Ukraine with the borders it has now is a very young country that got its independence from the Soviet Union 26 years ago. But the history of this country, the ancient history of Ukraine started in the 9th century when Kiev Rus was created. Kiev Rus was a very powerful country at that time with lots of trading routes running through it, new discoveries and laws being made and one of the most popular and powerful rulers at its forefront.
Managing such an important and strong country wasn’t an easy task and the witty ways of keeping the power and defeating their enemies or the ways of taking revenge used by Princesses and Princes of kiev Rus remind and can even compete with those described in the modern series “Games of Thrones”. The most genius decisions and interesting facts about the ancient rules of Kiev Rus you can read in this article.
Baptism of Kiev Rus by Volodymyr the Great
Originally Kiev Rus was a Pagan country. People believed in the spirits of nature and worshipped different gods. In 988 the whole country was baptised into Christianity according to the Greek custom by the Prince Volodymyr the Great.
As a matter of fact most of the people were against this event but nobody asked them. They were all forced to accept the new religion and since then the building of the most beautiful Orthodox churches has begun. But what were the real reasons of choosing this religion? Did Volodymyr choose Christianity because this is what he believed in? Here different assumptions can be found.
Prince Volodymyr knew that he had to change the religion to be equal with his main trade partners from Europe. This is how the most important history book of ancient times “Chronicle of temporary years” describes the process of choosing.
At first in 986 Volodymyr met with the Volga Bulgars tribes who represented Islam. But the fact that Muslims were not allowed alcohol, Volodymyr had to refuse their religion. After visiting Germany and learning about Catholic Christianity the Kiev Rus prince had to refuse it too as the churches together with the masses held in them weren’t beautiful enough. Khazar Jews who offered Volodymyr to accept the Jewish religion didn’t succeed either as they didn’t have their own land. Therefore the only choice left was Orthodox Christianity which allowed wine and provided the constructions of many beautiful churches.
Before the day of baptism wine was not a popular spirit in Kiev Rus. But the first Orthodox priests “started the fashion” and basically brought alcoholism into Kiev Rus by introducing Greek wine used during the masses and fighting against honey, kvas and beer – popular drinks before Christianity.
Why was prince Yaroslav the Wise called called wise?
The life of Yaroslav the Wise has many mysteries and undiscovered facts. But one thing about his life the archaeologists know for sure is that Yaroslav was lame. The reason of laming is not known but according to some theories laming was the reason why this prince got the nickname “the Wise”. In ancient times people believed those who had some problems with their health, lepers or disabled people were chosen by God. In a way they were worshiping them and treating them as someone supernatural. That’s why Yaroslav was called wise. His wisdom was coming from God, just as his laming. The other theory, the more logical one, says that Yaroslav liked reading and had a huge library. Therefore his wisdom and his nickname came from his hobby.
The way Yaroslav came to ruling is also interesting and mysterious. His father was Vladimir the Great. But who was his mother? Before Vladimir baptised Kiev Rus he had a harem with an unknown number of wives. But one woman, Polotsk princess Rogneda Rogvolodovna, refused to marry Vladimir because he was a son of a slave. Vladimir wasn’t upset for too long. He invaded Polotsk, raped the woman in front of her parents, then killed the parents and took Rogneda with him. Due to this fact Yaroslav couldn’t inherit the right to become the Prince of Kiev Rus. On top of that he had brothers who were older than him and were legitimate heirs. But one by one those brothers were killed and even though the official version of Kiev Rus history gives the explanation to their deaths some experts say that Yaroslav made it all happen quicker in order to take over the throne.
The stupid death of prince Ihor
One day Ihor and his army went to the Drevlyans tribes to collect a tribute. On the way back before getting home he decided that he didn’t collect enough so he went back to collect some more sending half of his army back home. His greed killed him. Drevlyane got very angry and didn’t want to reconcile with the impudence of the prince. They attacked Ihor, killed the rest of his army, tied his body to two trees and cut them. The body of the prince was torn into two parts.
The revenge of Princess Olga
After Drevlyane killed Olga’s husband Ihor in 945, the purpose of her ruling was revenge. After Ihor’s death Drevlyane wanted to woo her to their prince. They sent their 20 best men to her castle by boats. Olga asked her slaves to carry the boats with the men inside all the way to her castle to show her honor. Before that she ordered slaves to dig a big hole in front of her castle where all 20 men were thrown from their boats. Later Olga came out of her castle and gave the order to bury them alive.
Later Olga requested to send her more men. This time Drevlyane sent her the most noble people. When they arrived Olga ordered her salves to warm up the sauna and let them have a rest and wash. When the men were inside she closed the doors and burnt them alive.
In 946 Olga decided to conquer the Drevlyane tribes. She surrounded the city with her army but said she didn’t want to kill the people or collect the tribute. Instead she demanded every citizen of the town to send her one dove or a sparrow. People were glad thinking they got away with it so easily. But when the evening came Olga ordered her soldiers to tie a piece of paper to each bird, put it on fire and set it free. The bird flew to their homes inside the town and the great fire started. The citizens ran out of the village trying to escape the disaster but Olga’s army was waiting for them outside. A lot of people were killed, the others were enslaved or sold as slaves to other tribes.
We can’t say for sure which is the truth. But all the theories have their claims and deserve to be heard. If it was true then we are lucky not to live in those ancient times.