The Baptism of Russia 1000 Years Ago Is a Major Summer Holiday - How Russians Celebrate It

Originally appeared at: Global Orthodox

One of the main summer dates widely celebrated in Russia is July 28 - the Day of the Baptism of Russia. This holiday was officially included in the register of memorable dates of the Russian Federation back in 2010 and is an important day for all Orthodox Christians.

The date of the celebration coincides with the Memory Day of Saint Prince Vladimir, the one who, so to speak, "brought" Orthodoxy to the Slavs in 988.

The baptism of Russia was quite a long process. Until then, the Slavs living in Russia were pagans. According to historians, the main problem of paganism was polytheism, which made this faith too diversified. Each village worshipped its own god, which caused numerous problems and remained an obstacle in the way of creating a unified Slav state.

Initially, the prince intended to preserve paganism and even created a unified pantheon of gods. At the same time, most of Russia's "neighbors" already professed monotheism. One of Vladimir's main goals was to unite the state under a single faith.

Orthodoxy was a conscious and well-considered choice he had made. Vladimir carefully studied different faiths and religions, inviting ambassadors from neighboring states. However, the prince's choice was influenced not only by the closeness of Christian ideas to his own personal philosophy, but also by political motives. Orthodoxy was the official religion in Byzantium, with which Russia maintained close economic ties.

Bringing a new ideology to his country, the Prince was the first one to accept the Holy Baptism, and only after that, he proceeded with the baptism of his people. Since then, Orthodox churches and temples began to be built all across the country. At the same time, pagan idols were gradually destroyed.

The Baptism of Rus was a major event in the history of our country, since it was thanks to Orthodoxy that the Slavs were able to unite under a single faith and ideology.

The Day of the Baptism of Russia was first marked as a national holiday in 1888, on July 15 (July 28 new style), on the 900th anniversary of the event. Mass celebrations were held, along with church services and cross processions.  

In 2008, the late Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia suggested on behalf of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to include this day in the list of national holidays.  

Every year on July 28, at noon sharp, with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill, church bells start ringing. On the Day of the Baptism of Russia, Moscow already developed a tradition of holding a cross procession to the monument of Prince Vladimir on Borovitsky Hill, to hold a solemn prayer service to the Saint. And of course, just like 140 years ago, Divine services are held and people come out to the streets to celebrate. What the 19th century Russians did not have, though, are numerous TV shows that also focus on the memorable event.

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