Askold and Dir

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Ships on the Dnieper

Askold (Haskuldr in Old East Norse and Höskuldr in Old West Norse) and Dir (Dyri in both dialects of Old Norse) were according to the Primary Chronicle, two of Rurik's men who ruled Kiev in the 870s. The chronicle implies that they were neither his relatives nor of noble blood.


[edit] Slavonic sources

The Primary Chronicle relates that Askold and Dir were sanctioned by Rurik to go to Constantinople (Norse Miklagard, Slavic Czargrad). When travelling on the Dnieper, they saw a settlement on a mountain and asked to whom it belonged. They were told that it was Kiev and had been built by three brothers named Kyi, Schek and Khoriv, who were the ancestors of the inhabitants, who were now paying tribute to the Khazars. Askold and Dir settled in the town and gathered a large number of fellow Varangians and began to rule the town and the land of the Polyane.

The Rus' attack on Constantinople in June 860 took the Greeks by surprise, "like a thunderbolt from heaven," as it was put by Patriarch Photius 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.

When Rurik died he was succeeded by Oleg who was of his kin and in whose care was Rurik's son Igor. Oleg attacked and conquered Kiev around 882.<ref>Many scholars believe the conquest of Kiev took place a generation later; see Oleg of Novgorod for discussion of the controversy surrounding this date.</ref> According to the Primary Chronicle he tricked and killed Askold and Dir using an elaborate scheme. Vasily Tatischev, Boris Rybakov and some other Russian and Ukrainian historians interpreted the 882 coup d'etat in Kiev as the reaction of the pagan Varangians to Askold's baptism. Tatischev went so far as to style Askold "the first Russian martyr".

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.

[edit] Foreign sources

Arab historian Al-Masudi mentions "king al-Dir [Dayr], first among the kings of the Saqaliba.” 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.<ref name="Rus">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.</ref>

According to the Norse Sagas, a certain Höskuldr was the son of Hvitserk, one of Ragnar Lodbrok's sons. Hvitserk was apparently a contemporary of Rurik and was said to have waged a war of conquest in Eastern Europe. When Hvitserk met an army that was too big even for him, the enemies asked in what way he wished to die. He wanted to be burnt alive on a mound of severed heads.

[edit] Notes

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[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Princes of Kiev Succeeded by:
Oleg of Novgorod

Image:Small Sketch of Owl.png This article contains content from the Owl Edition of Nordisk familjebok, a Swedish encyclopedia published between 1904-1926 now in PublicАсколд et:Askold ru:Аскольд uk:Аскольд

Askold and Dir

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