THE COSSACK REVOLUTION AND THE COSSACK STATE
Paul Robert Magocsi
Excerpts from the book ”History of Ukraine”, Toronto / 1996
Khmel'nyts'kyi and the Revolution of 1648
Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi is the central figure in Ukrainian history during the seventeenth century. Some have also considered him the most important leader in modern Ukrainian history. First of all, it was during his tenure of less than a decade as hetman (1648-1657) that the Cossacks, and with them half of Ukraine's territory, changed their allegiance from Poland to Muscovy. This proved to be the beginning of a process that was to result in the further acquisition by Muscovy of Ukrainian territory from Poland until the final disappearance of the Common¬wealth from the map of Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. Even more important for Ukrainian history was the fact that Khmel'nyts'kyi succeeded in bringing most Ukrainian lands under his control and in ruling the territory as if it were an independent state. His Cossack state consequently provided an inexhaust¬ible source of inspiration for future generations of Ukrainians, many of whom strove to restore what they considered to have been an independent Ukraine under Khmel'nyts'kyi.
Hetman Bohdan Zinovii Khmel'nyts'kyi
A pivotal figure in the history of ecistern Europe during the seventeenth cen-tury, Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi has been viewed in radically different ways. Not sur¬prisingly, traditional Polish historiography considered Khmel'nyts'kyi the leader of a destructive uprising that seriously undermined and eventually destroyed the Polish state, while Russian historiography has viewed him as a leader who success¬fully led the Orthodox 'Little Russians' into the fold of a united Russian state. Ukrainian writers see Khmel'nyts'kyi as an outstanding leader who successfully restored the idea of national independence that had lain dormant since Kievan times. Although some Ukrainians may criticize him for his sociopolitical and dip¬lomatic failures, especially his decision to submit to Muscovy, all agree that his rule was a crucial turning point in Ukrainian historical development. Jewish histo¬rians of eastern Europe view Khmel'nyts'kyi as the instigator of the first genocidal catastrophe in the modern history of the Jews. They point out that not only was the vibrant Jewish community in Ukraine largely decimated, but this early 'holo¬caust' brought about the inner-directed and mystic emphasis which marked the subsequent development of eastern Europe's Ashkenazi Jews. Finally, Soviet Marxist writers, both Russian and Ukrainian, tended to stress the popular revolu tionary aspect of the Khmel'nyts'kyi years. Beginning in the 1930s, they placed the Cossack leader into that small but politically significant pantheon of acceptable pre-Soviet national heroes, especially because he was so instrumental in setting out along a course which led to the 'reunification' of the brotherly Ukrainian and Russian peoples. Thus, for some, Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi has been a hero, either qualified or of the highest order, while by others he is seen as a villain or even the devil incarnate. Who was this man, whose career is still the subject of historical debate and contemporary political polemic?
Khmel'nyts'kyi's Early Career
Bohdan Zinovii Khmel'nyts'kyi was born about 1595. His actual birthplace has not been determined with certainty, although many believe it was his father's estate ai Subotiv, near Chyhyryn, not far from the Dnieper River and about forty-three miles (seventy kilometers) south of the frontier town and Cossack center at Cher- kasy. The boy's father, Mykhailo, was a registered Cossack of gentry origin, proba¬bly from Belarus, who had served in Galicia (in the town of Zhovkva) on the staff of the renowned early seventeenth-century Polish general Hetman Stanislaw Zolkiewski. Subsequently, Mykhailo Khmel'nyts'kyi was invited by the district starosta at Chyhyryn to serve in that town, where he soon became viee-starosta and settled on an estate in nearby Subotiv, where his son Bohdan was later born.
Hetman Stanislaw Zolkiewski
In the absence of an Orthodox school in the relatively near city of Kiev (one was not opened there until 1615), Bohdan was sent to a Jesuit school in Galicia (at Jaroslaw). After completing his education, he served with his father and the Cossacks who fought with Hetman Zolkiewski in the latter's abortive campaign against the Turks in 1620. Both Zolkiewski and Mykhailo Khmel'nyts'kyi were killed at the Battle of Cecora/Tsetsora Fields, near Ia§i in Moldavia, while the young Bohdan was captured and sent to Constantinople. For the next two years, until his mother forwarded enough money to redeem him, Bohdan studied Turk¬ish and became thoroughly acquainted with Ottoman and Crimean politics as well as with the difficulties faced by the Greek Orthodox church in the sultan's capital. After his return home in 1622, Khmel'nyts'kyi served with the registered Cossacks in his native region of Chyhyryn.
