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Russian Kiev was heavily influenced by the Byzantine Empire. This influence began when Prince Vladimir I decided to abandon the old Slavic gods. He sent emissaries to both Rome and Constantinople in order to decide which form of Christianity he should follow. After hearing of the beauty and splendor of Byzantine civilization, he chose to follow the Byzantine Church. The acceptance of this religion brought Byzantine culture to Slavic areas. When Vladimir married the sister of the Byzantine emperor, the ties between the two cultures grew. Princes of the cities and towns of Kievan Russia began to imitate the Byzantine rulers. Christian clergy became an important class in Kiev and opened many schools. The Cyrillic alphabet adapted the Greek alphabet to the Slavic language of Kievan Russia. Slavic artists created religious art work that imitated Byzantine styles. The Church of St. Sophia built in Kiev reflected the Byzantine architectural style. The acceptance of the Eastern Orthodox religion gave the east Slavs a sense of belonging to the civilized world and helped the development of Russian society in many ways.
The Byzantine Empire influenced the rise of Kiev because Prince Vladimir I was impressed by the trappings of the Eastern Orthodox Church. While Vladimir could hardly be called a pious man personally, he encouraged the growth of the Orthodox Church and its domed architectural style and Cyrillic language. Vladimir also found the icons of the Church to be especially moving in a population that was not literate. Vladimir found that trade with the Byzantine Empire was quite lucrative as it brought his kingdom Eastern goods that it would not otherwise possess. Also, the czars mimicked the "emperor" style of autocratic leadership that the Byzantine Emperors used.
Byzantine missionaries assisted with the formation of the Cyrillic language which would be adopted throughout the Russian empire. Kiev and eventually all of Russia would see Byzantium as the model empire and the Russian czars would refer to the empire as the Third Rome. Even into the nineteenth century, Russia had designs on the old Byzantine territory of Turkey and Southern Europe.
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