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Golden age of Kievan Rus’. The rapid development of Byzantine Christianity among the Rus’ — which Vladimir pursued with vigor — coincided with the rise of the Kievan Rus’ state. Vladimir and his successors promulgated the first code of law of the Eastern Slavs, built churches, sponsored monasteries and supported theological learning and the arts. Using the Bulgarian Church as a model, Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise (978-1054) achieved some ecclesial independence from Constantinople, overseeing the installation of a “Metropolitan Archbishop of Kiev and all the Rus’” in 1037. Eventually, Rusyn natives dominated the episcopacy, whose sees were located in various regional centers governed by the family of the grand prince.

The ascendancy of Kievan Rus’ was short- lived, however. Rival Rus’ cities resented Kiev’s control of trade and sought increased autonomy. In the far north, Novgorod and Pskov declared independence from Kiev in 1136, creating a republic. In the northeast, Vladimir and Suzdal grew in economic and political independence. The northern cities of Polotsk and Smolensk asserted their autonomy as did Halych in the southwest, where Vladimir’s descendants created an independent principality.

The inhabitants of these communities would eventually form the nucleus of four peoples: Ukrainians in the south, Carpatho-Rusyns in the southwest, Belarussians in the northwest and Russians in the north and northeast.

Kievan Rus’ collapses. The dismemberment of Kievan Rus’ opened it to invasion from nearby rivals — Teutonic knights, Hungarians, Lithuanians and Poles — all of whom relished Rusyn wealth. The most devastating invasion came from the East. The Mongols, a nomadic people from Central Asia, swept through the dominion of the Rus’ in the 13th century, burning and sacking its cities, including Kiev in 1240. They ravaged the realm, killed much of the population and enslaved those who survived. Kiev never recovered. For more than 200 years, Rusyn princes were mere vassals to the Mongol warlords.

Despite its destruction, Kiev’s cultural and religious legacy survived, including a few important churches. Modeled after the grand churches in Constantinople, these structures, especially those dedicated to Haghia Sophia in Kiev and Novgorod, reinterpreted traditional Byzantine architectural forms, adapting them to suit the less temperate climate. The mosaics and frescoes that cover the walls, while following Byzantine iconographic rubrics, attest to the high level of sophistication and artistic skill in Kievan Rus’, inspiring generations of iconographers, painters and architects.

With the decline of princes, bishops and archimandrites quickly filled their roles, patronizing the building of churches, monasteries and schools in areas far from the reach of Mongol power. The Mongols did not interfere with the life of the church.

Many Rusyn survivors sought refuge in the northeast, migrating to the urban centers of Rostov, Suzdal, Vladimir and, finally, Moscow. The effective leader of all the Rus’, Maxim, Metropolitan Archbishop of Kiev and all the Rus’, left the depopulated city of Kiev for Vladimir in 1299. His successor, Peter, moved the primary Rusyn episcopal see to Moscow 26 years later, thus beginning the diverging histories of Ukraine and Russia.

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