At this time, during the 1620s and 1630s, Khmel'nyts'kyi was known to favor an increase in the number of registered Cossacks and an extension of their privi¬leges, and he was even suspected of having participated in the Ostrianyn rebellion of 1638. Acting on that suspicion, the Polish authorities demoted him from colo¬nel to captain (sotnyk) and allowed him to serve in that position as head of the Chyhyryn Cossacks. During the relatively peaceful years after 1638, Khmel'nyts'kyi turned his attention to his estate near Chyhyryn, where he seemed destined to spend the rest of his life as a typical registered Cossack whose primary object was to enhance the status of his group so that it might eventually be accepted as on a par with the nobility (gentry) in the rest of Polish-Lithuanian society. But the steppe zone in which Khmel'nyts'kyi, like his father before him, lived was under¬going rapid colonization and change, and without the appropriate documents the Khmel'nyts'kyi family's claims to noble status meant little to aggressive magnates who had a tradition of appropriating lands from the gentry, whether or not they were of proven noble status. Accordingly, Khmel'nyts'kyi's social status remained uncertain, and he was forced to seek a modicum of security by rendering military service to the king or by engaging in economic activity in an effort to increase at least his material wealth.
The uncertainty of his own position was responsible for Khmel'nyts'kyi's favor¬ing changes on behalf of the registered Cossacks, whose status had declined after the abortive revolts of 1637—1638. He was particularly encouraged by King Wladyslaw IV's plans in 1646 to organize a new crusade against the Ottomans. Courted for their military potential, the Cossacks saw the king's plans as offering a way of improving their own situation. In fact, Khmel'nyts'kyi was one of a four- member Cossack delegation summoned to Warsaw in 1646 to negotiate with the king. So much the greater, then, was his disappointment when the Polish nobility succeeded in thwarting Wladyslaw's effort. Nonetheless, the Cossack delegation supposedly received a secret charter from the king, which promised to restore those privileges the Cossacks had enjoyed before 1638. Khmel'nyts'kyi was anx-ious to obtain a copy of this charter for himself.
The first few months of 1647 witnessed a series of events that was to mark a turning point in Khmel'nyts'kyi's life. Because of his importance as a historical figure, it is not surprising that many legends have grown up around him, in partic¬ular about this crucial period in his life. The more colorful of these legends, drawn from several later sources, make up what the historian Mykhailo Hrushevs'kyi has dubbed the 'Khmel'nyts'kyi affair.' The so-called affair refers to a 'struggle over a woman' named Matrona/Helena, in whom Khmel'nyts'kyi - himself married with a family — supposedly had an amorous interest. Eventually, Helena married Khmel'nyts'kyi's local rival, the Polish vice-starosta of Chyhyryn, Daniel Czaplinski. Just before Czaplinski won the hand of Helena, he raided Khmel'nyts'kyi's estate at Subotiv, appropriated its movable property, and at some point flogged the Cossack leader's son, who as a result of his injuries died soon after. The violence and terror undoubtedly contributed to the untimely death of Khmel'nyts'kyi's wife sometime in 1647.
Khmel'nyts'kyi was a business rival of Czaplinski's superior, the Chyhyryn star- osta, Aleksander Koniecpolski, who for his part felt that the Cossack leader was encroaching on his liquor monopoly. In response to the raid on his estate, Khmel'nyts'kyi sought justice in the local court but was unsuccessful. He then journeyed to Warsaw and put his case before the Polish Senate. There, too, he received no satisfaction. While in the capital, he even turned to King Wladyslaw, who, though he sympathized with Khmel'nyts'kyi, admitted that he was powerless to intervene in Poland's szlachta-controlled legal and administrative system.
Wladislaw IV Vasa (1595-1648).
King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania
Khmel'nyts'kyi's appeals to the royal court and Senate in Warsaw served to alienate his enemies further, and after returning home in late 1647 he was promptly arrested on Koniecpolski's orders. Helped by friends, Khmel'nyts'kyi managed to escape and, with nowhere else to turn, decided to follow in the foot¬steps of hundreds of discontented registered Cossacks and lower gentry before him. In January 1648, he fled to the Zaporozhian Sich and its Cossack host, who lived in relative safety beyond the reach of the Polish authorities.
These basic facts were later embellished by several authors in such a way that the long-standing political, social, and economic friction between Poles and Cos¬sacks was made to seem less important as motivating Khmel'nyts'kyi's actions than his supposed rivalry with a minor local Polish official over the love of a woman. In the end, however, it was not a personal quarrel over 'Helena of the steppes,' but the ever-present social, religious, and national tensions in seventeenth-century Ukraine that set the stage for a series of events which would result in profound changes in both Ukrainian and Polish society.
