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The Pechenegs of Vikings Valhalla were a real tribe you wouldn’t want to cross paths with

January 18, 2023

*WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Vikings: Valhalla Season 2*

After Season 1 of Vikings: Valhalla explored the events that unfolded in England and Norway in the early 11th century, the show’s just-released second season has certainly broadened its horizons.

After fleeing Norway after the fall of the Kattegat, Leif and Harald are tasked with escorting a shipment of valuable cargo from Novgorod to the great city of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul.

However, the journey promises to be dangerous as Harald’s uncle, Yaroslav the Wise, warns that a faction known as the Pechenegs has blocked the main trade route to their destination.

Naturally, Vikings: Valhalla fans had a lot of questions about the Pechenegs, but who were they and what happened to them in real life?


Harald and Leif meet the Pechenegs in Vikings: Valhalla season 2

The Pechenegs are first mentioned in Episode 2 of Vikings: The Second Season of Valhalla as Leif and Harald arrive in Novgorod to seek the aid of Harald’s uncle, Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, in his efforts to claim the Norwegian throne.

Yaroslav refuses, however, as he wishes to continue trading with Canute’s empire while the trade route to Constantinople is blocked by Pecheneg raids.

But Harald receives a lifeline when Lord Vitomir tasks Harald with escorting valuable cargo past the Pechenegs.

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Harald and Leif join a small group of travellers, including a blind Pecheneg named Kurya, on a slave ship owned by a man named Gestr and they set off through the frozen lands of southeastern Europe.

As the season progresses, more details about the Pechenegs are revealed and it is revealed that Kurya is the disgraced brother of the Pecheneg Khan.

In Episode 7, the surviving crew members encounter the Pechenegs firsthand as the boat runs aground after plummeting over a waterfall and Harald is taken prisoner – forcing Leif and the group to stage a rescue daring in the camp of Pecheneg, escaping only by the skin of their teeth after the arrival of the Khan’s forces.

Leo Suter as Harald Sigurdsson, Sam Corlett as Leif Eriksson in Vikings: Valhalla Episode 204Vikings: Valhalla © Netflix

Who are the Pechenegs in Vikings: Valhalla?

The Pechenegs were a true group of semi-nomadic Central Asian people whose homeland was located between the Aral Sea (a huge lake that has since dried up almost completely) and the Syr Darya River in Kazakhstan and the Modern Uzbekistan.

Throughout their existence, the Pechenegs were a people constantly on the move across the steppes of southeastern Europe, and by the time of the Vikings: Valhalla at the beginning of the 11th century, they had settled in this which would become Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria. in the world of today.

Each time they settled in a new place, the Pechenegs sent raiding parties against their neighbors, making the region very unstable during the period, hence the concern about the expedition to Constantinople as this means traveling directly through Pecheneg territory.

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However, during the 9th and 10th centuries, the Pechenegs allied with the Byzantines and fought against other tribes of Kyvian Rus, a huge state that encompassed a number of Eastern European and Slavic countries.

A Pecheneg Khan named Kurya (different from the Kurya in Vikings: Valhalla) is said to have betrayed the Prince of Kyiv, Sviatoslav I, during a later campaign against the Byzantines and, after killing him, used his skull as a chalice.

Uriel Emil as Tyrach in Vikings: Valhalla Episode 207Vikings: Valhalla © Netflix

What happened to them in real life?

Like the Vikings, the Pechenegs are no longer around today as a series of military defeats and population displacements drove them to extinction.

The costliest defeat for the Pechenegs came at the Battle of Levounion in 1091 when they were annihilated as an independent force by an army of Byzantine and Cuman troops under the command of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos.

Alexios I recruited the surviving Pechenegs and resettled them in Moglena (modern-day Macedonia), but they were again attacked by the Cumans in 1094.

Over the following decades, the Pechenegs began to assimilate with other tribes in the region of Romania and Bulgaria, gaining their last mention as a group in 1168 as members of the Turkic tribes.

Tolga Safer as Kurya, Hayat Kamille as Mariam in Vikings: Valhalla Episode 204Vikings: Valhalla © Netflix | Bernard Walch

Vikings: Valhalla season 2 is available to stream now on Netflix after releasing on Thursday, January 12, 2023.

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