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A War For An Archbishop (Story Of Vladimir The Great)
by [?]


In the latter part of the tenth century Sviatozlaf was Grand Prince of Russia. He was a powerful prince, but a turbulent one, and he behaved so ill towards his neighbors that, when an opportunity offered, one of them converted his skull into a gold-mounted drinking-cup, with an inscription upon it, and his dominions were parcelled out between his three sons–Yaropolk, Oleg, and Vladimir.

Yaropolk, finding his possessions too small for his ambition, made war on Oleg, and conquered his territory; but his brother Oleg having been killed in the war, the tender-hearted Yaropolk wept bitterly over his corpse.

The other brother, Vladimir, was so grieved at the death of Oleg that he abandoned his capital, Novgorod, and remained for a time in seclusion. Yaropolk seized the opportunity thus offered, and made himself master of Vladimir’s dominions also. Not long afterwards Vladimir appeared at the head of an army, and Yaropolk ran away to his own capital, Kiev. Vladimir at once resumed the throne, and sent word to Yaropolk that he would in due time return the hostile visit.

About this time Yaropolk and Vladimir both asked for the hand of the Princess Rogneda, of Polotzk, in marriage; and the father of the princess, fearing to offend either of the royal barbarians, left the choice to Rogneda herself. She chose Yaropolk, sending a very insulting message to Vladimir, whereupon that prince marched against Polotzk, conquered the province, and with his own hand slew the father and brothers of the princess. Then, with their blood still unwashed from his hands, he forced Rogneda to marry him.

Having attended to this matter, Vladimir undertook to return his brother’s hostile visit, as he had promised to do. Yaropolk’s capital, Kiev, was a strongly fortified place, and capable of a stout resistance; but Vladimir corrupted Blude, one of Yaropolk’s ministers, paying him to betray his master, and promising, in the event of success, to heap honors on his head. Blude worked upon Yaropolk’s fears, and persuaded him to abandon the capital without a struggle, and Vladimir took possession of the throne and the country. Even in his exile, however, Yaropolk had no peace. Blude frightened him with false stories, and persuaded him to remove from place to place, until his mind and body were worn out, when, at Blude’s suggestion, he determined to surrender himself, and trust to the mercy of Vladimir. That good-natured brother ordered the betrayed and distressed prince to be put to death.

Then Vladimir rewarded Blude. He entertained him in princely fashion, declaring to his followers that he was deeply indebted to this man for his faithful services, and heaping all manner of honors upon him. But at the end of three days he said to Blude: “I have kept my promise strictly. I have received you with welcome, and heaped unwonted honors upon your head. This I have done as your friend. To-day, as judge, I condemn the traitor and the murderer of his prince.” He ordered that Blude should suffer instant death, and the sentence was executed.

Now that both Oleg and Yaropolk were dead, Vladimir was Grand Prince of all the Russias, as his father before him had been. He invaded Poland, and made war upon various others of his neighbors, greatly enlarging his dominions and strengthening his rule.

But Vladimir was a very pious prince in his heathen way, and feeling that the gods had greatly favored him, he made rich feasts of thanksgiving in their honor. He ordered splendid memorials to various deities to be erected throughout the country, and he specially honored Perune, the father of the gods, for whom he provided a new pair of golden whiskers–golden whiskers being the special glory of Perune.

Not content with this, Vladimir ordered a human sacrifice to be made, and selected for the victim a Christian youth of the capital. The father of the boy resisted, and both were slain, locked in each other’s arms.