I’ve mentioned before that studying Russian history is to Game of Thrones what methadone is to heroin. I’ve heard that Westeros is loosely based on some period of English history, but I simply cannot see how this could be the case. The similarities between pre-imperial Russia and Martin’s series are too numerous to be a coincidence. Last week in history class, Yuri the Long-Armed finally united the various kingdoms of Rus’  under one ruler after centuries of skirmishes, deception, and ill-advised alliances.  This week the Dothraki — I mean, the Golden Horde — were finally forced out of Russia by a boy king known for his cruelty and paranoia (Ivan the Terrible).

That’s all well and good. But sometimes, Russian history is even more gruesome than what Martin and HBO could make up. Take, for example, the story of Olga, hailed among Russians as the first Christian of Ancient Rus’ (she converted one generation before Vladimir, the prince who would unite Kievan Rus’ under Orthodoxy, came to power), but a person so determined to keep power at any cost that the real-life equivalent of the Red Wedding was just the first phase. Note: The text below is stolen directly from Reddit, which, in turn, probably stole it directly from Wikipedia. I could have rewritten it, but I have things to do.

 

The Drevlians sent twenty of their best men to persuade Olga to marry their Prince Mal and give up her rule of Kievan Rus. She had them buried alive. Then she sent word to Prince Mal that she accepted the proposal, but required their most distinguished men to accompany her on the journey in order for her people to accept the offer of marriage. The Drevlians sent their best men who governed their land. Upon their arrival, she offered them a warm welcome and an invitation to clean up after their long journey in a bathhouse. After they entered, she locked the doors and set fire to the building, burning them alive.

With the best and wisest men out of the way, she planned to destroy the remaining Drevlians. She invited them to a funeral feast so she could mourn over her husband’s grave, where her servants waited on them. After the Drevlians were drunk, Olga’s soldiers killed over 5,000 of them. She returned to Kiev and prepared an army to attack the survivors. The Drevlians begged for mercy and offered to pay for their freedom with honey and furs. She asked for three pigeons and three sparrows from each house, since she did not want to burden the villagers any further after the siege. They were happy to comply with such a reasonable request.

Now Olga gave to each soldier in her army a pigeon or a sparrow, and ordered them to attach by thread to each pigeon and sparrow a piece of sulfur bound with small pieces of cloth. When night fell, Olga bade her soldiers release the pigeons and the sparrows. So the birds flew to their nests, the pigeons to the cotes, and the sparrows under the eaves. The dove-cotes, the coops, the porches, and the haymows were set on fire. There was not a house that was not consumed, and it was impossible to extinguish the flames, because all the houses caught on fire at once. The people fled from the city, and Olga ordered her soldiers to catch them. Thus she took the city and burned it, and captured the elders of the city. Some of the other captives she killed, while some she gave to others as slaves to her followers. The remnant she left to pay tribute.[2]

Oh yeah, did I mention that Olga’s an Orthodox saint?

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“I dare you to try and put a ring on this.”

 

 

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