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Prophetic Oleg

V.M. Vasnetsov. Prophetic Oleg's farewell to his horse.

V.M. Vasnetsov. Prophetic Oleg’s farewell to his horse.


Prophetic Oleg was Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Kiev. He is known as a founder of Kievan Rus, the ancient Russian state. His nickname Prophetic, i.e. knowing the future, is given in the annals of The Tale of Bygone Years. He was named so as soon as he returned from campaigning against Byzantium in 907.
After the death of Rurik, the founder of the princely dynasty, in 879, Oleg began to reign in Novgorod as a guardian of a minor son of Rurik and his nephew Igor.
In 882 Oleg came to Kiev, where two noblemen Askold and Dir reigned the city, and killed them. Location of Kiev seemed very comfortable to Oleg and he made it the capital of Russian lands – “Let it be the mother of Russian cities”. Thus he united the northern and southern centers of the East Slavs.

I. Glazunov. Prince Oleg and Igor

I. Glazunov. Prince Oleg and Igor


Rus’-Byzantine War of 907
In 907, Oleg marched on Constantinople. Byzantine Emperor Leo VI Philosopher ordered to close the gates of the city and block the harbor with chains. However, Oleg behaved unexpectedly, he ordered his soldiers to make wheels and put ships on them. And when a fair wind blew, they raised the sails and went to the city. Panicked Greeks offered the Russian Prince peace and tribute. According to the agreement, Byzantium promised to pay tribute to the Russian city. As a sign of victory Oleg nailed his shield to the gates of Constantinople. The main result of the campaign was the trade agreement on Russian free trade in the Byzantine Empire.
Many historians believe this campaign is a legend. Perhaps the campaign was, but without the siege of Constantinople.
Oleg nails his shield to the gates of Constantinople

Oleg nails his shield to the gates of Constantinople


Oleg freed the Russian land from the Khazars.
According to The Tale of Bygone Years, Prince Oleg died from a snake bite in 912. According to legend, the wise men predicted the prince that he would die because of his favorite horse. Oleg ordered to take the horse away and only some years later, when his horse was already dead, he remembered the prediction. Oleg made a mock of the wise men, and wanted to look at his horse’s bones. He put his foot on the skull, and said: “Do I have to be afraid of it?” But there was a poisonous snake, which lived in the skull.

Novgorod version of the biography.
In the First Novgorod Chronicle Oleg was no prince, but Igor’s army commander. It was Igor who killed Askold and took over Kiev, and marched on Byzantium. And Oleg went back to the north, to Lake Ladoga, and died not in 912 but in 922.
These data contradict the Rus’-Byzantine treaty of 911, in which Oleg was called Russian Grand Duke.

Oleg entered the Russian history as the founder of the ancient Russian state, the conqueror of Byzantine and defender of Russian lands.
There is a hypothesis that Oleg is Odd Orvar (Arrow), the hero of several Norwegian and Icelandic sagas.
For some time it was decided to identify Oleg with epic bogatyr Volga Svyatoslavich.

Igor Ozhiganov. Prophetic Oleg’s farewell to his horse.

Igor Ozhiganov. Prophetic Oleg’s farewell to his horse.

V.M. Vasnetsov. Prince Oleg and the Magi. Death Prophecy.

V.M. Vasnetsov. Prince Oleg and the Magi. Death Prophecy.

Oleg and horse's bones. V. M. Vasnetsov, 1899

Oleg and horse’s bones. V. M. Vasnetsov, 1899


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