On August 24th 2021, on the 30th anniversary of Ukraine`s Independence, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the launch of the Ukrainian Statehood Day which will be celebrated on July 28. The date was chosen to commemorate the baptism of Kyivan Rus’ by the Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great.
The Christianization of Kyivan Rus’ was a gradual process that occurred in several stages. According to Church tradition, Christianity was first brought to what is now Ukraine by Andrew the Apostle, referred to in the Orthodox tradition as Andrew the First-Called.
The first ruler of Kyivan Rus’ to convert to Christianity was Grand Princess Olga, who reigned from 945 to 960 acting as regent for her son Sviatoslav. She was baptized during her visit to Constantinople in the 950s, but her son refused to convert. Nevertheless, the Eastern Orthodox Church has recognized her as a saint due to her efforts to Christianize Kyivan Rus’.
It was Olga’s grandson Volodymyr who converted the entire nation of Christianity. Volodymyr the Great, also known as Volodymyr the Fair Sun and Saint Volodymyr, studied the religions of various neighboring nations before settling on Eastern Christianity. He was baptized in Chersonesus in 988, returned to Kyiv and baptized the city’s residents in the Dnipro river. Kyiv was the first city in ancient Rus to adopt Christianity. This mass baptism is referred to as the baptism of Kyivan Rus’ although it was just the beginning of the state’s Christianization.
The history of the Ukrainian Statehood Day dates back to 2008, when President Viktor Yushchenko declared July 28 the Day of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus’-Ukraine during the celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the baptism of Kyivan Rus’. Since the exact date of the baptism is unknown, the date July 28 was chosen because it is the feast day of Saint Volodymyr.
By baptizing Kyiv in 988, he laid the foundation of Ukrainian statehood that was carried on by the successor states of Kyivan Rus’, including the Principality of Galicia—Volhynia, also known as the Kingdom of Ruthenia, the Cossack Hetmanate, the Ukrainian People’s Republic, the West Ukrainian People’s Republic, the Ukrainian State (Second Hetmanate), Carpatho-Ukraine, and modern Ukraine.
For over a decade, the Day of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus’ — Ukraine was an official observance, but it didn’t have the public holiday status.
According to the Presidential Decree “On Ukrainian Statehood Day”, the main goal of the holiday is to the establish the continuity of the more than a thousand years old history of Ukraine’s statehood, which dates back to the founding of Kyiv and the reign of Prince Volodymyr the Great.
It was expected that, among other things, the new public holiday would help promote the continuity of Ukrainian statehood, protect Ukraine’s national interests, preserve historical justice, and counter fake narratives about certain historical aspects of Ukrainian statehood spread by Russian propaganda.
This year on July 28 we will celebrate the Day of Ukrainian Statehood for the first time. In his daily video speech to Ukrainians, the President Zelenskyy mentioned: “Celebrate at the time of such a brutal war – in the sixth month of it. After eight years of war in Donbas. But we will celebrate. Despite all. Because Ukrainians cannot be broken. The Day of Ukrainian Statehood will assert the connection of Ukrainians living now with many generations of our people. The state-building experience of Ukrainians, our culture, our identity, Ukrainian character are more than a thousand years old.
Now, in many exploits of our warriors, in the wisdom of our people in battles, even simply in the conversations of ordinary Ukrainians about what is happening, we can see, we can hear and understand examples of the same characters but hundreds of years ago. We can see examples of the same bravery, the same attitude to life, and most importantly, the attitude towards Ukraine and the enemy.
Only those who do not know the truth of history and do not feel its meaning could decide to attack us. After all that our people have gone through, after all that we have learned over the centuries. Ukrainians will never give up their independence. And they will not break from the inside as has happened more than once. Not this time!
Preserving unity now, working together for the victory is the most important national task that we all will definitely fulfill”.
Ukraine has been, is, and will be.
Glory to Ukraine!
Glory to Heroes!
H.E., Mr. Ruslan Nimchynskyi
Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Cyprus