Starting from Novgorod, the prince first took control of Smolensk and Lyubech, leaving some troops there as garrisons. Then, upon reaching Kiev, Oleg tricked the rulers Askold and Dir into coming out, and after their murder, captured the city.
Kiev became the new capital of the emerging state and subsequently allowed it to quickly spread its influence not only to neighboring tribes but also to the so-called “Route from the Varangians to the Greeks.”
Reasons for the campaign
- More favorable conditions of the southern lands allowed for a faster increase in the number of people subordinate to the prince and easier procurement of provisions.
- Oleg aimed to bring under his control as much territory adjacent to the Dnieper as possible – the route “from the Varangians to the Greeks” was the main transportation artery and provided a significant advantage to those who could control navigation along this river.
Description of events
According to the Tales of Bygone Years, in 882, Oleg gathered a large army consisting of Varangians, Chuds, Slavs, Merians, Ves’, and Krivichians. The prince started to move south and took the cities of Smolensk and Lyubech, leaving a number of soldiers there as a garrison. He then descended the Dnieper River to Kiev, where Askold and Dir ruled.The origin of Askold and Dir is still a subject of
debate among historians. According to various versions,
they were either fellow tribesmen of Rurik who had
set out earlier on a campaign to Tsargrad but had
stayed in Kiev, or independent Varangians who took
over the city. There is also a version that Askold
and Dir were descended from the legendary founders
of Kiev – Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv.. Oleg landed part of his retinue on the shore to lay an ambush, and ordered those remaining on the boats not to show themselves. He himself pretended to be sick and stayed in the boat, while sending a message to Askold and Dir that he had a lot of pearls and other treasures and needed to have an important conversation with the princes:
«We are traders on our way to the Greeks from Oleg and Igor the prince, come and meet your kinsmen and us».Nikon chronicle
When Askold and Dir left the city, Oleg told them:
«Вы нєста кнѧзѧ ни роду кнѧжѧ · но азъ єсмь роду кнѧжѧ»
(«ou are not princes, nor of princely stock, but I am of princely stock»).
«а сє єсть Рюриков Игорь кнѧжичь»
(«And this is the son of Rurik, Igor the prince»)
He then presented the heir of Rurik, the young Igor, after which Askold and Dir were killed.
The Tale of Bygone Years preserved the text of Oleg’s announcement of the new capital:
«Let this ( (city) be the mother of Russian cities.».V. N. Tatishchev, “Russian History”, book 2, chapter 2
Results and Consequences:
- The cities of Smolensk and Lyubech were subjugated.
- The city of Kiev was captured and declared the new capital.
- There was a unification of the southern and northern centers of settlement of Eastern Slavs.
- The Rurik dynasty took control of a significant part of the route “From the Varangians to the Greeks”.
- The origin of Askold and Dir is still a subject of debate among historians. According to various versions, they were either fellow tribesmen of Rurik who had set out earlier on a campaign to Tsargrad but had stayed in Kiev, or independent Varangians who took over the city. There is also a version that Askold and Dir were descended from the legendary founders of Kiev – Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv.
- Nikon chronicle
- V. N. Tatishchev, “Russian History”, book 2, chapter 2