioned King Otto I of Germany for a bishop and priests to evangelize her people. King Otto complied through Bishop Adaldag of Bremen, and after years of slow and oftentimes disheartening evangelization, the See of Polotsk (present-day Belarus) was finally created in 992. The first bishop consecrated for the post died before arriving there; he was succeeded by Bishop St. Adalbert.

COMMENT1: If the Swedes already knew of Christianity, why did St. Olga get baptized at Constantinople? Did she reject the Latin Christianity of the Swedes? This is a sheer impossibility due to the fact that she requested evangelization from a Latin Catholic monarch. In fact, Olga was not Swedish, but Slav (a simple country girl, as some describe her), so it is not likely she had any initial contact with Christianity. What most likely occurred was that she was a member of a diplomatic/commercial envoy to Constantinople, where she first encountered the undivided faith (Igor had previously tried to conquer Constantinople in 941, and, failing that, concluded a commercial treaty with them in 945 before his death; from 945 to the accession of her son Sviatoslav in 962, she was basically the ruler of Kievan-Rus). Though many Swedes were Latin Catholic, it seems the Christian faith did not reach the ruling classes of the Kievan Rus region until the mid-10th century with St. Olga and King Rahvolod (see below). It is possible that Olga requested missionaries from Germany though the counsel of Rahvolod, as Sweden itself was evangelized from Germany. Thus, the first Christians in Kievan Rus were indeed Catholics of the Latin Church.

Hello GAssisi and all:

My compliments on your research – an interesting topic indeed!

I have just a few comments.

(1) Yes, this is the most popular derivation of “Rus”. Some may be interested that it also gives the derivation of “Prussia” as well, since this is said to be derived from Slavic “po” (=“alongside”) and “Rus”. The original “Prussians” were a Baltic people most closely related to today’s Lithuanians. They lived “alongside” ancient Rus, but were either germanized or exterminated by the medieval German Drang nach Osten conducted in their area by the Teutonic Knights. Low German settlers were imported to colonize their lands, and it was these that later came to be known to us as the “Prussians”, until they were repatriated to Germany only after World War II, and their lands divided between Poland and Russia.

(2) The Germanic peoples in general first lived in Scandinavia and the southern shores of the Baltic, but before the time of Christ had already expanded southward into areas that had hitherto been peopled by Celtic tribes in the West, or by others in the East. The Goths, originally living in Sweden (cf., "Gotland) were part of this process, expanding by the first Christian centuries all the way to the Black Sea and exercising a hegemony over the other, mostly Slavic tribes in that vast region. Their hegemony seems to have been destroyed by the Hunnic (and other?) invasions of the 5th century (remember Pope Leo the Great turning back Attila in the 5th century?), but the Goths and associated Germanic tribes from the area that later came to be called Rus ended up invading the Roman Empire and carving new states out of it. * My point, however, is that the Germanic influence in Rus that is later reflected in the organization of that state by the Varangians has a history of a millenium or more!*

(3) Even the pagan Roman Empire had traded with the Baltic area: I have seen references to “the Amber Road”, that is, the trade route by which the Romans obtained amber from what is now Poland. Farther East one sees the great Russian rivers that the Varangians would later exploit in order to trade with rich Constantinople. They sailed up those that drained into the Baltic, portaged, and then sailed down into the Black Sea and thence to the Hellespont. I don’t know just how early this trade route was formed, but it would not surprise me it the Scandinavians’ interest in such a trade route dated almost to the time of the original Germanic expansion!

(4) This “Varangian” (=“East Scandinavian”) effort as reflected in the origins of Rus was matched in the West by similar expansions of the “Vikings” (=“West Scandinavians”) at exactly the same time, which left a lasting impression on Western Europe by at one time so sorely afflicting Ireland, Scotland, England, and the coasts of continental Europe, and even led to the establishment of Viking states like Normandy and the Kingdom of Naples. These Vikings and Varangians were really the same people: Russian (and, I suppose, Ukrainian and Byelorussian also) still has the terms “varjag” and “vitjaz” derived from the two names for these adventurers. I would speculate that these Scandinavians were driven primarily by the poverty of their homelands to make their fortune abroad, esp. by getting into trading with the Empire.

