THE MYSTERY OF «OLEH TOMB»: KYIV OR LADOGA?


Keywords: «Oleh Tomb», Kyiv, Shchekovytsya, Old Ladoga.

Abstract

Described in Primary Chronicle under 912 the story of the unusual circumstances of the death of Kyiv pagan prince Oleh the Prophetic is connected to Kyiv topographic realities, contemporary for chronist, in particular, to the toponym «Oleh Tomb», also known from other sources. According to this chronicle Oleh Tomb was placed on the hill Shchekovytsya but the exact localization of the latter is not provided. In the middle of the 19th century Kyiv people called Shchekovytsya the high hill rising over the Podil on the west side. In the works of the later Kyiv scholars this hill was unequivocally identified with Chronicle Shchekovytsya where they localized the grave of Oleh.

This view was challenged by P. G. Lebedyntsev who suggested localizate the Oleh Tomb not on Shchekovytsya / Skavitsya but on the western slope of the Starokyivsky Plateau, on Kudryavka, opposite the Lybid’ River, near the Zhidovsky (Lviv) Gate of Medieval Kyiv. Basing on the analysis of Kyiv Chronicle information the scientist concluded that the toponym «Oleh Tomb» is separated from Shchekovytsya in the annals. The explanation of this contradiction in the chronicle was proposed by one of the best experts in the historical topography of Old Kyiv — M. I. Petrov. He suggested that under the name of Shchekovytsya one should consider not only the Podil hill but also all surrounding ravines and highlands. The Shchekovytsya ridge of mountains and hills stretched from the east to the southwest from the present Shchekovitsa hill to the edge of the present Lviv Square. The common for whole this territory name Shchekovytsya became gradually decay due to the large scale construction of the city in the 18th century and the appearance of proper names of new urban areas.

The version of the death and burial of Oleh in Ladoga where one of the central and largest hills got the name «Oleh Tomb» is still popular in historiography, especially Russian. This mound was explored by archaeologists. The cremation burial was discovered under the barrow. It was dated to earlier (9th century) time than the date of Oleh death. Because of the impossibility of this «grave» to be burial place of the Prince of Kyiv, G. S. Lebedev has proposed to consider it the «Oleh Hill» — a «ritual seat» which had some public and religious functions. Despite the hypothetical nature of such interpretation the ghost of Oleh finds the visible features in Ladoga. At the end of the last century in Old Ladoga the stone was erected on that mound with a memorial plaque proclaiming this site of the 9th—10th centuries «The tomb of Prince Oleh the Prophetic».

The story of the death of Kyiv pagan prince Oleh the Prophetic «due to horse» contained in the Primary Chronicle under 912 was compilled, apparently, on the base of some archaic mythological song or historical anecdote. It wins over not its factual authenticity but psychological one. However, there is no reason to doubt that Oleh died in Kyiv. The death of the prince, who was crowned with warrior glory, prompted his followers to muse about the choice of a place for the building of the great barrow over his grave. The slopes of the Lysa Gora (Yurkovytsia), where the pagan necropolis had already been laid near Oleh courtyard, probably seemed them to be cramped. This may have been the reason for choosing among the highlands, which rise above the Podil, the beautiful terrain of Kudryavka in the upper reaches of the Hlybochytsa river. The barrow built in the 10th century was probably quite large which explains the relatively long life of «Oleh Tomb» in the Kyiv toponimic.

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Published
2020-06-30
How to Cite
Rychka, V. M. (2020). THE MYSTERY OF «OLEH TOMB»: KYIV OR LADOGA?. Archaeology and Early History of Ukraine, 35(2), 288-293. https://doi.org/10.37445/adiu.2020.02.20