The Saint That Destroyed A Whole Town
Being the embodiment of vengeance, Olga, the princess of Kiev was a well-respected woman by Ukrainians. She’s also known as the “Princess of Revenge” because of her ambitious and selfish nature. Although she’s one of the greatest historical figures in the story, her earlier life is still a mystery. Her birth date is claimed to be 890 while some says that it’s 925. According to some other sources, Olga was one of the Varangians, who are technically Vikings that migrated to Eastside countries like Russia. So, the princess had her origins in Sweden but was born in Pleslav, northern Russia.
Igor, I And The Beginning Of Revenge
At the age of 15, she got married to the heir of Rurik dynasty, Igor I. Igor was the prince of Kiev and when his father died, he got under the guardianship of Oleg, who had established the new princedom of Kiev with conquering the neighbor countries. The new princedom was a capital that contained lots of other tribes and was in a field of today’s Russia, Ukraine and Belarus lands. The empire was successfully growing and spreading to wider lands; but just like in all developing communities, there were obstructive tribes as well. And the Drevlians was one of them. Although they didn’t have very obvious issues with the empire, the Drevlians were unhappy with prince Igor.
It was the death of Oleg that turned tables. After the loss of great prince, the Drevlians refused to pay their taxes. This rebellion was a huge threat for the good of princedom; it could motivate the other tribes to revote. So, Igor stepped before them and embarked on an expedition on 945 to the Drevlian lands. He achieved what he wanted and convinced them to pay taxes again. But that wasn’t enough for Igor; on the way of home, he decided to take more money from the Drevlians. When he ordered them to pay more, the Drevlians took this as a chance to remove Igor and abducted him. After torturing him for days, they finally killed him with cutting in half. The bad news travels fast; Olga was in a desperate shock and pain after learning her husband’s death. From that moment, she vowed vengeance against the Drevlians. They left her widowed and her son fatherless, that only meant one thing; payoff.
Meanwhile Olga was making revenge plans, the Drevlians were in a comfort knowing that they removed a menace from the world. They thought they could go further and decided to marry off their prince, prince Mal and the princess Olga. To offer their proposal to Olga, they sent 20 ambassadors to Kiev. Since she was a widow who needed to be protected, the Drevlians were expecting good news. But that only made Olga more furious. To entrap them, the princess told these to the messengers; Your proposal is pleasing to me, indeed, my husband cannot rise again from the dead. But I desire to honor you tomorrow in the presence of my people. Return now to your boat, and remain there with an aspect of arrogance. I shall send for you on the morrow, and you shall say, "We will not ride on horses nor go on foot, carry us in our boat." And you shall be carried in your boat.
This speech made Drevlian messengers so happy and conceited. They waited for the next day without knowing what was about to happen. When the Drevlians repeated what Olga told them to the Kievians who were carrying their boat to the sea, they started to dig in and bury them alive. The Drevlians were in a complete shock and fear; they weren’t expecting to be honored that way. They slowly went to the end while their murderer, Olga watched them thinking it was just the beginning.
It was a matter of time for the Drevlians to find out what happened to 20 messengers. So, Olga had to break the ground and step on before her evil massacre reaches to prince’s ear. She made another plan and sent a letter to prince Mal saying; “Send me the prominent officials of your people so that I can be your wife in a royal way.” Of course, that was the first part of her another revenge plan; Olga’s heart still wasn’t cold and the prince wasn’t clever enough to see that.
Prince Mal gathered the most distinguished people of Drevlian folks and sent them to Kiev for Olga. The great princess, the court and the Kievians welcomed the group with a big hospitality. Olga told them that it wasn’t appropriate for the guests to come into majesty’s presence with a dirty image and sent them to a bath house to clean themselves. Just when Drevlians weren’t thinking of anything evil, the men of princess burned the bath with the Drevlians inside.
These grewsome plans were harsh enough to end the Drevlian nobles but never enough to put out the fire inside Olga. Fortunately, prince Mal didn’t find out or hear anything about the Drevlians that he sent to princess. Because none of the travelers could make it back to Drevlian lands. And that was a huge opportunity for Olga, it helped her to gain more time.
Carnage Feast And The Great Plan
Olga sent another letter to prince and told him that she was very satisfied with the kindness of the nobles and was finally able to marry him. But she had a condition; to obey the traditions, she had to mourn for her dead husband. And since her husband was killed in Drevlian lands, she was going to visit Igor’s grave there. Prince Mal was totally ok with it; he even prepared a feast for his guests.
When Olga and her helpers got there, they visited Igor’s grave and mourned for him; after that they had a feast with prince Mal and the court. The princess and her team were acting so careful while the Drevlians were becoming drunk as a fiddler. All of them lost their consciousness; it was the right time to attack. According to some sources, that night Olga and her men murdered 5.000 people.
If you thought it was enough for our princess, you’re very wrong. She wanted the whole Drevlians to be disappeared from the world. First, she besieged the Drevlian lands with the Kievian army. Although that surrounding lasted for a year, it remained inconclusive. So, she decided to fake them and offered an olive branch. She wanted Drevlians to send a dove and a sparrow from each house as a sign of peace. Poor people trusted Olga and did what she wanted. Little they didn’t know; Olga’s soldiers were going to tie Sulphur sticks to the birds’s legs, burn those chemicals and set the whole city on fire. Olga put her terrifying plan into action when the night fell; she sent the birds to their homes with a burning stick tied on their legs and burned all those people’s houses in a few hours. There wasn’t a single person who survived from the fires; and the Drevlians that managed to run away from the disaster were killed or started to live as slaves.
Becoming A Saint
Olga, the princess of Kiev was also known for bringing Christianity to Kiev. It’s said that when she went to Istanbul to visit emperor Constantin VII, she was baptized and christened with the name of Helena. While some argue that she accepted the religion in Kiev, it’s also claimed that the imperator wanted to marry Olga.
After becoming Christian, Olga started invest on her princedom more; she built churches and created political relationships with the Holy Roman Empire. She made changes on the statues and system of taxes, raised hunting grounds and trading centers for her people to be able to shop and gain money freely. Not only she was a national leader but she was also a warrior; she managed to protect her lands from the Pechenegs in 968. A year after the conflict, princess of revenge passed away.
After her death, her son Svyatoslav I came to rulership and fulfilled her mother’s last will. Just like she wished, Olga was buried according to Christian traditions. After staying in Kiev for more than 200 years, her grave was demolished by the Mongol-Tatar armies. In 1547, Russian Orthodox church canonized her.