By the middle of the 11th century, the nomadic Turkic-speaking people of the Polovtsy came close to the eastern and southern borders of the Old Russian state.
The first contact of the Russians with the Polovtsians was peaceful, the Kiev prince Vsevolod, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, entered into an alliance with them against the common enemy of the Torks.
After the victory over the Torks, the Allies quarreled, and, starting in 1061, an armed confrontation began between them. If the first clashes were viewed by the parties as a border conflict, then later they grew into a real war.
In September 1068, in the battle on the Alta River, the united Russian squads were defeated by Khan Sharukan. This defeat led to a complication of the internal political situation in the Kiev principality. The Kievans, who suffered a lot from the raids of the Polovtsy, were still ready to defend their land, they turned to Izyaslav with a request:
"Here the Polovtsians are in charge of our land … So give us weapons and horses, prince, and we will fight with them again!"
Because of Izyaslav's refusal to organize a new campaign against the nomads, an uprising broke out, during which the Polotsk prince Vseslav Bryachislavich, who was languishing in Kiev captivity at that moment, was brought to power.
Vseslav, whom popular rumor endowed with extraordinary abilities, however, could not solve the Polovtsian problem. The nomads continued to make devastating raids into the Russian principalities.
To secure the southern borders of Russia, the Chernigov prince Svyatoslav came out against the Polovtsians with a large, three thousandth squad. He was the third son of Yaroslav the Wise, and together with two brothers was one of the three persons of the Yaroslavich Triumvirate.
The forces of the enemy, according to Nestor the chronicler, were 12 thousand people, i.e. outnumbered the Russians by four times. Before the battle, Svyatoslav Yaroslavich addressed the soldiers with an appeal: “Let us fight! We have nowhere to go!"
The battle took place on November 1, 1068 on the Snov River, near the town of Snovsk (now Sednev), the Chernigov estate. The Russians struck first, defeated the Polovtsians, many of whom drowned in the river while fleeing. The Polovtsian Khan himself was taken prisoner, Nestor the chronicler does not name his name, and the Novgorod first chronicle says that it was Sharukan.
The revenge of the Russians was the first known victory over the Polovtsians, the threat hanging over Russia after the defeat at Alta was eliminated.