Observers of Ukrainian culture and faith have always stated the defining moment in Ukrainian culture was the day that St. Volodymyr in 988 baptised all of Ukraine on the banks of the river Dnipro, – writes Bishop Peter Stasiuk in Church and Life.
Pope St John Paul II, in Winnipeg, Canada, exactly said that. He said “who would know that St. Volodymyr’s baptism would have changed Ukrainian culture that completely?”
If you study European history closely you will notice that in most if not all European countries the introduction of Christianity almost immediately united all the tribes and kingdoms in the area into one country. St. Patrick’s conversion of Ireland is a good example of this.
In 988, the land around Kyiv was indeed divided into various groupings. Christianity united them. Those people religiously were also divided. There were 6 or 7 if not more different pagan gods in the population. There was Perun, Klors, Dazhboh, Mokosh, Kupalo, and others. They had their separate festivals, rituals, and beliefs. They, however, all seemed to believe in a form of afterlife. Their morals varied from group to group.
Christianity was very successful in Ukraine because it managed to unite and incorporate most of the very popular customs and practices into Christianity i.e. Easter egg decorating, carolling, blessing of homes and fields. Paganism and Christianity united in practice to form what soon became a definite and diverse Ukrainian culture we see and practice today.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM
This article was published in The Church and Life Newspaper, August 2018