Askold and Dir

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Askold and Dir (Haskuldr or Hǫskuldr and Dyr or Djur in Old Norse; died in 882), mentioned in both the Primary Chronicle[1] and the Nikon Chronicle,[2] were the earliest known Norse rulers of Kiev.[3]

Map of Kievan principality in the 9th century

Primary ChronicleEdit

The Primary Chronicle relates that Askold and Dir were sanctioned by Rurik to go to Constantinople (Norse Miklagård, Slavic Tsargrad). When travelling on the Dnieper, they settled in Kiev seizing power over the Polans who had been paying tribute to the Khazars. The chronicle also states that they were killed by Oleg the Seer in 882.[1] According to the Primary Chronicle he tricked and killed Askold and Dir using an elaborate scheme.[4] Vasily Tatishchev, Boris Rybakov and some other Russian and Ukrainian historians interpreted the 882 coup d'état in Kiev as the reaction of the pagan Varangians to Askold's baptism. Tatishchev went so far as to style Askold "the first Russian martyr".[citation needed]


The only foreign source to mention one of the co-rulers is the Arab historian Al-Masudi. According to him, "king al-Dir [Dayr] was the first among the kings of the Saqaliba (Slavs)." Although some scholars have tried to prove that "al-Dir" refers to a Slavic ruler and Dir's contemporary, this speculation is questionable and it is at least equally probable that "al-Dir" and Dir were the same person.[5]

Facts and recordsEdit

Church of St. Nicholas in the Askold's Grave park in Kyiv (skretch by Taras Shevchenko, 1846)

The Rus' attack on Constantinople in June 860 took the Greeks by surprise, "like a thunderbolt from heaven," as it was put by Patriarch Photios in his famous oration written for the occasion. Although the Slavonic chronicles tend to associate this expedition with the names of Askold and Dir (and to date it to 866), the connection remains tenuous. Despite Photius' own assertion that he sent a bishop to the land of Rus' which became Christianized and friendly to Byzantium, most historians discard the idea of Askold's subsequent conversion as apocryphal.

A Kievan legend identifies Askold's burial mound with Uhorska Hill, where Olga of Kiev later built two churches, devoted to Saint Nicholas and to Saint Irene. Today this place on the steep bank of the Dnieper is marked by a monument called Askold's Grave.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Nestor; Cross, Samuel H; Sherbowitz-Wetzor, Olgerd P (1953). The Russian Primary chronicle (PDF). Cambridge, Mass.: Mediaeval Academy of America. pp. 60–61.
  2. ^ Zenkovsky, Serge A.; Zenkovsky, Betty Jean (1984). The Nikonian Chronicle: From the beginning to the year 1132. Kingston Press. pp. 16–29. ISBN 978-0-940670-00-6.
  3. ^ Zakharii, Roman (2002). "The historiography of Normanist and anti-Normanist theories on the origins of Rus' : a review of modern historiography and major sources on Varangian controversy and other Scandinavian concepts of the origins of Rus'". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Many scholars believe the conquest of Kiev took place a generation later; see Oleg of Novgorod for discussion of the controversy surrounding this date.
  5. ^ Golden, P.B. (2006) "Rus." Encyclopaedia of Islam (Brill Online). Eds.: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill.

External linksEdit