The famous princess Olga is a figure no less mysterious than Gostomysl, Rurik and Prophetic Oleg. An objective study of Olga's personality is hindered by two seemingly mutually exclusive circumstances. Until the sudden death of her husband, she was just a prince's wife, that is, a dependent figure, secondary and for chroniclers (if we assume that they already existed at the Kiev court at that time) of little interest. But after the rapid and brilliant appearance of our heroine on the big historical stage, and especially after the canonization, interest in her personality grew by several orders of magnitude at once, but it became inconvenient to write about so many things, and perhaps even unsafe. As a result, many "unnecessary" fragments of the chronicles were destroyed, or cleaned up and replaced with more suitable ones. Accidentally preserved originals were burnt in numerous fires and irrevocably perished in the monastery cellars during floods. Ancient hard-to-read manuscripts were rewritten by monks who did not know history, who replaced letters and words that they did not understand with others that seemed to them the most suitable. When rewriting manuscripts written in Glagolitic, letters and numbers were thoughtlessly repeated without taking into account the fact that in Cyrillic they already mean other numbers. (In Cyrillic and Glagolitic, the meanings of only two digit-letters coincide: a = 1 and i = 10.) As a result, entire generations of historians were desperate, trying to figure out the chronology of events in those years, as well as Olga's age and her origin. V. Tatishchev, for example, claimed that she was baptized at the age of 68, and B. A. Rybakov insisted that at the time she was between 28 and 32 years old. But the age difference between Olga and her husband Igor is quite impressive. If you believe the Joachim Chronicle and some other ancient Russian sources, the picture is as follows. Olga modestly and imperceptibly lived in the village of Vydubitskoe near Pskov (which, by the way, if you trust some of the same sources, Olga herself was founded after her return from Byzantium). But, despite her modesty, she was not a simple girl, but the eldest daughter of the famous Gostomysl, and in fact her name was Prekras (Olga was named after her wisdom). All would be fine, but only, according to the same chronicles, the middle daughter of Gostomysl Umila was the mother of Rurik. And this alone is very suspicious: why is the right to power of both father and son justified by later chroniclers by marrying the daughters of the same leader of the Obodrit tribe? Perhaps, in the original version of the chronicle, Igor was not the son of Rurik? But you cannot throw out a word from the lists of ancient chronicles that have come down to our time, and therefore in 880 19-year-old Igor first meets Beautiful, who kindly transports him across the river by boat. And Beauca at this time was about 120 years old. But Igor remembered her and 23 years later (in 903) she married him. She gave birth to Svyatoslav only 39 years later - in 942 - at about 180 years old. And when the princess was about 200 years old, the Byzantine emperor fell in love with her. And then she lived for another 12 years. Is it worth it after that to find fault with the information of Russian epics, that Ilya Muromets sat on the stove for thirty years and three years, and Volga Vseslavich got to his feet an hour after birth?
The obvious unreliability of many of the information concerning Olga, cited in the ancient Russian annals, inevitably pushed researchers to search for information in other historical sources. These have been found in the Scandinavian countries. Despite the fierce rejection of these sources by our “patriots” - anti-Normanists, their historical significance, though with difficulty and not immediately, was nevertheless recognized by many conscientious historians. Indeed, it was impossible to deny the fact that many historical sagas were recorded about a hundred years earlier than the first ancient Russian chronicles that have come down to our time, and these sagas were recorded from the words of eyewitnesses, and in some cases even by participants in the events taking place in the territory of Ancient Russia. … And one cannot ignore the fact that the Scandinavians who returned home did not care who was now in power in Kiev or Novgorod (which, unfortunately, cannot be said about the ancient Russian chroniclers). And very many researchers sooner or later had to ask themselves a very uncomfortable question: why, following the chronicle version, they sometimes in their further work stumble upon a number of anachronisms, logical inconsistencies and contradictions, and the contradicting version of the Scandinavians almost perfectly fits into the outline of further events?
The Scandinavians knew the first ruler of the Slavs very well. The unknown author of the Orvar-Odd Saga (this is not the most reliable source, not the Strand of Eimund or the Saga of Ingvar the Traveler - I know) and the famous Danish historian Saxon Grammaticus claim that Olga was the sister of the Danish king Ingelus, and her name was Helga. And they give a very romantic story about how Igor got it. The matchmaking from the Russian side was allegedly led by the Prophetic Oleg (Helgi, Odd). But another contender was found in the hands of the princess - the leader of the Danish berserkers Agantir, who challenged Oleg to a duel that ended in the victory of our prince. Oleg had experience fighting berserkers. Fighting for Aldeigyuborg (Old City - Ladoga) with the sea king Eirik, in whose squad was considered invincible berserker Grim Egir, known by the nicknames "Giant of the Sea" and "Sea Serpent", he personally killed Aegir. But this experience in no way guaranteed another victory. It would be much easier and more logical to entrust the fight to one of the veterans who have been tested in dozens of battles - there were enough of them in Oleg's squad. But he doesn't trust. It is not known for what reason, but as a wife for Igor, the prince needed Olga and only Olga. Needed so much that he, without hesitation, risks his life. Or maybe everything was the other way around? Doesn't Igor need Olga as a wife, but Olga needs Igor as a husband?
