After Vladimir‘s death, the kingdom was to have been divided among his sons, but their eldest half-brother, Svyatopolk, wished to rule alone. An army gathered to defend Boris, but he called them off, explaining that he could not raise a hand against his brother; Boris was soon killed by Svyatopolk’s followers. Svyatopolk invited Gleb to Kiev, but on the way, his boat was boarded on the Dnieper River near Smolensk, and he was killed. In 1020 another of Vladimir’s sons, Yaroslav, usurped Svyatopolk, and then buried the bodies of Boris and Gleb in the church of Saint Basil at Vyshgorod. Miracles were reported at their tomb, and it became a site of pilgrimage.
From the first, the highest motives were attributed to the brothers’ resignation – unwillingness to repel injustice to themselves by force and violently oppose an elder brother. Not martyrs in the traditional sense, the Russian Church perceived them as “passion bearers” – blameless men who did not wish to die but refused to defend themselves, thus voluntarily submitting to death like Christ.
- “Saint Gleb“. Saints.SQPN.com. 18 December 2014. Web. 26 December 2014. <>