Princess Olga: a Tale of Revenge (from the Russian chronicles) Legends and tales warn us that it could be very, VERY dangerous to aggravate a Russian woman, especially a Russian woman in power. Even the chronicles, historical documents that they are, give the same warning. Let me illustrate this. The greatly revered and later canonized Grand Princess Olga of Kiev, the grandmother of Vladimir I, took over the Kievan throne upon her husband's demise (in the X century). Her first action recorded in the chronicles was to avenge her husband's death. And she did it not once, but twice, and in a very creative fashion at that.
In 945 Prince Igor went to the Slavic tribe of the Drevlyans to gather tributes. After he demanded a much higher payment, the Drevlyans killed him.
The death of the Kievan Prince raised a question about the next ruler of the country. Igor’s son, Svyatoslav, was only three years old, and hence Olga took the power into her hands. Interestingly, she had the full support the Rus army, which attests to the great respect she held among the people.
After killing Igor, the Drevlyans sent their matchmakers to propose that Olga marry their Prince Mal. The Princess took revenge upon her husband’s death, killing all of the ambassadors.
The Old Russian annals describe four types of vengeance organized by Olga. First, she ordered the capture of the 20 matchmakers who had come to Kiev and had them buried alive. The Princess then asked the Drevlyans to send better ambassadors to her, but as soon as they arrived, they were burned in a bathhouse. Soon after that Olga went to the land of the Drevlyans, supposedly to have a funeral feast in memory of her murdered husband. Having made her enemies drunk during the feast, the governess then ordered them all killed. The annals report about five thousand victims in this third act of revenge.
The last vengeance took place in the year 946 when Olga traveled around the land of the Drevlyans in order to gather tributes. She besieged the town of Iskorosten, which refused to pay her. According to legend, the Princess asked that each household present her with a dove as a gift. Then she tied burning papers to the legs of the doves and let them fly back to their homes. As a result, the entire town was destroyed by fire. Olga went on to rule for a long time, first by herself, then as regent during the long absences of her son, with great ability and wisdom. One of the most well-known among Olga’s actions was her conversion to Christianity. She was one of the first to bring this religion to the pagan society of Kievan Rus. According to the Primary Chronicles, Olga was baptized in Constantinople either in 955 or 957. Her son Svyatoslav didn’t support his mother’s decision and was worried about losing the respect of the army because of Olga’s new faith. Apparently, she had a big influence on her grandson, Vladimir the Great, who in 988 made Christianity the official religion of Kievan Rus. But let this be a lesson and a warning: Russian women are not frail and helpless damsels in distress!