(5) Their are many interesting etymologies that show Scandinavian (and West Germanic also) influence in Rus. Just a few are these Slavic names, which were borrowed from Scandinavian: “Oleg” (<“Helgi”), “Olga” (<“Helga”), “Igor” (<“Ingvarr”). In addition there are other early Slavic names that seem not to be originally Slavic but rather to be translations from Scandinavian (=Germanic) roots.

(6) It is entirely unremarkable that St. Olga chose to be baptized at Constantinople, or that the first Christians in Rus were Latin Catholic. There is no “rejection” of “Latin” or any other Christianity in Olga’s baptism. Her choice would have been purely political. One needs to understand that baptism of a ruler marked that nation’s entry into the Christian commonwealth, but this entailed both advantages and disadvantages. Among the latter was the risk of losing independence to the powerful state (the German Carolingians or the Greek Byzantines) from which Christian baptism had come. So the small new Slavic states cagily played these off against one another. Witness Olga’s getting the Byzantine Emperor to be her godfather, a relationship that would make any marriage of the parties impossible: she was quite aware that he wanted to marry her, but she could not marry him without giving up her rule, yet she did not dare offend him. Instead she outfoxed him, keeping her throne without offending him and even making him into a better ally than he had been previously. Lots of politics!

Well, enough for now! I hope this is of interest.



As with so many of your posts I had to read this one at least ten times to try and understand the points you are trying to make.

From what I gather you are trying to prove that ‘Rus’ was never predominately Orthodox and was never influenced by Orthodox thought. And then to try and prove it, you base it on some bits and pieces you have gathered from various sources. Mainly that -

‘the Swedes under Oleg moved south, establishing themselves at Novgorod in 862, and capturing the city of Kieff from the Khazars in 882. Some of these settlers/conquerors were Latin Catholics. Igor, son of Rurik, a kinsman of Oleg, succeeded him as ruler of Kievan-Rus. Igor’s wife was St. Olga, whose son was Sviatoslav, father of St. Vladimir.’

and -

That it WAS POSSIBLE that St Olga requested evangelization from a German bishop -

It is possible that Olga requested missionaries from Germany though the counsel of Rahvolod, as Sweden itself was evangelized from Germany. Thus, the first Christians in Kievan Rus were indeed Catholics of the Latin Church.

You completely disregard the fact that both St Olga and her grandson chose to go to Constantinople rather than either Rome, Germany, or any other western country to be baptized. The whole culture of ‘Rus’ has been influenced by Orthodox thought and religious ideology!

On a personal nature I think I’ll stay out of this revision of history. I have neither the patience nor the inclination to deal with such nonsense! Especially with lent coming on.


Dear Joannes,

Truly, your scholarship is staggering. You have given information that can only increase our understanding of this issue. A few of your points I have covered, and will be included in my next “history post.”

Dear Orthodox,
As you might recall, I noted that this thread will be a series of posts. Forgive me if this first post gives the impression it is not meant to convey. It seriously could not be helped since the Moderators will not allow more than one post to initiate a thread. I assure you that as you read on, the point will become clearer.

In any case, I am wondering where you got the impression that this thread is intended to, in your words, “prove that ‘Rus’ was never predominately Orthodox and was never influenced by Orthodox thought.” Can you please succinctly give a quote from me to indicate this?

The following “history posts” will give more information which will hopefully answer your questions and concerns.

God bless all,

P.S. I will wait five more hours. If no other feedback results, then I will assume everything is copacetic and I will proceed with the next “history post.”

Dear Orthodoc,
BTW, forgive me for the implication. I did not mean to imply that there were Latin Catholics in the Kievan Rus region because of the evangelization requested by St. Olga from Germany. No, the presence of Latin Catholics came because of the settlement of SWEDISH Catholics (the Varangians). Hope that clears up one issue.
God bless,

Dear Orthodoc,

BTW, in case you hadn’t noticed, I already addressed the issue of why St. Olga was baptized in Constantinople. She DID NOT go to Constantinople for the purpose of being baptized. Rather, she LEARNED about Christianity WHILE in Constantinople, and THEN became baptized.