The version of Olga's Scandinavian origin in our country has traditionally been hushed up. Since this hypothesis has not been confirmed in other sources, historians loyal to the Scandinavians still do not insist on it. But if earlier the version of the Slavic origin of the famous princess was considered the main and almost the only version of the famous princess, now more and more attention of researchers is attracted by the "synthetic version", according to which Olga was born allegedly on the territory of Russia, near Pskov, but "was of a Varangian clan." The sources on which the authors of this hypothesis rely are also available and are well known to specialists. The handwritten Synopsis of Undolsky, for example, claims that Olga was not only the "Varangian language", but also the "daughter of Oleg"!
If you believe in this for a couple of minutes, it will become clear why Oleg personally goes to a duel with Agantir. From the point of view of a wise Norwegian, a half-crazy berserker with no clan and no tribe cannot be a good match for his daughter. Here is the young prince Ingvar - that's a completely different matter, isn't it?
The assumption that Olga was a "Varangian language" finds confirmation in the ancient Russian annals. In the fragments of Olga's speeches, preserved by the chroniclers, there are obvious Scandinavians. For example, Olga reproaches the Byzantine ambassadors who arrived in Kiev for the fact that in Constantinople she "stood with the emperor in scuttles in court." Skuta, translated from Old Norse, is a single-masted ship, and sund is a strait. That is, the Byzantines kept her with her entire retinue on boats in the strait and did not even allow her to go ashore. Moreover, she says this in a fit of irritation, when the words are not chosen, but are uttered by the first ones that come to mind, and, therefore, the most familiar ones. In the same chronicles, you can find some more crumbs in favor of the princess's Varangian origin. Tradition claims that young Olga, with her parents alive, was given to an aunt to be raised - an act extremely rare in Russia, but common for Scandinavia of the Viking Age. And Olga takes revenge on the Drevlyan ambassadors quite in the Scandinavian spirit - revenge through the funeral rite is a favorite motive of the Scandinavian sagas. And versions of the legend about the burning of the city with the help of birds can be read both in Saxon Grammar and in Snorri Sturlson. If in the story of this revenge the Russian names were replaced by the Scandinavian ones, it could very easily be mistaken for an excerpt from the Icelandic ancestral saga.
It is even more interesting further, since the author of the Synopsis calls Olga's father "Prince Tmutarakan Polovtsy" (!). It would seem that it is difficult to imagine a more absurd situation: in the 10th century in Russia there are Polovtsians who speak the Varangian language! After all, it is well known that the Cumans were a Turkic-speaking people, and their first meeting with the Russians is precisely dated 1055: "Come Blush with the Cumans and set Vsevolod (the son of Yaroslav the Wise, who died a year earlier) peace … and return (Cumans) home." And what kind of Tmutarakan is this? What does he have to do with Oleg? However, despite the seemingly obvious contradictions, there is something to think about here. With the same Tmutarakan, for example, there are no special problems: Tarkhan is not a name, but a position: the leader of a thousand warriors. Well, T'mutarkhan is already something like a generalissimo. Could the chronicler call our Prophetic Oleg so? Probably he could, and very easily. It remains only to figure out why Oleg the Generalissimo is not Varangian, and not Russian, but Polovtsian. Here we are clearly dealing with an aberration of memory: the Polovtsy is more than well known to the author of the Synopsis, and their predecessors have somehow been forgotten. Let's not find fault with the author: for a person who knows something about the history of Kievan Rus, he said quite enough. Let's try to define the "Polovtsy" of the X century ourselves. The Pechenegs are clearly not suitable for the role of leaders of the steppe world, since in the time of Oleg they themselves recently came to the Black Sea steppes and were subordinate to the Khazars. They gained strength after the collapse of the kaganate. But the Khazars … Why not? Chronicles claim that Oleg saved a number of Slavic tribes from the Khazar tribute, replacing it with a tribute to his beloved. It seems that the chroniclers in this case are somewhat cunning: most likely, Oleg played the role of Ivan Kalita, who became terribly rich, promising the Tatars to personally collect taxes for them from all other principalities. The first prince who decided to throw off the Khazar yoke was, it seems, not Oleg, but his pupil Igor. Moreover, it was this aspiration that probably led to his death. Spurred on by the Byzantines, he captured the Khazar fortress Samkerts in 939. The answer to this challenge was the punitive expedition of the Khazar commander Pesach (940). As a result, Igor was forced to conclude a difficult truce, the main conditions of which were "tribute with swords" (Russians were simply disarmed) and the war against Byzantium in 941. "And Helg went (Igor's real name, it seems, was Helgi Ingvar - Oleg the Younger) against will and fought at sea against Constantinople for 4 months. And his heroes fell