Grand Duke of Kiev Oleg

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(died c. 912), first grand prince of Kiev, asserted his rule over the East Slavic tribes in the middle Dnieper region and concluded treaties with Constantinople.

When Rurik was on his deathbed in 879 he gave his kinsman Oleg "the Sage" control over his domains in northern Russia and placed his young son Igor into Oleg's care. It is not known whether Oleg succeeded Rurik in his own right or as the regent for Igor. In 882 he assembled an army of Varangians and East Slavs and traveled south from Novgorod, capturing Smolensk and Lyubech. At Kiev, he tricked the boyars Askold and Dir into coming out to greet him. Accusing them of having no right to rule the town because they were not of princely stock as he and Igor were, he had them killed. Oleg became the prince of Kiev and proclaimed that it would be "the mother of all Rus towns." He waged war against the neighbouring East Slavic tribes, made them Kiev's tributaries, and deprived the Khazars of their jurisdiction over the middle Dnieper. Oleg thus became the founder of Rus, the state centered on Kiev.

In 907 Oleg attacked Constantinople. Although some scholars question the authenticity of this information, most accept it as true. His army, constituting Varangians and Slavs, failed to breach the city walls but forced the Greeks to negotiate a treaty. One of Oleg's main objectives was to obtain the best possible terms for Rus merchants trading in Constantinople. He was thus the first prince to formalize trade relations between the Rus and the Greeks. In 911 (or 912) he sent envoys to Constantinople to conclude another more juridical treaty. The two agreements were among Oleg's greatest achievements. According to folk tradition, he died in 912 after a viper bit him when he kicked his dead horse's skull. Another account says he died in 922 at Staraya Ladoga.

See also: kievan rus; rurikid dynasty; vikings


Franklin, Simon, and Shepard, Jonathan. (1996). The Emergence of Rus, 7501200. London: Longman.

Vernadsky, George. (1948). Kievan Russia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Martin Dimnik

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Oleg (ō´leg, Rus. ôlĕk´) or Oleh (ôlĕkh´), d. c.912, founder of Kievan Rus. Succeeding his kinsman Rurik as leader of the Varangians at Novgorod, Oleg led forth his retainers to seize Kiev (c.879). He made Kiev his capital and set about uniting the Slavic tribes along the Volkhov-Dnieper waterway, freeing them from the overlordship of the Khazars. Oleg concluded commercial treaties with the Byzantine Empire in 907 and 911, making trade with the empire a major factor in the Kievan economy and opening the path for Greek Christian cultural penetration. Oleg was succeeded by Igor.

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