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Pechenegs (pĕchənĕgzˈ) or Patzinaks (pätsĭnäksˈ), nomadic people of the Turkic family. Their original home is not known, but in the 8th and 9th cent. they inhabited the region between the lower Volga and the Urals. Pushed west (c.889) by the Khazars and Cumans, they drove the Magyars before them and settled in S Ukraine on the banks of the Dnieper. They long harassed Kievan Rus and even threatened (934) Constantinople. After unsuccessfully besieging Kiev (968) and killing the Kievan duke Sviatoslav (972), they were defeated (1036) by Yaroslav and moved to the plains of the lower Danube. Attacked (1064) by the Cumans, many Pechenegs were slain or absorbed. After once more besieging Constantinople (c.1091), they were virtually annihilated by Emperor Alexius I. Later there were significant communities of Pechenegs in Hungary.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Petchenegs), a tribal union that formed in the Trans-Volga steppes when Turkic nomads merged with Sar-matian and Finno-Ugric tribes. Ethnically, the Pechenegs were Europeoids with a small Mongoloid admixture, and they spoke a Turkic language. In the eighth and ninth centuries they lived between the Volga and the Urals, subsequently moving west under pressure of the Oghuz, Kipchaks, and Khazars. After defeating the nomadic Hungarians in the Black Sea steppes in the ninth century, the Pechenegs occupied a huge area from the lower Volga to the mouth of the Danube.

The Pechenegs were nomadic livestock breeders who lived according to a clan system. In the tenth century they were divided into eastern and western branches, which consisted of eight tribes, comprising 40 clans. The tribes were headed by grand princes, and the clans by lesser princes. The princes were elected by tribal and clan assemblies, although hereditary rule also existed. Prisoners captured by the Pechenegs in time of war were sold into slavery or sent home in exchange for ransom. Some captives were accepted into clans with complete equality of rights.

The Pechenegs invaded Russian lands in 915, 920, and 968. In 944 and 971 the Kievan princes Igor’ and Sviatoslav Igorevich led detachments of Pechenegs on campaigns to Byzantium and Danubian Bulgaria. In 972, at the instigation of the Byzantines, Pecheneg forces led by Khan Kura annihilated Sviatoslav Igore-vich’s druzhina (army) at the Dnieper rapids. In 1036, Iaroslav the Wise inflicted a crushing defeat on the Pechenegs near Kiev and put an end to their raids on Rus’.

In the 11th and 12th centuries many Pechenegs were settled in the southern part of Kievan Rus’ to defend the borders. In the tenth and 11th centuries Byzantine emperors tried to use the Pechenegs as allies in the struggle against Rus’ and Danubian Bulgaria. In the tenth, 11th, and 12th centuries the Pechenegs penetrated into Hungary, where they were settled both along the borders and within the country. In the 13th and 14th centuries the Pechenegs ceased to exist as one people, having merged partly with the Torks, Polovtsy, Hungarians, Russians, Byzantines, and Mongols.


Golubovskii, P. Pechenegi, torki i polovtsy do nashestviia tatar. Kiev, 1884.
Vasil’evskii, V. G. Trudy, vol. 1: Vizantiia i pechenegi. St. Petersburg, 1908.
Rasovskii, D. A. “Pechenegi, torki i berendei na Rusi i v Ugrii.” In Sb. st. po arkheologii i vizantinovedeniiu (Seminarium Kondakovia, vol. 6). Prague, 1933.
Pletneva, S. A. “Pechenegi, torki i polovtsy v iuzhnorusskikh stepiakh.” In Materialy i issledovaniia po arkheologii SSSR, no. 62. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958.
Pashuto, V. T. Vneshniaia politika Drevnei Rusi. Moscow, 1968.
Fedorov-Davydov, G. A. Kurgany, idoly, monety. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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