there, because the Macedonians overpowered him with fire "(" Judeo-Khazar correspondence "). In 944 g. Igor, apparently under pressure from the Khazars, tried to take revenge, but the memory of the recent defeat turned out to be stronger than the fear of the Khazars, since, having taken a relatively small ransom from the Byzantines, the prince returned to Kiev without finishing the battle. The fact that the Byzantines really did not show generosity in this case is evidenced by the further course of events: the situation with public finances in Kiev was so deplorable that in 945 Igor decided on a truly desperate step - to take tribute from the Drevlyans twice. The Drevlyans, of course, did not like this: they “tied Igor to the tops of two bent trees and tore it in two” (Lev the Deacon). But what about the supposedly "liberated Slavs from the Khazar yoke" Prophetic Oleg? Oleg, according to the definition of A. K. Tolstoy, was "a great warrior and an intelligent person." Therefore, he did not strive for the implementation of unrealizable goals and, apparently, was quite content with the role of a vassal of the great Khazaria, which at that time was successfully opposing both the Arab world and Byzantium. Therefore, his contemporaries could, perhaps, call him Khazar Tmutarkhan. By the way, there is a drawing in the Radziwill Chronicle - Oleg is fighting in the Balkans. And on its banner the Arabic inscription "Din" - "faith", "religion" is well read. This inscription could appear only if Oleg headed the united Russian-Khazar troops, making a campaign on behalf of the Khazar Kaganate, whose main fighting force was always mercenary Muslim formations.
But back to Olga. After the death of her husband, she with a firm hand put things in order in the territory under her control. According to the chronicles, the princess personally traveled around her possessions, established rules and order in all zemstvo affairs, determined quitrent fees, designated plots for catching animals and arranged graveyards for trade. Then she made her brilliant debut in the international arena when, through baptism in Constantinople, she managed to establish diplomatic relations with the still strong eastern empire. Olga's character, apparently, was not one of the weak, and she retained power over Kiev and the lands subject to him even when her son Svyatoslav grew up and matured. The formidable warrior prince, it seems, was a little afraid of his mother, and tried to spend all his free time away from the strict parental eyes. As a legitimate prince, he did not even try to rule in Kiev, trying with all his might to conquer a new principality in Bulgaria. And only after being defeated, he publicly announced his desire to "seriously" reign in Kiev. To show everyone "who is the boss in the house," he ordered the execution of the Christian soldiers who were in his squad (attributing to them the guilt for the defeat), sent an order to Kiev to burn down the churches and announced that upon his return to the capital he intended to "destroy" everyone Russian Christians. According to L. Gumilyov, by this he signed a death warrant for himself: until then, the voivode Sveneld, who was loyal to him, suddenly took most of the squad to Kiev in the steppe, and, probably, let the Pechenegs know about the path and time of Svyatoslav. The accusation, of course, is unprovable, but very well-founded: this information is too confidential, neither the frightened Kievites, nor the Byzantine emperor John Tzimiskes, to whom the chronicle attributes the notification of the Pechenegs, could not possess it. The question is very interesting: to whom did Sveneld go? Who was waiting for him in Kiev? Let us remind you that after Igor's death “Svyatoslav was kept by his breadwinner or his uncle Asmold (Asmund)”. But Sveneld was Olga's man: "I protected the princess, the city, and the whole land." If you believe the ancient Russian sources, then Sveneld hurried to the eldest son of Svyatoslav - Yaropolk, who had converted to Christianity, whose chief adviser and governor he soon became.
But not everything is so simple. Yes, according to many chronicles, Princess Olga died either in 967, or in 969: even during Svyatoslav's life, she was solemnly mourned and buried with honor. But, the authors of some chronicles, apparently, did not know, or they forgot about this sad event, since they describe the conversation of Svyatoslav with his mother, which took place after her “official” death. I wonder where and under what circumstances such a conversation could take place? The Scandinavians assure that the princess survived not only Svyatoslav, but also Yaropolk: at the court of the pagan prince Valdamar (Vladimir) Olga was highly respected and was considered a great prophetess. It is possible that, even being in old age, Olga, with the help of people loyal to her, managed to protect both herself and Kiev Christians from the wrath of a formidable and unpredictable son.
But why did the ancient Russian chronicles buried Olga "alive"? Scandinavian sources claim that Olga prophesied with the “spirit of Fiton” (Python!). Is it possible that in Constantinople our princess not only went to churches, found the time and somewhere else to look? Did you remember when you were old? If this is true, then, of course, it would have been better to keep silent about such a hobby of the first Russian saint - out of harm's way: she died in 967 or 969 and that's it.