Oleg - Encyclopedia

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OLEG (?-912), prince of Kiev, succeeded Rurik, as being the eldest member of the ducal family, in the principality of Great Novgorod, the first Russian metropolis. Three years later he moved southwards and, after taking Smolensk and other places, fixed his residence at Kiev, which he made his capital. He then proceeded to build a fortress there and gradually compelled the surrounding tribes to pay him tribute, extending his conquests in all directions (883-903) at the expense of the Khazars, who hitherto had held all southern Russia to tribute. In 907, with a host made up of all the subject tribes, Slavonic and Finnic, he sailed against the Greeks in a fleet consisting, according to the lyetopis, of 2000 vessels, each of which held 40 men; but this estimate is plainly an exaggeration. On reaching Constantinople, Oleg disembarked his forces, mercilessly ravaged the suburbs of the imperial city, and compelled the emperor to pay tribute, provide the Russians with provisions for the return journey, and take fifty of them over the city. A formal treaty was then concluded, which the Slavonians swore to observe in the names of their gods Perun and Volos. Oleg returned to Kiev laden with golden ornaments, costly cloths, wines, and all manner of precious things. In 911 he sent an embassy of fourteen persons to Constantinople to get the former treaty confirmed and enlarged. The names of these ambassadors are preserved and they point to the Scandinavian origin of Oleg's host; there is not a Slavonic name among them. A new and elaborate treaty, the terms of which have come down to us, was now concluded between the Russians and Greeks, a treaty which evidently sought to bind the two nations closely together and obviate all possible differences which might arise between them in the future. There was also to be free trade between the two nations, and the Russians might enter the service of the Greek emperor if they desired it. The envoys returned to Kiev in 912 after being shown the splendours of the Greek capital and being instructed in the rudiments of the Greek faith. In the autumn of the same year Oleg died and was buried at Kiev.

See S. M. Solovev, History of Russia (Rus.), vol. i. (St Petersburg, 1895, &c.); M. F. Vladimirsky-Budanov, Chrestomathy of the History of Russian Law (Rus.), pt. i. (Kiev, 1889). (R. N. B.)

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