For a long time, I have been aware of a historical anecdote about the attempt to convert Russia to Islam. I don’t know where I first heard the anecdote: I’m pretty sure it was oral, so I had to dig a bit to find notable claims. The anecdote goes something like this: A Muslim emissary visited the czar to talk about Islam. He talked about the religion, the rites, the position of women, etc., etc., and the czar sounded quite interested. He had almost succeeded in convincing the czar when he mentioned the ban on the consumption of alcohol. Then the czar pointed out that Islam could not be an option in Russia.
The Wikipedia page on Alcoholism in Russia states:
Legend holds that the tenth-century Russian prince Vladimir the Great rejected Islam as a state religion for the country because of its prohibition of alcohol.
This is sourced from Primary Chronicle, year 6494 (986). (I have no idea what that means.)
A semi-quoted reference on the Wikipedia page Kievan Rus states:
The Primary Chronicle states that when Vladimir had decided to accept a new faith instead of the traditional idol-worship (paganism) of the Slavs, he sent out some of his most valued advisors and warriors as emissaries to different parts of Europe. The emissaries visited the Christians of the Latin Rite, the Jews and the Muslims, they finally arrived in Constantinople. They rejected Islam because, among other things, it prohibited the consumption of alcohol, and Judaism because the god of the Jews had permitted his chosen people to be deprived of their country. They found the ceremonies in the Roman church to be dull. But, at Constantinople, they were so astounded by the beauty of the cathedral of Hagia Sophia and the liturgical service held there, that they made up their minds there and then about the faith they would like to follow.
This is entirely sourced from
- Janet Martin, Medieval Russia, 980–1584, (Cambridge, 1995), p. 6-7
The first source calls it a legend, and I’m not sure whether the second source is meant to be historical or also more like a story. Historically, is it likely that the Russian czar did reject Islam because of its prohibition on the consumption of alcohol?