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Portrait of Igor from a foreign historical chronicle
Portrait of Igor from a foreign historical chronicle
The characterization of the personality of Igor Rurikovich given to him by various historians over the past few centuries mostly presents the prince in a negative light. This is not surprising, considering that the result of his rule resulted in much less achievement than from his predecessors. His father Rurik was able to establish himself in Novgorod, and his mentor and regent Oleg the Prophet – in Kiev, while Igor himself could only retain the territories he inherited and slightly expand the borders of his influence over the neighboring Ulichi tribe.

Below is a brief overview of the main information characterizing the personality of Prince Igor Rurikovich and the impact of his activities on history:

Traits and qualities

  • Tendency towards greed – attempted to collect tribute from the Drevlians again, for which he was killed.
  • Short-sighted – released a large part of his army before collecting tribute for the second time.
  • Incompetent military commander – the first campaign against Constantinople ended in defeat, and he refused to carry out a second one.

Main achievements and accomplishments

  • Preserved the acquired lands – re-subdued the Drevlians after the death of Oleg.
  • Subjugated a new tribe – on the orders of Igor, his commander Sveneld subjugated the Ulichi tribes.
  • New peace with Byzantium – made peace with Emperor Roman, interrupting the second campaign against Constantinople.

The image of Prince Igor Rurikovich in the descriptions of Russian historians

N.M. Karamzin

In the war against the Greeks, Igor did not achieve the successes of Oleg; he did not seem to possess great qualities himself, but he preserved the integrity of the Russian State established by Oleg; he preserved its honor and benefits in agreements with the Empire; he was a pagan, but allowed newly converted Russians to glorify the Christian God ceremoniously and, together with Oleg, left an example of prudent tolerance for his heirs, worthy of the most enlightened times. Two incidents remained a reproach to his memory: he allowed the dangerous Pechenegs to establish themselves in proximity to Russia, and, not satisfied with the just, that is, moderate, tribute of the people subject to him, he robbed them like a predatory conqueror.
Nikolai Karamzin Art. A. Venetsianov, 1828
Nikolai Karamzin
Art. A. Venetsianov, 1828

Igor avenged the previous rebellion of the Drevlyans, but the Sovereign humbled himself with long-term revenge: he punished the offender only once. – Due to a lack of traditions, the historian cannot say anything more in praise or blame of Igor, who ruled for 32 years[1]N. M. Karamzin, clipping from the 6th chapter of the 1st volume of the “History of the Russian State”.

S.M. Solovyov

Looking at the legends about Igor recorded in the chronicle, we see that the successor of Oleg is represented in them as a non-active prince and an unbrave leader. He does not go to collect tribute from the previously subjugated tribes, does not subdue new ones, and his retinue is poor and timid, like him: they return from the Greek campaign with great forces without a fight because they are not sure of their bravery and fear the storm.

S. M. Solovyov
S. M. Solovyov
But to these traits of Igor’s character, another one is added in the legend – greed, unworthy according to the standards of a good leader of a retinue who shared everything with it, but Igor, after sending his retinue home, stayed almost alone with the Drevlyans to not share the captured tribute with his retinue – this also explains why the first campaign against the Greeks was undertaken with a small army, and not all tribes participated in the second one[2]S. M. Solovyov, clipping from the 5th chapter of the “History of Russia”.

S.F. Platonov

Upon Oleg’s death, Igor (912-945) came to power, apparently lacking in talent as a warrior or ruler. He launched two raids on Greek territories: one on Asia Minor and another on Constantinople. In the first attempt, he suffered a devastating defeat in a naval battle where the Greeks used special ships with fire and shot “fire from tubes” at the Russian ships. In the second attempt, Igor did not reach Constantinople and reconciled with the Greeks on the terms outlined in the 945 treaty. This treaty is considered less advantageous for Russia than Oleg’s treaty. The campaign against the Greeks under Igor also involved the Pechenegs, who attacked the Russian land for the first time during his rule, but later made peace with him. Igor died in the land of the Drevlyans, from whom he intended to collect double tribute[3]Sergei Fyodorovich Platonov. Full course of lectures
on Russian history
S.F. Platonov Russian historian
S.F. Platonov
Russian historian

To delve deeper into the main events of internal and external policies, relevant sections have been developed.

If you are interested in learning more about the life of the prince, we have prepared a complete version of the history of his activities, illustrated with a large number of portraits and thematic images (reading time 20-40 minutes):

Detailed biography

Cluster “Igor Rurikovich”

Список литературы

  1. N. M. Karamzin, clipping from the 6th chapter of the 1st volume of the “History of the Russian State”
  2. S. M. Solovyov, clipping from the 5th chapter of the “History of Russia”
  3. Sergei Fyodorovich Platonov. Full course of lectures on Russian history
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Опубликовано: 26.03.2023
Изменено: 26.03.2023