Christianization of The Rus' Khaganate - The Outcome

The Outcome

No primary source specifies what happened to the Rus' converts of the 9th century. The scope and importance of this first conversion is also disputed. The authors of the imperial period, starting with August Ludwig von Schlozer, assumed that only a fraction of the Rus' society adopted Christianity at the time of Photius. Dmitry Ilovaisky, for instance, speculated that Photius had referred to the Christianization of the so-called Tmutarakan (or Pontic) Rus', while the Novgorod (or Northern) Rus' remained pagan for another century.

Most Soviet historians (Boris Grekov, Vladimir Pashuto, Rybakov) agree that Christianity was adopted in the 9th century only by the Varangian elite of the Rus' Khaganate. That the fact of the first Christianization was obliterated so rapidly is explained by the 882 coup d'├ętat that led to the downfall of the supposedly Christian Askold and the usurpation of power by the pagan Oleg. The first proponent of this theory was Vasily Tatischev who concluded that Askold and Dir had been murdered on account of their Christian views. He went so far as to style Askold "the first Russian martyr".

Constantine Zuckerman rejects Rybakov's view that Photius converted the Kievan Rus'. He ranks among those authors who believe that the centre of the Rus' Khaganate was Novgorod. According to him, the Christianised Varangians were expelled from the country during the anti-Varangian movement of the 860s or 870s. This movement, associated in the Novgorodian tradition with the name of Vadim the Bold, may have been triggered by the Varangians' attempts to Christianize the pagan populace. Their failure to convert the Ilmen Slavs supposedly resulted in the collapse of the Rus' Khaganate.

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