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Brief description

Prince Oleg the Prophet’s domestic policy was primarily focused on consolidating his influence on new territories. He was appointed regent for Igor, the underage son of Prince Rurik, and therefore had to ensure a strong hold for his ward.

On his way to Kiev, Oleg captured Smolensk and Lyubech, leaving garrisons there. After taking Kiev and declaring it the new capital, he appointed his loyal Varangians an annual payment from Novgorod. Controlling extensive territories could only be done with a sufficient number of loyal warriors to the prince, and regular payments (whether trophies obtained from raids or taxes) were a significant argument in support of the leader’s authority for the Varangians.

"Prince Oleg and Igor" I. Glazunov
“Prince Oleg and Igor”
I. Glazunov

In addition to this, Oleg began to build fortress cities on new lands and reduced the size of tribute for one of the subordinate tribes as an incentive for joining his patronage.

Another domestic policy act was the wedding of Igor Rurikovich and Olga – continuing the Rurikovich dynasty line in the conditions of the early feudal state structure was one of the necessary conditions for maintaining power.

A brief description of the main events

The chronicles provide only sparse information about Oleg’s reign, nevertheless, the following can be listed as the main directions in his domestic policy.

Kyiv declared as the new capital

After capturing Kyiv, Oleg recognized the advantageous location of the city and decided to establish its new status as the capital.

V.N. Tatishchev, “Russian History”:

When Oleg entered Kyiv, he began to stay in the city and said:

«Let this city be the mother of Russian cities».

The geographical location of Kyiv in more favorable southern conditions allowed for a faster increase in the number of people subject to the prince and easier procurement of provisions.

In addition, Kyiv was the largest city on the border with the Great Steppe, standing on the Dnieper River and providing control over navigation on this river.

This way, Prince Oleg united the northern and southern centers of the Eastern Slavs. For this reason, he is sometimes considered the founder of the ancient Russian state, not Rurik.

"Oleg with Igor before Kiev" Chorikov B. A.
“Oleg with Igor before Kiev”
Chorikov B. A.
Caption: Having killed Askold and Dir, Oleg took Igor in his arms and showed the people, saying: “Here is the son of Rurik, your Prince!”

Construction of cities

The chronicles briefly describe this fact:

“And Oleg began to build cities throughout the land of Rus…”[1]Tatishchev V. N. “Russian History”, book 2, chapter 2

These were very labor-intensive activities that were vital for maintaining power. The fortress towns served both defensive and preventative functions, attracting traders and craftsmen serving the soldiers.

Announcement of a fortress wall on an earthen rampart
Announcement of a fortress wall on an earthen rampart

Ordinary residents – farmers and hunters – settled around the fortresses, and in case of danger, they took refuge behind strong walls.

View of the wooden Slavic fortress
View of the wooden Slavic fortress

Tribute imposition

Determining the size and frequency of tribute payments was one of the main economic levers of management available to the prince in the 9th century. After settling in Kiev, Oleg the Prophet appointed loyal Varangian warriors stationed as garrisons in various cities to collect a tribute of 300 hryvnias per year from Novgorod:

“and he established that the Varangians who had been under his hand should be given three hundred hryvnias a year from Novgorod for peace. And the Varangians received this until the death of Yaroslav.”[2]Tatishchev V. N.“Russian History”, book 2, chapter 2

Warrior Varangian 9th-11th century
Warrior Varangian 9th-11th century

In addition, in 884, the tribute paid by the Northern people who came under his patronage was reduced compared to what they had previously paid to the Khazars:

Oleg went to the North and imposed a light tribute on the Northern people, prohibiting them from paying tribute to the Khazars, saying:

«I am their opponent, and it is not right for you to pay tribute to them».[3]Там же

The Wedding of Igor Rurikovich and Olga

Continuing the dynastic line of the Rurikids was one of the domestic policies of Prince Oleg the Seer. In 903, he married the young Prince Igor to Olga, who was 10-12 years old at the time of the wedding.

Some chronicles suggest that Olga may have been the daughter of Prince Oleg the Seer. [4] Piskarevsky Chronicler, Kholmogory Chronicle. In this case, the prince added his own blood to the ruling line.

The Ioakimovskaya Chronicle reports Olga’s noble Slavic origin[5]Tatishchev V. N. “Russian History”, book 2, chapter 2 ; book 1, chapter 4. If this source is to be believed, then Prince Oleg renamed the beauty after himself (Olga being a feminine variant of the name Oleg).

According to the “New Vladimir Chronicle,” Olga was from Bulgaria. At the same time, the Stepennaya Book (second half of the 16th century) presents a version of Olga’s accidental meeting with Igor at a crossing near Pskov.

The first meeting of Prince Igor with Olga.
The first meeting of Prince Igor with Olga.
Artist V. K. Sazonov

Results and Achievements

Let’s briefly list the main achievements of Prince Oleg the Prophet in domestic policy:

  • Kyiv is declared the capital – the northern and southern centers of the Eastern Slavs are united.
  • Consolidation of power over new territories – fortress cities are founded.
  • Taxes are reduced for the tribe of the northerners (former Khazar tributaries).
  • Novgorod is obliged to pay tribute to the Varangians.
  • Dynastic line of the Rurikids is continued – a marriage is concluded between Igor and Olga.

Cluster “Oleg Veshchy”

Список литературы

  1. Tatishchev V. N. “Russian History”, book 2, chapter 2
  2. Tatishchev V. N.“Russian History”, book 2, chapter 2
  3. Там же
  4. Piskarevsky Chronicler, Kholmogory Chronicle
  5. Tatishchev V. N. “Russian History”, book 2, chapter 2 ; book 1, chapter 4
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Опубликовано: 04.03.2023
Изменено: 09.03.2023