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In 988 Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kiev, was converted to Christianity. He had decided to adopt a state religion to make Russia more European. He heard Jewish, Muslim and Byzantine Christian scholars before choosing the Eastern Orthodox Church, and marrying a Byzantine princess. He chose Byzantine Christianity, it is said, because it allowed him and his people to continue their drinking habits! He then forced Christianity on the rest of the Russian nobility. From then on, Byzantine art and law deeply influenced Russian culture. Vladimir extended Russian territory in the west and founded new towns. By the 11th century the Russian capital Kiev was a centre of splendour and influence to rival Constantinople.

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