You should also check out Joannes info on St. Olga’s baptism and her choice of godfather.

St. Vladimir’s baptism will be covered in a little while.

God bless,

SECTION TWO: **COMMENT2: **Orthodox historians deny that St. Olga requested King Otto for evangelization. If she wanted her lands evangelized, why didn’t she ask the Emperor of Constantinople? It is said that St. Olga stayed for a time in Constantinople in order to receive instruction. In that time, she no doubt realized that the Church in the East was basically controlled by the Emperor. Though she was baptized into the Christianity of the Eastern Church, as the ruler-regent of Kiev, she could not allow a foreign power to gain any foothold in her country, especially as her departed husband had fought so long against Constantinople. Her only option was to seek evangelization from King Otto, with whom the Kievan state had no animosity.

The first ruler of the scattered Swedish-Slavic settlements in Polotsk was a Latin Catholic named Rahvalod (mid-10th century). His daughter Princess Rahneda was likewise baptized Catholic. In order to suborn his brother Yaropolk’s rule over Kiev (this spelling will distinguish the territory/principality from the city), Vladimir married Rahneda, who was already betrothed to Yaropolk. Rahneda preferred Yaropolk, and in anger Vladimir killed not only his brother, but Rahneda’s whole family, as well. Rahneda bore him a son, but Vladimir was profligate in his adultery. Rahneda despised him, so Vladimir banished her and his son back to Polotsk, where Rahneda retired as a nun in a convent that she founded near present-day Minsk.

Vladimir became Grand Duke of Kievan Rus in 980. Vladimir’s conquest included not only Catholic Polotsk, but, in 981, also the “Red Russian” territories of the Catholic Poles (Polish King Mieszko pledged his lands and his people to Christianity in 963), incorporated into the SW principality of Kievan Rus known as Galicia-Volhynia.

COMMENT: Orthodox assume that the Polotsk principality accepted Eastern Christianity during St. Vladimir’s reign. Apart from a few scattered ancient churches, there is no proof of this. On the contrary, historical records are unanimous that the Polotsk region was constantly in contention against Kiev. In the several alliances made between the princes of the Russian lands during the 10th and 11th centuries, Polotsk was consistently by itself fending off encroachment by the other Princes of Kievan Rus. In fact, Minsk was fortified in 1067 as a border fortress of Polotsk against Kievan Rus. It is highly unlikely, if not impossible, that the people of Polotsk would so easily submit to conversion by a hostile ruler. It is true that the Polotsk Prince Isiaslav built the Cathedral of St. Sophia in the mid-11th century, but this was not so much the result of a preference for Eastern Christianity, rather than an expression of political competitiveness against Kiev and Novgorod – its two greatest enemies – each which had their own Cathedrals of St. Sophia (in fact, Isiaslav did not build St. Sophia according to traditional Byzantine architecture, in order to emphasize Polotsk’s independence). Besides, Christianity (Latin) was already introduced into the Polotsk region from Sweden. What makes the early presence of Latin Christianity in Polotsk even more likely, aside from its Swedish origin, was the existence of friendly trade relations between Polotsk and the Catholic Germans (which would also reinforce the truth about St. Olga’s request for German Catholic missionaries). Eastern Christianity would have filtered into Polotsk slowly, rather than abruptly.

On condition of being allowed to marry Anna, the daughter of the Emperor of Constantinople, Vladimir consented to be baptized. When St. Vladimir converted to Christianity, Christianity was still united. Orthodox “history” claims that at his baptism, St. Vladimir recited a renunciation of the Latin “errors.” This is certainly a wild fantasy, given the amicable relations maintained between himself (not to mention his descendants) and the Holy See (Kieff and Rome exchanged emissaries four times after Vladimir’s conversion). Recall that his own grandmother St. Olga requested German Catholic missionaries for the Rus lands. Furthermore, there is no record of this supposed renunciation in the Russian Primary Chronicle, completed in 1113. Vladimir’s attraction to Greek Christianity was not due to its theology, but its tactile grandeur (the “smells and bells” and majestic ceremony). Incidentally, Pope John XVIII (1004-1009) was entered into the dyptichs of Constantinople by Patriarch Sergius.

