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The Problem Vikings Fans Have With Prince Oleg

History's Vikings is a show with a massive cast of characters, thanks to its sheer scope and the fact that its mortality rate is extremely high. Very few major characters from the first season are still in the game during the sixth one. Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) vanquished his powerful nemesis Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) in the very first season, and later met his own fate in the hands of King Ælle (Ivan Kaye). Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) is accidentally killed by Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø), Floki (Gustav Skarsgård) has been missing in action since he was seemingly buried alive in an Icelandic cave, and Rollo (Clive Standen) has been focusing on his cozy gig as the Duke of Normandy. Sure, the last two might still make an epic comeback during the second half of Vikings season 6, but since every season of the show tends to feature a significant death or six, it's no surprise that new characters are constantly moving to the forefront.

One of the more recent — and terrifying — additions to the show is Prince Oleg of Novgorod (Danila Kozlovsky), a fearsome royal who is known as "the Prophet," and who wields the might of the powerful Rus people. Oleg allies himself with Ragnar's nefarious son Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen), and they head for Scandinavia to attack the Viking forces, with Oleg's intention to bring Christianity to them. As such, Prince Oleg is essentially the biggest villain of Vikings season 6. 

However, some viewers have pointed out that the character has some pretty serious flaws, especially compared to his historical counterpart. Here's the problem Vikings fans have with Prince Oleg.

Some fans feel that Prince Oleg could be a more developed character

In a Reddit thread about Oleg's depiction on Vikings season 6, user Callmeannabel thinks the show portrays Prince Oleg as a fairly one-dimensional villain.  "[Vikings creator Michael] Hirst adopts the Primary Chronicle as his template for Oleg ... but then turns him into some sort of generic psychopathic power-hungry paranoid Bond villain who collects intelligence, manipulates, derives pleasure from torture and death ... and generally reminds me of Stalin," they wrote. 

Callmeannabel also points out that Oleg's determination to invade Scandinavia in the name of Christianity makes extremely little sense in the historical context. "Many of the Viking Rus converted to Christianity for the same reason Ubbe [portrayed on the show by Jordan Patrick Smith] or Rollo did in the show — political gains and alliances," the Redditor wrote. "I find it hard to believe that Oleg, only years after Rurik's death and the start of the Rus reign in Novgorod suddenly became so devout that he invaded Norway to establish Christianity."   

However, others feel that Oleg's exaggerated villainy is actually meant to serve Ivar's character development, so it's understandable that his Vikings incarnation isn't entirely based on history. "We have to remember that Ivar is the main focus in that storyline, and their relationship/conflict is what made it so interesting," Redditor Ghostface1357 wrote. "Oleg's ruthless tendencies and brutal killings helps Ivar realise who he is and whether he's willing to continue to be that person."

The historical Prince Oleg was an important figure, but he never attacked Scandinavia

Per Newsweek, the historical Prince Oleg of Novgorod was a powerful warrior and important ruler who significantly expanded the Rus influence. However, many of his recorded exploits seem rather mythical, and Vikings appears to take a similarly liberal approach to the character. For instance, there's no record of the historical Oleg having a peculiar interest in balloons, or killing his wife.

Vikings-Oleg's wish to take Kattegat and convert the Norwegians to Christianity doesn't seem to be based in history, either. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Oleg's domain was on the areas east and west of the Dnieper and Volkhov rivers. As on the show, the real ruler's most famous exploits focused on Constantinople. Meanwhile, there's no mention of his attack on Scandinavia. Britannica also notes that the first Christian Rus ruler was actually Vladimir the Great, whose reign came decades after Oleg. As such, the Vikings villain's Christianity-driven invasion attempt isn't really supported by history. 

Still, it's quite understandable that the show wanted to introduce Prince Oleg as a villain. After all, his Rus kingdom is probably the most powerful comparatively nearby force that Kattegat hasn't clashed against yet, so he and his army provide an adequately powerful challenge on the show's endgame season.