July 28, Russia's Baptism Into Orthodoxy, Declared a National Holiday
Reuters Moscow Bureau reports, "Russia officially celebrated a new holiday on Wednesday marking its conversion to Christianity in 988, the latest Kremlin boost to an Orthodox Church that has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of Communism.
Marking the anniversary, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, told state-run television: 'Abandoning the historical significance of the baptism of Rus means discarding the supporting pillar of our entire civilization.'
Kirill held a liturgy in Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine and mediaeval Kievan Rus, whose leader Prince Vladimir converted to Christianity over a millennia ago and adopted it for his state. Kievan Rus is seen as the precursor to modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Clad in a flowing gold cloak in Kiev's historic Pecherska Lavra monastery, Kirill told thousands of followers: 'Facing aggressive atheism and resurgent paganism we remain firm in our belief in God.'
The Orthodox Church is undergoing a revival in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago and Russia's leaders have endorsed it as the country's main faith.
Medvedev on June 1 signed a law making July 28 a National Day, a state holiday that is also a working day.
Across Russia, churches prepared to hold ceremonies and mass river baptisms in honor of the conversion."
(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov in Kiev and Amie Ferris-Rotman in Moscow; Editing by Peter Graff)