Olga of Kiev

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Saint Olga (Russian and Ukrainian: Ольга, also called Olga Prekrasa (Ольга Прекраса), or Olga the Beauty, hypothetically Old Norse: Helga In some Scandinavian sources she was called other name.[1] born c. 890 died 11 July 969, Kiev) was a ruler of Kievan Rus as regent (945-c. 963) for her son, Svyatoslav.

In 1997 the Order of Princess Olga was established in Ukraine.


Early life

Olga was a Pskov woman of Varangian extraction who married the future Igor of Kiev, arguably in 903. The Primary Chronicle gives 879 as her date of birth, which is rather unlikely, given the fact that her only son was probably born some 65 years after that date. After Igor's death, she ruled Kievan Rus as regent (945-c. 963) for their son, Svyatoslav.


At the start of her son's reign, Olga spent great effort to avenge her husband's death at the hands of the Drevlians, and succeeded in slaughtering many of them and interring some in a ship burial, while still alive. She is reputed to have scalded captives to death and another, probably apocryphal[citation needed], story tells of how she destroyed a town hostile to her. She asked that each household present her with a dove as a gift, then tied burning papers to the legs of each dove which she then released to fly back to their homes. Each avian incendiary set fire to the thatched roof of their respective home and the town was destroyed. More importantly in the long term, Olga changed the system of tribute gathering (poliudie) in what may be regarded as the first legal reform recorded in Eastern Europe.


She was the first Rus ruler to convert to Christianity, either in 945 or in 957. The ceremonies of her formal reception in Constantinople were minutely described by Emperor Constantine VII in his book De Ceremoniis. Following her baptism she took the Christian name Yelena, after the reigning Empress Helena Lekapena. The Slavonic chronicles add apocryphal details to the account of her baptism, such as the story how she charmed and "outwitted" Constantine and how she spurned his matrimonial proposals. In truth, at the time of her baptism, Olga was an old woman, while Constantine had a wife.

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