The Empire of Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 503 pages of information about The Empire of Russia.

Having thus secured safety in the north, Oleg turned his attention to the south.  With a well-disciplined army, he marched down the left bank of the river, sweeping the country for an hundred miles in width, everywhere planting his banners and establishing his simple and effective government of baronial lords.  It was easy to weaken any formidable or suspected tribe, by the slaughter of the warriors.  There were two safeguards against insurrection.  The burdens imposed upon the vassals were so light as to induce no murmurings; and all the feudal lords were united to sustain each other.  The first movement towards rebellion was drowned in blood.

Igor, the legitimate sovereign, had now attained his majority; but, accustomed as he had long been, to entire obedience, he did not dare to claim the crown from a regent flushed with the brilliancy of his achievements, who had all power in his hands, and who, by a nod, could remove him for ever out of his way.

Igor was one day engaged in the chase, when at the door of a cottage, in a small village near Kief, he saw a young peasant girl, of marvelous grace and beauty.  She was a Norman girl of humble parentage.  Young Igor, inflamed by her beauty, immediately rode to the door and addressed her.  Her voice was melody, her smile ravishing, and in her replies to his questionings, she developed pride of character, quickness of intelligence and invincible modesty, which charmed him and instantly won his most passionate admiration.  The young prince rode home sorely wounded.  Cupid had shot one of his most fiery arrows into the very center of his heart.  Though many high-born ladies had been urged upon Igor, he renounced them all, and allowing beauty to triumph over birth, honorably demanded and received the hand of the lowly-born yet princely-minded and lovely Olga.  They were married at Kief in the year 903.

The revolution at Kief had not interrupted the friendly relations existing between Kief and Constantinople.  The Christians of the imperial city made great efforts, by sending missionaries to Kief, to multiply the number of Christians there.  Oleg, though a pagan, granted free toleration to Christianity, and reciprocated the presents and friendly messages he received from the emperor.  But at length Oleg, having consolidated his realms, and ambitions of still greater renown, wealth and power, resolved boldly to declare war against the empire itself, and to march upon Constantinople.  The warriors from a hundred tribes, each under their feudal lord, were ranged around his banners.  For miles along the banks of the Dnieper at Kief, the river was covered with barges, two thousand in number.  An immense body of cavalry accompanied the expedition, following along the shore.

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The Empire of Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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