Kievan Rus
Battle of the Alta River
The field of Igor Svyatoslavich's battle with the Polovtsy ©Viktor Vasnetsov
1068 Jan 1

Battle of the Alta River

Alta, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine

The Cumans/Polovtsy/Kipchaks were first mentioned in the Primary Chronicle as Polovtsy sometime around 1055, when Prince Vsevolod drew up a peace treaty with them. In spite of the treaty, in 1061, Kipchaks supposedly breached the earthworks and palisades constructed by Princes Vladimir and Yaroslav and defeated an army led by Prince Vsevolod that had marched out to intercept them.

The Battle of Alta River was a 1068 clash on the Alta River between Cuman army on the one hand and Kievan Rus' forces of Grand Prince Yaroslav I of Kiev, Prince Sviatoslav of Chernigov, and Prince Vsevolod of Periaslavl on the other in which the Rus' forces were routed and fled back to Kiev and Chernigov in some disarray. The battle led to an uprising in Kiev that briefly deposed Grand Prince Yaroslav.

In Yaroslav absence, Prince Sviatoslav managed to defeat a much larger Cuman army on November 1, 1068 and stem the tide of Cuman raids. A small skirmish in 1071 was the only disturbance by the Cumans for the next two decades. Thus, while the Battle of Alta River was a disgrace for Kievan Rus', Sviatoslav's victory the following year relieved the Cumans' threat to Kiev and Chernigov for a considerable period.