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Vladimir Sviatoslavich the Great (c. 958 – 15 July 1015, Berestove) was a prince of Novgorod, grand prince of Kiev, and ruler of Kievan Rus' from 980 to 1015.
Vladimir's father was prince Sviatoslav of the Rurik dynasty. After the death of his father in 972, Vladimir, who was then prince of Novgorod, had consolidated the Kievan realm from modern-day Ukraine to the Baltic Sea and had solidified the frontiers against incursions of Bulgarian, Baltic, and Eastern nomads. Originally a follower of Slavic paganism, Vladimir converted to Christianity in 988 and Christianized the Kievan Rus.
In 988, having taken the town of Chersonesos in Crimea, he boldly negotiated for the hand of emperor Basil II's sister, Anna. Never before had a Byzantine imperial princess, and one "born in the purple" at that, married a barbarian. Vladimir was baptized at Chersonesos, however, taking the Christian name of Basil out of compliment to his imperial brother-in-law; the sacrament was followed by his wedding to Anna.
Returning to Kiev in triumph, Vladimir exhorted the residents of his capital to the Dnieper river for baptism. This mass baptism became the iconic inaugural event in the Christianization of the state of Kievan Rus'.
At first Vladimir baptised his 12 sons and many boyars. He destroyed the wooden statues of Slavic pagan gods (which he had himself raised just eight years earlier). Then Vladimir sent a message to all residents of Kiev, "rich, and poor, and beggars, and slaves", to come to the river on the following day, lest they risk becoming the "prince's enemies". Large numbers of people came; some even brought infants with them. They were sent into the water while Orthodox priests, who came from Chersonesos for the occasion, prayed.
To commemorate the event, Vladimir built the first stone church of Kievan Rus', called the Church of the Tithes, where his body and the body of his new wife were to repose.