I find it somewhat unsatisfactory that you have moved onto Section Two when you have told us that you would move to the next section only after all matters had been dealt with from the first section. I hope that you are not intending to say that people may not now question things in Section One.

You see, things in Section One have certainly NOT been dealt with satisfactorily. There are some wrongful historical assertions and a good dash of historical revisionism. It makes me very very wary of what will be presented in future sections.

You say that Saint Olga was baptised almost by chance in Constantinople. She just happened to be there with a trade delagation. My dear man! Saint Olga was SEVENTY years of age when she made her own personal decision for Christ and she specifically chose to be baptized in Constantinople. You have wronged her with what you have taught here. Very shonky research indeed! :frowning:

The first Christians, you say, in Rus were Latin Catholics - the result of the missionary work of Saint Adaldag and his companions. But this group was sent back to Germany with a flea in their ear almost as soon as they arrived. Their work was a failure.

The first Christians in Kievan Rus (using your parameters) were Byzantine Orthodox - Saint Olga and the women baptized with her in Constantinople.

[quote=GAssisi]SECTION TWO:If she wanted her lands evangelized, why didn’t she ask the Emperor of Constantinople? It is said that St. Olga stayed for a time in Constantinople in order to receive instruction. In that time, she no doubt realized that the Church in the East was basically controlled by the Emperor. Though she was baptized into the Christianity of the Eastern Church, as the ruler-regent of Kiev, she could not allow a foreign power to gain any foothold in her country

And yet Saint Vladimir her grandson who was schooled in all matters of State and diplomacy by his amazingly competent grandmother chose to marry the Byzantine princess Anna with the specific intention of creating an alliance with the Emperor of Constantinople!

I feel that introducing your own personal suppositions into your text (“In that time, she no doubt realised…”) moves it out of the realm of history and into the realm of conjecture. How can you be aware of what she ‘realised’? Are there any historical records which support your contention of what Olga ‘realised’? We were promised a history lesson but so far there have been far too much of the author’s own predilections. The historical aspect is weak :eek:

Dear GAssisi,

There are two sections to your posts.

  1. The paragraphs of history in black type

  2. The Comments in blue.

Are both of these your personal writing or only the Comments in blue? They don’t seem to “fit” together as coming from the same pen.

Dear Father,

Thank you for joining the discussion. I was afraid that my most critical debater would not participate since you indicated in another thread you would not. Once again, thank you.

As far as your comments, please be more discerning about what I have written. Your concern regarding St. Adaldag has already been covered in my post#5. And if you read that post, and my Section 1, you would realize that the first Christians in Kievan Rus were indeed Catholics of the Latin Rite.

Regarding St. Olga, though you have snapped at me rather unbecomingly (perhaps not), I admit that is partly my fault. Let me explain right now that the part you criticize is under a section entitled “COMMENT” for a very good reason. The parts under “COMMENT” are commentaries (that shouldn’t be too hard to remember because of the title itself). They are my own conjectures that I have inserted to fill in blanks in commonly held beliefs or rationale. The parts under “SIDEBAR” are indeed historical or literary facts to supplement the text (like footnotes).

Given this, please do not charge me with sloppy scholarship so abruptly again. Unlike some Orthodox “historians,” I am very careful to distinguish fact from possibilities. Perhaps you owe me an apology?

Having said that, you really have no literary proof that St. Olga came to Constantinople with a decision to be baptized, do you? All you really know is that she was baptized in Constantinople. I ask you, and please answer this question – who exposed St. Olga to Christianity? After you answer that question, then come again and see if your criticisms hold any merit.

