July 1015 saw the death of Kiev’s Grand Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavich, the man who, as Vladimir Fair Sun, would later become a major figure in byliny, traditional epic tales of Russian heroes, and be revered as St. Vladimir, after being canonized by the Orthodox Church for having brought Christianity to Rus.
Alas, his death unleashed a time of internecine bloodletting. If the primary source for much of what we know about his period, the Tale of Bygone Years (Повесть временных лет), or simply “the chronicle” (летопись) is to be believed, Vladimir’s adopted son Svyatopolk attempted to hide his father’s death long enough to seize power and keep his father’s favorite son, Boris, from the throne.
Princes Boris and Gleb refused to fight their older brother, yet this did not save them from being killed by Svyatopolk. They subsequently became two of Orthodoxy’s most venerated saints.
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