Various sources mention the dates of Oleg’s death as 912, 922, and 944. The most common version from the chronicles reports that the prince died from a snake bite that crawled out of his horse’s skull.
At the beginning of his reign, Oleg systematically expanded the influence of the Rurikids in the south, captured Kiev, and moved the capital there, thus uniting the two main centers of the Eastern Slavs. Therefore, he is often declared the founder of the Ancient Rus State, rather than Rurik. In 907, Oleg went on a campaign to Constantinople and as a result, he was able to compel the Greeks to pay tribute, as well as provide substantial privileges for Russian merchants. The treaty was confirmed by Oleg’s envoys sent to Constantinople in 911.
Different sources mention the dates of Oleg’s death as being in 912, 922, and 944. The most common version from the chronicles states that the prince died from a snakebite that crawled out of his horse’s skull.
Description of the rule of Prince Oleg the Prophet
The formation of the ancient Russian state
The main goal pursued by Prince Oleg the Wise throughout his reign was to expand the influence of the Rurik dynasty in the southern direction.
- The more favorable conditions in the southern lands allowed for faster population growth and easier procurement of provisions for the prince’s subjects.
- Oleg sought to control as many territories adjacent to the Dnieper River as possible. The “from the Varangians to the Greeks” route was the main transportation artery and gave a significant advantage to those who could control navigation on the river.
Briefly about the essence and directions of foreign policy
Upon entering Kiev, Oleg stayed there and said:
«Let this be the mother of all Rus’ cities».Tatishchev V.N. Russian History. – V. 2, ch 2.
After that, Oleg paid attention to the tribes located near Kiev and subjugated the Drevlyans (883), Severians (884), and Radimichs (885).
Finally, in 907, the prince gathered a large army and made a campaign on Constantinople, which resulted in a peace treaty giving Russian merchants in Byzantine cities broad privileges.
Table “the main events of the foreign policy of Prince Oleg the Prophet”
|882||Campaign to the South: the capture of Smolensk, Lyubech, the murder of Askold and Dir, followed by the capture of Kyiv|
|883||Subjugation of the Drevlyane tribe|
|884||Subjugation of the Severiyans tribe|
|885||Subjugation of the Radimichi tribe,wars with Ulichi and Tivertsy|
|898 (895)||The siege of Kyiv by the Hungarians – the attack of the nomadic Hungarians, led by Khan Almosh, on Kyiv during their migration to the west|
|907||Campaign on Tsargrad (Constantinople) и conclusion of a peace treaty with Byzantium|
|911||Oleg sent an embassy to Constantinople, which confirmed the “long-term” peace and concluded new treaty.|
A brief overview of internal policy
In addition, chronicles mention that Oleg built cities and established taxes. The tribes of the North who had previously paid tribute to the Khazars were now required to pay smaller payments, while Novgorod was ordered to pay “three hundred hryvnias a year in peace” to Oleg’s Varangians.
According to “The Tale of Bygone Years,” Oleg the Prophet married Igor Rurikovich to Olga in 903. First and foremost, the marriage was political – it was necessary to ensure the continuation of the Rurik dynasty. In addition, there may have been diplomatic reasons, as Olga was reportedly of Bulgarian origin according to some sources.The dating of the event and the origin of Olga remain
the subject of historical research, as different documents
give different times and different origins for the
Results and Achievements of the Reign
The activity of Prince Oleg the Prophet was appreciated by his descendants, which is not surprising if we briefly summarize his main achievements:
- Expanded the influence of the Rurik dynasty in the southern direction: Smolensk and Lyubech were included in the possessions, Kiev was captured, and neighboring tribes of the Severiayns, Drevlyans, and Radimichs were subjugated.
- Declared Kiev as the capital and united it with Novgorod, connecting the centers of settlement of the Eastern Slavs.
- Concluded a favorable peace treaty with the Byzantine Empire.
- Laid the foundation for the large-scale confrontation between the emerging Ancient Rus state and the Khazar Khaganate.
- Built fortress cities on the captured territories.
