The Battle of the River Alta in 1068: Causes and Consequences

The battle on the river Alta between the Russian princes,sons of Yaroslav the Wise, and the Polovtsian army occurred in 1068. News of this battle was not preserved in the chronicles, and yet it became one of the biggest clashes during the Russo-Polovets confrontation. This fight should be seen as part of the long wars between the young Old Russian state and the steppe world of the Polovtsians.


The battle on the river Alta was the result of previous clashes between the Russian princes and the Polovtsians. Historians conditionally distinguish three stages of struggle:

  • 11th century;
  • the reign of Vladimir Monomakh;
  • the second half of the 12th - the beginning of the 13th century.

Battle of the Alte River

In the 11th century, instead of Pechenegs, the territory of the NorthernThe Black Sea region was inhabited by new steppe tribes, which from time to time carried out periodic raids on Russian lands. At the same time, they did not seek to win a young state, they limited themselves only by plundering the population of principalities and leading people into captivity. Their number reached several hundred thousand people, while in the Old Russian state, according to estimates of scientists, there were about five and a half million people. Nevertheless, despite such a difference in the number of people, the Cumans represented a serious threat to Russia. The first mention of these warlike nomadic tribes is contained in the Tale of Bygone Years, 1061, when they attacked Pereyaslavl lands where one of Yaroslav the Wise's younger sons reigned.


The battle on the river Alta ended in defeatYaroslavichi. The reason for such a failure should be sought in the historical conditions of the existence of the Old Russian state in the 11th century. If in the period of struggle against the Pechenegs the princes acted together, at the time being their forces were disunited because of the onset of fragmentation.

The prince's troops no longer represented themselves, asbefore, a single military force, boyars could freely move from one ruler to another, and each of them felt himself a full-fledged master on his land. Nevertheless, the Battle of the River Alta demonstrated the possibility of uniting forces in the face of a common threat. Three princes - Izyaslav of Kiev, Svyatoslav of Chernigov and Vsevolod of Pereyaslav - united to fight against a common enemy. However, not all the princes acted unanimously. So, they captured their brother Vseslav Polotsky and held him hostage in the capital.

Battle and consequences

The Battle of the River Alta occurred in September 1068of the year. At the head of the Polovtsian army was Khan Sharukan, nicknamed Old. The battle ended with the defeat of the Russian troops, the princes fled the battlefield, and the Polovtsi began to plunder the neighborhood of Kiev, which caused discontent among the inhabitants. The princes refused to organize a new campaign against the enemies, and then an uprising began in the city. Izyaslav Yaroslavich himself fled to Poland to King Boleslaw II, who sent his army to help.

Battle of the river Alta between brothers Yaroslavich and Polovtsi

The second prince, Svyatoslav, with a small squadcame out to meet the enemy and defeated his superior forces. This happened in November 1068, near the town of Snovsk. The Novgorod first chronicle of the junior digress even reports that Khan Sharukan himself was captured by a Russian squad. However, this information is not considered accurate until the end, since the Tale of Bygone Years, telling about these events, does not name the captive Khan. One way or another, but the Polovtsian threat was permanently liquidated, although in the seventies of the 11th century there was a small clash between them and the Russian squad. In addition, we must not forget that the Polovtsian rulers from time to time intervened in internecine wars between Russian princes, sometimes even becoming their allies.


The Battle of the River Alta between the Yaroslavichi brothers andPolovtsi is known not only for the battle itself, but also for the serious political consequences it had for the history of the Old Russian state.

battle on the river Alto with Polovtsy

After the refusal of the princes to organize a new campaignagainst Polovtsians, the inhabitants of Kiev raised an uprising, liberated Vseslav Polotsky and demanded to protect the city. The unrest spread to other regions, covered a number of villages, and in some of them the Magi guided the dissatisfied. The population of Kiev held power for seven months. Izyaslav regained power with the help of the Polish forces, Vseslav Polotsky fled the city.

Measures of princes

The battle on the river Alta with Polovtsi led toa serious internal political crisis. After the uprising was suppressed, and Izyaslav again sat down to reign in Kiev, he together with his brothers published a collection of laws, which was called "The Truth of Yaroslavich."

the battle on the river Alta with Polovtsi occurred

The decisions of the brothers concerned first of allprotection of princely, feudal and boyar property, from which it can be concluded that the Polovtsian invasion led to serious clashes between the higher and lower strata in society. So, the battle on the river Alta with the Polovtsians occurred at a time when the social contradictions in the Old Russian state were aggravated.

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