St. Vladimir (a.d. 958-1014) is called Equal-to-the-Apostles and Leader of the Slavs, because it was during his reign in a.d. 988 that Russia was baptized into the Christian Faith. He was the grandson of St. Olga and the son of Svyatoslav, ruler of Rus from Kiev. After St. Vladimir became the Grand Prince of Kiev, he realized that he needed a unifying faith to bring together the various parts of his realm, so he sent out emissaries to nearby states to see the practice of the different religions around Rus.
They went to the Moslems, the Jews, Western Christians, and then to the Eastern Christians at Constantinople. The emissaries were disappointed by all except Orthodox Christians, where they exclaimed, after attending Divine Liturgy in the Church of Hagia Sophia that, overwhelmed by its beauty, “they didn’t know whether they were in Heaven or on earth.” Wisely, St. Vladimir followed their advice and brought teachers who enlightened his people who were all baptized soon afterwards. The riches of the Eastern Roman world of culture, law, art, government, architecture, and political function were passed to Rus from this conversion.