PETROV A.V. On the Issue of the Baptism of Princess Olga


Alexey V. Petrov

Doctor of Sciences (History), Associate Professor, Professor,

Department of Russian History from Ancient Times to the 20th Century, Saint Petersburg State University,

Universitetskaya Emb., 7-9, 199034 Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation


Department of Church History, Saint Petersburg Theological Academy,

Obvodnogo Kanala Emb., 17, 193167 Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. More than once researchers will address this issue and related subjects. Where, how and why did Princess Olga receive holy baptism? When and in what capacity did she travel to Constantinople? What was the meaning of Olga’s baptism for Rus? Was the blessed princess the ruler of a pagan state? The author proposes to share his thoughts on this subject in this article.

Methods. The method of considering this issue ultimately comes down to finding the best option for reconciling conflicting testimony of sources, taking into account extensive historiography, but also in the context of a particular historiographic and theoretical paradigm.

Analysis. The opinion about the official nature of Olga’s trip to Constantinople as the full-fledged ruler of the Russian land can be successfully opposed by the opinion that the visit of the princess to the capital of the empire is a private event in the life of the widow of the Russian prince. Doubts were justified that she could be equal in status to her late husband and fully take control of his princely duties and government powers. Most likely, her political position was ambivalent. It is difficult to deny the baptism of Igor’s widow in Constantinople, because all the sources talking about him, not coinciding in the dating of this event, nevertheless, unanimously localize him there.

Results. Christianity, adopted by Princess Olga in 957 in Constantinople during an unofficial trip there as part of a trade caravan, from the very act of baptism to the end of the princess’s life, remained only her personal affair. After baptism, Olga completely refused to participate in government activities. The latter circumstance allows emphasizing that aspect of her Christian feat that researchers did not pay attention to: conscious self-removal from power (even symbolic) in pagan society in order to follow Christian commandments and adhere to Christian values.

Key words: princess Olga, baptism of princess Olga, Baptism of Rus, first Russian Christians, first Rurikovichi, people and power in Ancient Russia, paganism and Christianity in Ancient Rus, Rus and Byzantium in the 10th century.

Citation. Petrov A.V. On the Issue of the Baptism of Princess Olga. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2020, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 200-207. (in Russian). DOI:

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On the Issue of the Baptism of Princess Olga by Petrov A.V. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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