tell me again about our great-grandpapa whose skull was made into a silver drinking cup, grandmama

I like to imagine an eagerly interested great-grandchild one day finally sharing my interest in family history, perhaps asking with most genuine enthusiasm, Tell me again about our great-grandpapa whose skull was made into a silver drinking cup, grandma??

At which I will launch into the tale of my 31st great-grandfather Prince Svyatoslav I Suitislaus of Kiev[1], so appreciative of this wee grandboy or girl who shares my interest in the family tree.

Prince Svyatoslav I Suitaslav of Kiev [2]

Well, I will say beaming, According to Nestor the monk in the Russian Primary Chronicle, Prince Svyatoslav I, son of Grand Prince of Kiev Great-Grandpapa Igor the Wise, “was a skilled warrior who overthrew the Khazars (Turks of the North Caucasus).  While on an expedition along the river Dneiper he and his men were set upon by Patzinaks, a tribe of hostile Slavs.  After fierce fighting Syvantoslav was killed, his skull then used to make a silver mounted drinking cup.”[3]

Ohhh! my rapt audience will exclaim wide-eyed.  Poor great-grandpapa!

No kidding! my rolling eyes would most certainly respond.

Reads the 14th-century Russian Primary Chronicle,

“Beginning of the reign of Svyatoslav, Igor’s son.  In the year 6454 (946). Olga and her son Sviatoslav attracted many brave warriors and went on Derevskoy ground.  …  And when the clash between the two armies to battle, Svyatoslav threw a spear in Drevlyane and the spear flew between the horse’s ears and struck the horse’s legs, for he was still a child Svyatoslav.  And they said Sveneld and Asmud:  ‘The prince has already begun, follow, the squad, for the prince.’  And won Drevlyane.  Drevlyans also ran and shut in their cities.”[4]

Here I will pause to share sadly with my young audience the fact that, Svyatoslav’s mother, Olga, Regent of Kiev, was a very wicked woman who murdered — I lower my voice — hundreds, hundreds of men, because she was mad at them for her husband’s murder.  Dramatic pause.  But of course, I add, Two wrongs don’t make a right, correct? as my imaginary, open-mouthed-at-this-point great-grandchild shakes his/her head.

But an amazing thing happened, I relate.  Olga later turned very very good and, became a saint!

And then,

“Olga lived as with [her] son Svyatoslav, and taught him to be baptized, but he did not think to listen to this; …only sneered…”  “And Olga used to say:  ‘I know God, my son, and rejoice; and you will …too…’ ”  But Svyatoslav would not listen, “saying, ‘How can I accept another faith alone And my squad will scoff?’ ”  His mother Olga kept hopefully encouraging him to be baptized but, “He did not listen to his mother, continuing to live by the customs of the heathen,…”[4]

As if unaware that the child who fails to listen to their mother “falls into trouble, as it is written:  ‘If the [child does not listen to the] father or mother does not listen, then death will,’ ” Svyatoslav continued to ignore his mum…[4]

Olga “prayed for his son and for the people every day and night, bringing up his son to manhood and to his age.”[4]

“In the year…964…when Svyatoslav grew and matured, he began to collect a lot of brave warriors,…and [do] a lot of fighting.  In campaigns [there] drove behind him no carts, no boilers, not boiled meat, but thinly sliced horse meat, or animals, or beef and roasted on coals, [to] eat; He did not have a tent,” and he slept in crude conditions, “as [did] the rest of his men,…”[4]

Our way-back great-grandpapa Svyatoslav is said to have fought “incessant campaigns” [<- fancy words for fighting lots & lots of wars, just one after the other, after the other].

Until, at only age 28 years of age,

“in the year…972…when spring came, Svyatoslav went to the rapids…Prince Pecheneg…killed Svyatoslav, and took his head, and took the cup from the skull,…and drank from it.”[4]

Eyes ever-astonished at this, my imaginary great-grandchild concurs, So young…  Tsk tsk…  He should have listened to his mother…

He rEally should have, I murmur in agreement. 😉

The Death of Prince Svyatoslav I Suitaslav of Kiev [2]


An illustrated audio called, “The Life And Death Of Sviatoslav I of Kiev,” now at YouTube, may appeal to interested adults. 😉  (Exactly who uploaded it is not clear to this blogger, but, it’s quite good.)[5]



1. Norwegian genealogist and historian Signe Elisabeth Zijdemans, “Ahnentafel of Sally Marie Eilertsen Fjelse,” prepared 23 Oct., 2001; in possession of Susan M. Buckner.

2. Public domain photo; artist unknown.  [Educate me.]

3. Merlindale Diorama Company website [apparently no longer in existence]:  text accompanying [THE most WONDERFUL!] diorama poses of Prince Svyatoslav I Suitislaus.

4. Russian Primary Chronicle [author historically presumed to be Nestor, a monk], at, , accessed July, 2016.

5. “The Life And Death Of Sviatoslav I of Kiev,” YouTube [contributor not known to me], accessed July, 2016.

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