- Arranged the marriage of Igor and Olga, ensuring the continuation of the Rurik dynasty.
Family and Personal Life
There is no information about the wives or sons of the Prince that has been preserved.
According to one versionTypographic chronicle (late 15th century), Piskarevsky Chronicler «Some say that Oleg’s daughter was Olga», Olga, who became the wife of Igor Rurikovich, was the daughter of Prince Oleg the Prophet.
The circumstances of the death of Oleg the Wise are contradictory. According to one version, he died in 912 after being bitten by a snake and was buried in KievTale of Bygone Years. Another version places his tomb in Ladoga but also states that he went “overseas” where he died in 922Novgorod First Chronicle. A third version links the personality of Oleg to a certain Russian leader named H-l-g-w, who, in 944, captured the Khazar city of Samkerz on the Taman Peninsula by agreement with Byzantium but was defeated by the governor of Samkerz, Pesakh, and sent to Constantinople. The Byzantines burned the ship of the Rus with Greek fire, and then H-l-g-w went to Persia, where he and all his troops perished.Cambridge Document.
«The Tale of Bygone Years» also reports that a celestial sign preceded his death – the appearance of a «great star in the west in the form of a spear.».
The first two versions include a legend about death from a snake bite. According to the chronicles, the soothsayers predicted the prince’s death from his beloved horse. Prince Oleg ordered the horse to be taken away and only remembered the prediction four years later, when the horse had long since died. Laughing at the soothsayers, Oleg wanted to see the remains of the horse and, coming to its bones, stood on the skull with his foot, saying:
«Should I fear him?»
However, a poisonous snake lived in the horse’s skull, fatally biting the prince.
Origin of the nickname
There are several main versions as to why Oleg was called “the Prophet”:
- According to the «The Tale of Bygone Years», Oleg foresaw that the wine brought as a gift from Constantinople would be poisoned. Thus, the prince is presented as a skilled military leader and a thoughtful politician.
- The historian-Scandinavist E. A. Melnikova derives the nickname from the Scandinavian adjective helgi, heilagr – “sacred.”Melnikova E. A. Oleg // Ancient Rus’ in the
medieval world. Encyclopedia. – M., 2017. –
- Modern historians see in it Christian motifs or even Christian propaganda (the legend of the death of Prince Oleg could have been introduced into the chronicle by monks with the aim of showing the impossibility of pagan foresight of the future).Petrukhin V. Ya. On the pre-Christian origins of
the ancient Russian princely cult. // Polytropon.
Sat. Art. to the 70th anniversary of V. G. Toporov.
– M., 1998. – P. 886..
Kievan Rus after Oleg the Prophet
However, Igor’s rule was much less successful: he never took Tsargrad, and in 945, the Drevlians who were conquered at the beginning of his reign rebelled because of Igor’s greed and killed him when he tried to collect tribute from them again.
Image in the culture and memory of generations
The personality of Oleg the Prophet left a significant mark in the history of modern Russia and Ukraine. Over the past centuries, paintings, films and monuments dedicated to the prince have been created.
“Song of Oleg the Prophet” – verse by A. S. Pushkin
Как ныне сбирается Вещий Олег отмстить неразумным хазарам…
We have prepared a separate section in which visitors to our resource can read the text of the work, listen to the audio version or watch the 1972 filmstrip online.
- Tatishchev V.N. Russian History. – V. 1. – P. 113.
- Tatishchev V.N. Russian History. – V. 2, ch 2.
- The dating of the event and the origin of Olga remain the subject of historical research, as different documents give different times and different origins for the princess.
- Typographic chronicle (late 15th century), Piskarevsky Chronicler «Some say that Oleg’s daughter was Olga»
- Tale of Bygone Years
- Novgorod First Chronicle
- Cambridge Document
- Melnikova E. A. Oleg // Ancient Rus’ in the medieval world. Encyclopedia. – M., 2017. – P. 571.
- Petrukhin V. Ya. On the pre-Christian origins of the ancient Russian princely cult. // Polytropon. Sat. Art. to the 70th anniversary of V. G. Toporov. – M., 1998. – P. 886.