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The Millennium of Christianity is …
Not in Russia But the Ukraine

by Petro B. T. Bilaniuk, D. Th., Dr. Phil., CD.S.P., D.D.


To all Ukrainian Christians, both in Ukraine and in the diaspora, the year 1988 is a holy year. One millennium ago, by the decree of the Great Khan of Kiev, St. Volodymyr the Great, Christianity became the only religion of the mighty Ukrainian state. This empire, with its cultural centre in Kiev, became the vehicle for the Christianization of the whole of Eastern Europe. At that time, Muscovy as a state and Moscow as a city did not yet exist; Moscow is mentioned for the first time in 1147 A.D. as a small town. Therefore, we cannot say that the year 988 was the date of the Christening of Russia, for such an entity became officially known only under the Tsar Peter I in the year 1721.

We must be careful not to confuse the Christening of Rus’-Ukraine with the beginnings of Christianity in that empire. The origins of Christianity in those lands goes back to Pentecost, the year 33 A.D., and to the journeys of St. Andrew the Apostle. He went to ancient Scythia, which is now Ukraine, on his missions. Reliable ancient documents as well as archaeological artifacts confirm the extent of Christianity in the area in the first century A.D. These come from the northern shores of the Black Sea and the estuary of the Don River, from the ancient cities of Chersones, Navarris and Thanais. Furthermore, Crimea became a place of banishment in the Roman Empire. St. Clement, Pope of Rome, and many other Christians were sent there at the time of Nero.

Uninterrupted Presence of Christianity

There is documentary evidence that bishops came from the territories which are now Ukraine to all the early Ecumenical Councils of the Christian East. Thus there is ample evidence for an uninterrupted presence of Christianity in Ukraine from Apostolic times down to the year of the Lord, 988.

From the fourth to the sixth centuries, Scythian monks from the territory of contemporary Ukraine contributed greatly to the development of the theology, spirituality, monasticism, canon law, and general learning of the Christian West. Among them were Johannes Cassian, Johannes Maxentius, and notably, Dionysius Exiguus, the founder of medieval Christian culture in Rome and Western Europe.