The RussianChurch was striving to achieve legal and i eological independence of the Byzantine Church. Ever since a Russian, Yaroslav the Wise’s confessor, Hilarion, was appointed etropolitan in 1051, the authority of the Russian monasteries, in particular the Kiev Crypt Monastery, had been growing.
It was extremely important for the Russian Church to achieve the canonisation of its own, Russian saints. An essential prerequisite, as mentioned above, was the existence of a written vita. These were the non-literary reasons for the emergence of original vita in Russia. But literary and aesthetic reasons undoubtedly also played a large part: familiarity with the translations of Byzantine hagiographies and patericon legends could not fail to arouse in Russian scribes the urge to try their hand at this genre.
The oldest Russian vita would appear to be The Life of St Anthony of the Caves, the monk who was the first to settle in a cave and thereby by his personal example prompted the founding of the crypt, which later became the famous Kiev Crypt Monastery. However The Life of St Anthony of the Caves has not survived.
In the latter half of the eleventh century The Life of St Theodosius of the Caves and two Lives of the murdered princes Boris and Gleb were written. They established two groups of hagiographical subjects: some vitae were “entirely devoted to the theme of the ideal Christian hero renouncing the ‘earthly’ life in order to win ‘eternal’ life by his feats, while the heroes of the other group of vitae sought to advocate by their conduct not only the general Christian, but also the feudal ideal.”84