At our sister site, RussiaFeed, we covered how an amazing 92 percent of Crimeans voted for Vladimir Putin, a number confirmed by international observers. This drops a red-pill bombshell on the corporate media narrative that Crimea was invaded by Russia – how many occupied peoples gleefully support their invader?
While that is indeed amazing, how many people knew that Crimea in fact, has an ancient Greek legacy, relating to the very first establishment of brotherhood between Russians and Greeks?
Not far from the heroic City of Sevastopol lie the ruins of old Kherson — as Byzantine Greeks called it — also called Chersonesus, though Slavic people in the period referred to it as Korsun.
The word comes the Greek word Χερσόνησος, which means “peninsula”, and it now gives its name to the modern Ukrainian city of Kherson, which is located up the coast from the ancient Crimean city, just where the Crimean peninsula meets Ukraine.
Old Kherson was an important colony of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. It was here where Equal-to-the-Apostles Saint Vladimir of Kiev married Anna, the Purple-born of Constantinople, the sister of the Emperor. In some ways the history of the Russia we recognize today began here, with his baptism.
Preceding his marriage was the baptism of Vladimir himself, which preceded his Baptism of all Rus’ in 988. The Baptism of Rus’ began the formal history of the Russian Orthodox Church and Faith in Russia, transforming the nation forever into what we now recognize as Russia. This begins the period we refer to in Russian history and theology as “Holy Russia,” which by the belief of many, still lives to this day.
The story of how Russia came to Orthodoxy is ancient and worthy of its own books, however in brief (and it pains me to oversimply this amazing tale, but it must be done for the sake of the article), Kievan Rus’, the ancient Slavic state, was located on the territory of modern Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, from which those three nations take their origin. Kievan Rus was strategically located on the trade route of the Varangians to the Greeks, one of the most important Viking routes in Eastern Europe. The trade route followed the Dnipro River, which begins at Smolensk Russia, flows through Kiev [the modern Ukrainian capital], and empties itself into the Black Sea at [new] Kherson.
This trade route made Rus’ very rich on Greek gold at a time when silver was far more abundant in Europe, and unfortunately for the Greeks, the ancient Pagan Rus’ were very strong, and decided to go on a few Viking style raids against Constantinople, nailing a shield to the walls, and taking tribute.
Providence would decree, however, that Rus’ would steal something far more precious from the Greeks – the true Faith and Eternal life. After the disastrous failed campaign against Constantinople in Bulgaria by Svyatoslav, his son, Vladimir of Kiev was desperately seeking a new religion for his people. His grandmother, Saint Olga had already converted to Christianity, but she had died prior to his rule.
The simplified but legendary tale, was that Vladimir sent out messengers across the world. Among the Jews he was horrified by circumcision, and decided they lost their Holy City, and so Rus’ would not follow a faith in which the people lose their power. Among the Muslims he was more horrified than he had ever been, the moment the mighty warrior prince heard Islam prohibited drinking, he explained:
Drinking is the joy of all Rus’!
He refused to participate in a religion that banned pork, let alone drinking. He was beginning to think Rus’ would never find a good religion, until the envoy to Constantinople returned, their faces radiant like the sun. The said to him:
We did not know if we were on heaven or on earth, but there was God among his people, and this should be our faith.
Saint Vladimir, therefore, resolved to accept the Byzantine faith – that of Orthodoxy, and sent word to the Emperor who was embattled at old Kherson, Crimea. In exchange for an alliance with the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, Vladimir demanded the hand of Anna of Constantinople. It was explained to him that he must first be baptized, which he accepted, and then he was married to Anna. A Chuch was erected on the spot of his Baptism, which began the baptism of Rus’ in 988.
The church is constructed in the Neo-Byzantine style, very similar to churches throughout Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and the Balkans. Vladimir Putin has visited this church before, named after his patron saint, and the founder of Christian Russia – Saint Vladimir.
The Church is located near several ancient Greek sites, and one can clearly see the ruins would fit in amidst the Parthenon in Athens or Palmyra in Syria.
Khersonisos is not the only amazing Hellenic legacy in Crimea. The Dormition Caves Monastery is another example, and a wonder of ancient architecture.
The date of the Monastery’s founding was lost to time, however most historians and the Church can agree there was a presence of Greek monks in the caves of these cliffs since around the 8th century. Crimea at the time was a Greek Colony of the Eastern Roman Empire.
According to the monastery’s website, the great valley in which it is built was called “Mary’s Gorge” by the Tatars because its location in ancient times was associated with the Mother of God and a wonder-working icon.
Here is what the Monastery’s website had to say about its founding in a place Greeks originally called Marioupol, “Mary’s City”:
“Greek Christians suffered constant oppression from their neighbours, the Tartar Muslims…Some sought refuge in woods and caverns in order to devote their lives to God while others founded monasteries. In the 15th century most of southern Crimea, including all its Christian inhabitants, fell under Turkish domination…they found themselves living between two Islamic people: the Turks and the Tartars.”
“The Christians from Tavrida lost their courage in the struggle against the Muslims, but just when all hope of saving their faith was on the point of being extinguished, the image of the Theotokos [Mother of God] appeared on the inaccessible rock of Bakhchisaray, in the very heart of Islamic territory.”
The tale of the Monastery also includes the slaying of a Dragon, however, that is a story worthy of its own article.
This was certainly not a complete history of the Hellenic legacy of Crimea, but it hopefully illustrates how profound it is, and although the peninsula belongs to Russian/Slavic people today, it was from the Greek Orthodox Faith that Russians became Orthodox. This all began in Crimea. As a result, Crimea is sacred to Russians
It’s only fitting that Vladimir Putin would give homage to the place with his namesake, Saint Vladimir was baptized.