The Beautiful, Ferocious, Great – Olha of Rus

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“She was called ‘light of salvation’ by the great Rus chronicler Nestor, ‘wise’ by history, ‘cunning’ by the people and ‘holy’ by the church.”

“Bloody Wedding in Kyiv” (1886), Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Truly, Olha of Rus was an enigmatic figure. No wonder that she, a medieval ruler, inspired great artists, poets and writers. Bloody Wedding in Kyiv: Two Tales of Olha, Kniahynia of Kyivan Rus, contains two of these works. These are short stories, written more than a century apart. The first story, “Bloody Wedding in Kyiv”, is by a 19th century author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Whereas, “The Kniahynia’s Comb” is a modern short story. Its author, Petro Haivoronskyi, is a contemporary writer and journalist. These fascinating fictionalised accounts explore facets of the ruthless ruler’s personality.

Bloody Wedding in Kyiv

In a sprawling medieval realm, the icy consort of a Kyivan ruler, Olha, makes a stand against a neighbouring tribe. After all, the tribe has rebelled against her husband’s authority. What’s worst, they killed him. Olha of Kyiv is a ravishing beauty. Furthermore, she has a capacity to enthral and subjugate Kyiv’s enemies, among them the bold Derevlian Prince Mak. Kyiv makes lavish preparations for a strange marriage of bitter foes. By the time a besotted Prince Mak discovers the unforseen danger of mixing love with hatred, his fate is decided. Grief unleashes Olha’s thirst for blood.

The Kniahynia took her revenge on the Derevlians with the most intricate cruelty. Her deeds were both glorious and gruesome. Hence, her name continues to remain in memory of the Slavic peoples her for more than one thousand years.

The Kniahynia’s Comb

Book cover features a profile of a woman's face, surrounded by doves, white roses and red splashes of blood

For him she was not the great Kyivan Kniahynia Olha, a woman respected and feared by the whole Rus. Indeed, he saw Prekrasa, a pretty girl from a far-flung picturesque Ukrainian village.

Reflecting on the origins of Olha of Kyiv, “The Kniahynia’s Comb” portrays ruthless Olha as a woman of enduring loyalty. Thus, this is a story of friendship between Olha and a young man, Vedmid. The friendship started when future consort of a Kyivan ruler, was a young Pagan girl known as Prekrasa. Even though later Olha succeeded to the throne of Kyiv, she never betrayed her friendship. Presented with a modern twist that enfolds the search for archaeological evidence, this tale rekindles the mystic reputation of Ukraine’s first Christian monarch.

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The stories leave readers staggered by Olha’s enigmatic blend of devotion and ferocity. Currently, Bloody Wedding in Kyiv is available only in its electronic version on Amazon (click here to see a free book preview).

The book cover designer and illustrator is Nikola Nevenov. The book incorporates illustrations from The Radziwiłł Chronicle, an ancient East Slavic illuminated manuscript. Dated to the 15th century and shrouded in many mysteries, the Chronicle provides a graphic record of Olha’s rise to power.