• Sam Appels

The Legacy of Kievan Rus’: The Memory War between Russia and Ukraine


Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the unveiling ceremony of a monument to Vladimir the Great. Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

He is being honoured with a statue in both capitals who claim that they are the descendant of the former medieval empire of Kievan Rus’ – and thus the successors of the first East Slavic Orthodox state. Vladimir the Great (ca. 958 – 1015) proudly stands next to the Kremlin in Moscow since its statue got revealed by the Russian president Vladimir Putin on November 4 2016. On that day Russia celebrated Unity Day and the Russian president told the media and the crowd who beheld the unveiling of the statue of Vladimir the Great that “He laid the moral foundation on which our lives are still based today. It was a strong moral bearing, solidarity and unity which helped our ancestors overcome difficulties and win victories for the glory of the fatherland, making it stronger and greater with each generation.”

Whereas Moscow interprets the medieval ruler as the unifier and founding father of an All Rus’ state, Kiev considers it the founding father of the Ukrainian state – a state that has its own history and future without Russia. Nonetheless, already since 1853 a statue of Vladimir the Great decorates the embankment of the river the Dniepr t