Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Malusha: the runt who gave birth to a prince

Greetings, commies and SJWs!

For your enlightenment, a bit of women's history that explores, predictably, the issues of gender, ethnicity, faith and social status. Today's heroine is Malusha, the mother of Vladimir the Great aka Vladimir the Baptizer - the Russian prince responsible for Russia's massive conversion from paganism to Christianity. 

Let's take a moment to examine the historical canvas. The 10th century was an exciting time to be a Slav, regardless of what faith your adhered to. Princess Olga (d. 969) is considered Russia's first openly Christian monarch. At that time, the new monotheistic religion was garnering some interest among the Slavs and was regarded as somewhat of a hipster fad. Most Christian influences came from the Byzantium, but there were some Catholic diplomats and missionaries trickling in from the West. As Olga's name suggests (a version of Helga), she was of Scandinavian extraction. Her husband Igor was also Scandinavian and a pagan, as were their children. Olga did not force her beliefs upon her family, because she believed that conversion had to be gradual and voluntary. Her sons did make fun of her for endorsing such strange notions as monogamy and chastity - concepts that were unfathomable to healthy male Russian noblemen. 

When Igor was killed by his subjects in 945, Olga took over Kiev. The people behind Igor's death were Drevlians, a tribe whose name translates as "forest dwellers", a community of hunters and trappers. Princess Olga had a long-standing vendetta against them for having murdered her husband. Pushing aside her Christian concepts of forgiveness, she exacted revenge against their communities. Among the enslaved captives were Malusha "the runt"and her older brother Dobrynius, orphaned children of a Drevlian prince. Instead of executing them, Olga took them into her court. Thanks to his powerful physique and fortitude, Dobrynius went on to become a soldier and gained certain prominence, autonomy and authority. 

Malusha was trained as Olga's personal assistant. Her job was to take care of Olga's furs and jewels. The girl was very small, dainty and beautiful, and the middle-aged princess developed motherly feelings for her. It is rumored that Olga was grooming Malusha for conversion to Christianity. Those plans went out the window when Olga's own son Svyatoslav had a fling with Malusha. When Olga found out that her servant was pregnant by her own son, she became enraged and exiled Malusha into the countryside. It was there that Vladimir was born. Despite his illegitimate origin, Vladimir went on to become one of Russia's most influential rulers. Nobody really expected him to rise to power when he was a young child. 

Malusha's fate remains a mystery. It is certain that she did not take part in her son's upbringing. Vladimir was taken away as a toddler and placed under the supervision of his maternal uncle. Dobrynius, whose name ironically means "gentle soul" was a rather violent fellow in real life. As a former slave, he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder and became outraged whenever someone brought up his past. His goal was to purge all softness and sensitivity from his nephew's heart. In fact, Vladimir's youth is marked by debauchery and cruelty. Before converting to Christianity, he was a notorious pillager and womanizer, who did not always ask for consent. His tumultuous past did not prevent the Orthodox church from proclaiming him a saint after he initiated massive conversion to Christianity in 989. 

And what became of his mother? Some sources suggest that Malusha did convert to Christianity and became a nun. There are several speculative depictions of her in literature, film and art. Some artists depict her as a casualty of a political conflict and a sexual scandal, while others depict her as more self-contained and empowered. A modern illustration depicts her as a heartbroken woman whose child is torn away from her. There is, however, a flattering statue of her with her son in the city of Korosten. She does not look like a frail slave girl but as a proud Slavic goddess. Indeed, she is a runt who gave birth to a prince.

1 comment: