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Polovtsy, a nomadic Turkic-speaking tribal confederation (Polovtsy in Rus sources, Cumans in Western, Kipchaks in Eastern) began migrating in about 1017 or 1018 from eastern Mongolia and occupied the area stretching from Kazakhstan to the Danube by 1055. Politically disorganized and lacking a unified policy in their relations with Rus, various Polovtsian tribes became involved in Rus inter-princely conflicts and, at times, fought as Rus allies against other Polovtsy. Dynastic intermarriages often solidified Polovtsy-Rus political unions. Rus sources note two distinct Polovtsy: "Wild" (Rus enemies) and "Non-Wild" (Rus allies). Most Rus-Polovtsy confrontations resulted from their differing economies. As agriculturalists, the Rus desired to convert the steppe into cultivated lands, while the nomadic Polovtsy required the steppe for grazing animals. Consequently, conflict was inevitable: Rus sources often speak of Polovtsian raids on lands settled by Rus and subsequent Rus counterattacks. However, because of the political disunity of both sides, no permanent peace was ever reached, and by the 1230s and 1240s, both were conquered and absorbed into the Mongol Empire.

Polovtsy had settlements, probably occupied by impoverished Polovtsy and Rus migrants who practiced agriculture. Located between Rus and the Black Sea, Polovtsy controlled trade between the two regions and directly participated in commercial activities. For their livestock, they received agricultural products and luxury items from Rus. Controlling much of the Crimea (particularly Sudak), the Polovtsy engaged in the sale of slaves and furs to Byzantium and the Islamic East. While some Polovtsy may have converted to Christianity and Islam, the overwhelming majority retained their shamanist-Täri religion.

See also: crimea; kazakhstan and kazakhs; khazars; kievan rus; polyane; vikings.


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Golden, Peter B. (1991). "Aspects of the Nomadic Factor in the Economic Development of Kievan Rus'." In Ukrainian Economic History: Interpretive Essays, ed.I.S. Koropeckyj. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.

Golden, Peter B. (1992). An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Noonan, Thomas S. (1992). "Rus', Pechenegs, and

Polovtsy: Economic Interaction Along the Steppe Frontier in the Pre-Mongol Era." Russian History/Histoire Russe 19:301326.

Pritsak, Omeljan. (1982). "The Polovcians and Rus'."

Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 2:321280.

Roman K. Kovalev

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