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Princess Olga of Kiev

Also Known as Saint Olga


Dates: about 890 (?) - July 11, 969 (?)

Also known as: St. Olga, Saint Olga, Saint Helen, Helga (Norse), Olga Piekrasa, Olga the Beauty, Elena Temicheva. Baptismal name Helen (Helene, Yelena, Elena)

Known for: founder, with her grandson Vladimir, of Russian Christianity; ruler of Kiev as regent for her son; grandmother of St. Vladimir, great-grandmother of Saint Boris and Saint Gleb

About Princess Olga of Kiev

Olga's origins are not known with certainty, but she may have come from Pskov. She was probably of Varangian (Scandinavian) heritage. Olga married Prince Igor I of Kiev in about 903. Igor was the son of Rurik who is considered the founder of Russia. Igor became the ruler of Kiev, a state which included parts of what is now Russia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Poland.


When Igor was murdered in 945, Princess Olga assumed the regency for her son, Svyatoslav. Olga served as regent until her son was of age in 964. She was known as a ruthless and effective ruler, revenging her husband's murder by executing the killers and their followers.


Princess Olga turned to religion. She traveled to Constantinopole in 957, where some sources say that she was baptized by the Patriarch Polyeuctus with the Emperor Constantine VII as her god-father. She may have converted to Christianity before her trip to Constantinopole.

After Princess Olga returned to Kiev, she was unsuccessful in converting her son or very many others. Her example, however, may have helped to influence her grandson, Vladimir I, who was the third son of Svyatoslav.

Princess Olga died, probably on July 11, 969. She is considered the first saint of the Russian Orthodox Church. Her relics were lost in the 18th century.


Princess Olga's story is found in several sources, which don't agree in all the details. A hagiography was published to establish her sainthood; her story is told in the Russian Primary Chronicle; and Emperor Constantine VII describes her reception in Constantinopole in "De Ceremoniis."

More About Princess Olga of Kiev:

Places: Kiev (or, in various sources, Kiev-Rus, Rus-Kiev, Kievan Rus, Kiev-Ukraine)

Religion: Russian Orthodox Christianity

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