As far as starting Section 2 is concerned, I waited 4 ½ hours to see if any new feedback was forthcoming, and I informed everyone that I would post the next section if none came. I will not blame you if you were late in coming into the conversation, but please don’t be so brusque as to accuse me of going back on my word. Perhaps you owe me another apology?

Also, be aware that some information which you might deem missing might be in a forthcoming post. Is it so hard to give someone the benefit of the doubt? So, again, please do not be so brusque as to accuse me of sloppy scholarship. Please hold your tongue (or pen, as it were) until all the “history posts” have been posted.

Once again, thank you for your participation. I look forward to your comments.

God bless,


[quote=GAssisi]Thank you for joining the discussion. I was afraid that my most critical debater would not participate since you indicated in another thread you would not

It is very diffcult not to make a response when historical errors are bring offered as fact and so eloquently that the reader will accept them. :slight_smile:

I shall try however to restrain myself and not participate. The rewrite of Slavic history is just too annoying… And the historical revisionism and the comments are so mixed up they are hard to deal with.

Vade in pace.

Holy Father Patrick, pray for us.
Holy Mother Brigid, pray for us.
Holy Father Colmcille, pray for us.

Dear Father,

I am very thankful that you choose to refrain from attempting to defend false Orthodox versions of history. I notice you chose not to respond to my questions. And we both know why that is – because you know you have no answer. And we also both know why you preferred to stay quiet instead of giving at least some effort to refute ANY SINGLE ONE OF THE FACTS that I presented (the parts in black) – once again, because you know deep down that what I have written is true. If I have “rewritten” Slavic history, it is nothing that is not already out there, because I obtained my information from research, not pulled out of thin air to promote some agenda. Of course, I admit that if presenting pure fact is an “agenda,” then I am guilty as charged.

Please, instead of signing off with an unfounded accusation about rewriting history, do give the readers here the benefit of showing a bit of scholarship and refute even one of the facts I presented (the parts in black). Heck, I will even make it easier for you. Refute even one of the conjectures I presented (the parts in blue under “COMMENT”).

Heck, I will make it even easier than that: Don’t bother to refute anything at all. Just show me even one instance where I have “rewritten” Slavic history, and not actually exposed the – let’s say colorful – version of history given by Orthodox.

Sorry to be so tough. We are only here for the truth.

God bless,


BTW, Father. Please be so kind as to inform our audience of the circumstances of St. Vladimir’s “alliance” with Constantinople. If you do not do so by noon tomorrow (my time), which is about 12 hours away, I will feel no shame in exposing the twisted history you have tried to promote here. Also, at that time, if there are no other objections to the presentation of facts, I will provide the third part of the history.

God bless all,


Thank you for trying to prove that there were some Latin and some Greek Christians in Kyiv at the time of rule of Rod Rurika. But such a fleeting presence of Latins only serves to prove as a minimal exception that Ukraine and Rossia are daughters of the Greek Church. This is true of both Orthodox and Greek Catholics.

But please also remember that the “literary source” you mention are the ancient letopisi (chronicles written by monks in Monasteries given money and wealthy by various Velikiije Knjazi). These letopisi tell us that Olha was the most wise of women. They tell us that if Volodymyr would be able to take Korsun that he would be baptized. That tell us that while Imperetritsa Anna on boat went to Korsun from Konstantinopl that Volodymyr was blinded. Anna says baptize and you will see. And so it was. These are the contemporary documents. Whether we can believe all of this is up to your interpretation and bias. But the Letopisi tell us that Volodymyr attacked Korsun in order to find a way to make be baptized by Greek priests and he threatened to blockade Konstantinopl as he had done to Korsun if he was not given Imperetrittsa Anna as bride.

Obviously he wanted alliance if only in marriage with Greeks. Letopisi make a great point that rusans were clever and more cunning even than the Greeks. However, they also tell us that Olha was given gold and silver in Konstantinopl while the Byzantine records only mention a small gift. Truth is difficult to find l,000 years later.

But come to Ukraine, come to Russia, come to Belarus and see that the Greek Church is the Mother Church for all Rus. Even the Polish kings recognized this fact at time of Polish-Litovska Rec Pospolita.

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