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Pechenegs or Patzinaks, also known as Besenyők, were a semi-nomadic steppes people of Central Asia that spoke a Turkic language. In the 8th and 9th centuries, they inhabited the region between the lower Volga, the Don and the Ural Mountains. The Pechenegs controlled much of the southwestern Eurasian steppes and the Crimean Peninsula during the 9th century.
The Byzantines allied with the Pechenegs, using them to fend off the more dangerous tribes like the Varangian Rus and Magyars. This was an old ploy used quite often by the Byzantines - to play off one enemy tribe against another potential enemy.
The Uz, another Turkic steppes people, expelled the Pecheneg from their homeland; in the process, they also seized most of their livestock and other possessions. An alliance of the Oghuz, Kimeks and Karluks were also pressing the Pechenegs; another group, the Samanids, defeated that alliance. Driven further west by the Khazars and Cumans by 889, the Pechenegs in turn drove the Magyars west of the Dnieper River by 892.
In 894, the Bulgars went to war against Byzantium. Early in 895, Emperor Leo Grammaticus invoked the help of the Magyar, who sent an army under a commander named Levente into Bulgaria. Levente conducted a brilliant campaign and occupied the Bulgarian capital while the Byzantine army entered Bulgaria from the south. Caught in a vice of Magyar and Byzantine forces, Tsar Simeon I realised he could not fight a war on two fronts. The quickly concluded an armistice with the Byzantine Empire.
In addition, the Tsar employed the help of the Pechenegs to help fend off the Magyars. The Pechenegs were so successful that they drove out the Magyars remaining in Etelköz in the Pontic steppes and forced them westward up the lower Danube, Transdanubia and towards the Carpathian Basin. The Magyars settled the regions of old Pannonia and Dacia in 895-896, and this region would eventually become the Kingdom of Hungary.
A long-time menace to the Kievan Rus, Pecheneg warriors ambushed and killed Sviatoslav I, Prince of Kiev in 972. According to the Chronicle of Bygone Years, the Pecheneg Khan made a chalice from Sviatoslav's skull (an ancient custom of the steppes cultures).
After centuries of Balkan warfare involving the Byzantine Empire, Bulgars, Varangian Rus and Magyars, the Pechenegs were routed at Levounion by a combined Byzantine and Cuman army in 1061. Attacked again 1064 by the Cumans, many Pechenegs were slain or absorbed. After the siege of Constantinople in 1091, the Pechenegs were virtually annihilated by Emperor Alexius I. Later, there were significant communities of Pechenegs in Hungary. However, the Pechenegs ceased to be a distinctive people and assimilated with neighboring peoples such as the Bulgars, Magyars and Gagauz.