Weird History

A Viking Queen Exacted Revenge On Her King's Killers In Systemically Brutal Fashion

You might not think Olga of Kyiv is very saintly when you hear how she avenged her husband's death, but she is a saint in both the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Churches. Olga used almost every tactic she could to get back at the Drevlians, her problematic neighbors that killed her husband. She seduced them, lulled them into a sense of calm, lied, manipulated, and fooled them - all to become one of the most deadly women of the 10th century. She didn't need to dress like a man - she was more fierce as a female than most men could have ever imagined.

  • Olga Married Prince Igor Of Kyiv In The 10th Century

    Olga of Pskov, a city in modern northwest Russia, was said to have been born in 879. She was of Varyag descent, a group of Rus Vikings in the region of Kyiv from the ninth to the eleventh century. She's also known as Helga, which makes sense given her potential Viking origins. According to one source, she was the daughter of Oleg Veshchy, the founder of the Kyivan Rus state. 

    Around 903, Olga married Igor, the Prince of Kyiv, a marriage that may have been arranged by her father. Igor became the ruler of Kyiv in 912 and the two had one son, Sviatoslav. Igor was a harsh ruler and waged several wars against the Turkish tribes in the Black Sea regions and also launched several unsuccessful strikes against the Byzantine empire in the 940s.

  • Igor Tried To Extort More Money From A Nearby Tribe And They Eliminated Him
    Photo: Klavdy Lebedev / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Igor Tried To Extort More Money From A Nearby Tribe And They Eliminated Him

    As Igor extended his influence in the area around Kyiv, he sought tribute payments from his neighbors in recognition of his authority. In 945, he visited the East Slavic tribe of the Drevlians (also spelled Derevlians or Drevlyans) to receive payment. Once there, Igor decided that he wanted more money than had previously been agreed upon. The Drevlians got angry and felled him. Igor's demise was severe, according to one source:

    They had bent down two birch trees to the prince’s feet and tied them to his legs... then they let the trees straighten again, thus tearing the prince’s body apart.

  • When Igor Perished, His Young Son Became Prince
    Photo: Anonymous / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    When Igor Perished, His Young Son Became Prince

    At the time of Igor's passing, Sviatoslav was only three years old. Because he was so young, Olga took over as regent for her son and ruled on his behalf. She supposedly had the support of the military and her people.

  • Soon After Igor's Death, The Leader Of Drevlians Proposed Marriage
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Soon After Igor's Death, The Leader Of Drevlians Proposed Marriage

    Prince Mal of the Drevlians tried to arrange a marriage to Olga shortly after Igor perished. The Drevlians sent twenty men to Olga with the idea that they would take her back to their Prince with Sviatoslav and take control of Kyiv. 

    When they arrived at Kyiv, Olga responded to the Drevlians:

    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. Put on a show of great arrogance. When I send for you tomorrow, say that you will not ride on horses or go on foot. Insist that my people carry you to me in your boat.