The Revolution of 1648
While the Zaporozhians may have been subdued after the failure of the revolts in 1637 and 1638, they were not eliminated. Now it seemed that the right leader - one who they heard was even trusted by the king - had arrived in Zaporozhia in the person of Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi. Khmel'nyts'kyi immediately set out to allay the traditional attitude of suspicion on the part of the Zaporozhians toward the 'gentrified' registered Cossacks, and before the end of January 1648 he was elected hetman. The new hetman anticipated conflict with the Poles and, drawing on his experience with the Ottoman world, concluded an alliance with the Crimean Tatars. Although Poland's governing circles were divided on how to han¬dle this new Cossack threat, the view of the supreme military commander, Crown Hetman Mikolaj Potocki, prevailed. Joined by his son Stefan (stationed at the Kodak fortress) and the army of another Polish commander, and confident in their military superiority, Potocki undertook a preemptive attack against the Zaporozhian Sich. But to their surprise the Polish forces were intercepted en route and defeated by a joint Zaporozhian-Tatar army under Khmel'nyts'kyi at the Battle of Zhovti Vody on 5-6 May. In the course of the battle, Stefan Potocki was captured by the Tatars (he later died of his wounds), and the registered Cos¬sacks on the Polish side deserted to Khmel'nyts'kyi. With this expanded Cossack- Tatar force, Khmel'nyts'kyi was able to pursue the Poles and defeat them in a second battle, at Korsun', on 15-16 May, in which both Polish commanders were captured. To make matters worse for the Poles, King Wladyslaw died on 16 May, the day of their defeat at Korsun'.
The Zaporozhian Cossacks
Upon hearing the news of the Cossack victories, discontented elements throughout the Kiev palatinate were inspired to revolt. Peasants drove out or killed their Polish landlords and Jewish estate managers; Orthodox clergy called for vengeance against Roman Catholic and Uniate priests; and townspeople plot¬ted against the wealthy urban elements. Thus, by the summer of 1648, two of Poland's leading commanders had been captured, its large eastern army had been defeated, its Ukrainian peasant population was in revolt, and its king was dead. Moreover, Poland's traditional enemies - the Zaporozhian Cossacks and the Tatars - were flushed with victory and there seemed no defense against them. Undoubtedly, the Ukrainian peasant masses and the vast majority of the unregis tered Zaporozhian Cossacks were ready to rid themselves of Polish rule once and for all. But was Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi ready?
Khmel'nyts'kyi's way of life, like that of other relatively comfortable registered Cossacks, was the way of life of an aspiring country gentryman. While he had been personally wronged by local rivals, his initial goal was simply to obtain justice. If justice could not be obtained through legal channels, then a military victory against the Polish army might force the authorities to act favorably on his behalf. Even after Khmel'nys'kyi had defeated Poland's eastern army twice, it is likely that he would have welcomed the possibility of remaining a subject of the king of Poland if he had been assured of personal legal redress and the restoration to his fellow registered Cossacks of the privileges they had enjoyed before the abortive revolt of 1637-1638. It was too late to go back, however, whether he wanted to do so or not. Khmel'nyts'kyi's actions, motivated by personal resentment, set in motion a sequence of events over which he did not have complete control. He had to ride the waves or be submerged.
At first, Khmel'nyts'kyi tried to resist the Cossack-peasant uprising, which after doing away with the local Polish nobility would, he surmised, probably turn on the Ruthenian gentry and registered Cossacks as well. He hoped to find support among Poles for his desire to control what he considered the excesses of the revolution. In June 1648, pretending not to know of the king's death, Khmel'nyts'kyi stopped his army at Bila Tserkva, just southwest of Kiev, and sent an emissary to Warsaw demanding that the traditional Cossack privileges be restored; that the number of registered Cossacks be increased to 12,000; that the Cossacks be paid for their services of the last five years; and that the Orthodox church be treated justly, in particular by having the churches and monasteries still held by the Uniates restored to it. In return, the hetman pledged his loyalty to the king.
The Polish Diet was overjoyed with Khmel'nyts'kyi's modest demands and agreed to have them considered by the new king, whom they were still in the proc¬ess of choosing. Khmel'nyts'kyi then returned to his estate near Chyhyryn and in early 1649 even managed to marry Matrona/Helena, after her short-lived mar¬riage to Czaplinski was annulled. It seemed that Khmel'nyts'kyi was on the verge of obtaining all he had wanted.
Events were not to leave him in peace, however. Other Cossack leaders, like the popular Maksym Kryvonis and Danylo Nechai, led the peasant masses and unregistered Cossacks in new revolts which heaped further destruction on Roman Catholic Poles, Uniate Ukrainians, and Jews throughout the Kiev palati¬nate. These revolts had a particularly devastating impact, in both the short and the long term, on the Jews (see chapter 27). The number of Jewish victims during the period from 1648 to 1652 has been estimated at from the tens to the hun¬dreds of thousands, and no exact number is ever likely to be known. Whatever the exact number, or whoever was responsible - the peasants, the Zaporozhian Cossacks and their independent-minded leaders like Kryvonis and Nechai, or the Crimean Tatars, who sold captured Jews in the Ottoman slave markets - it is Khmel'nyts'kyi who is held to blame in Jewish sources to the present day. The widely used Encyclopedia Judaica describes him with borrowings from Jewish chroniclers: '"Chmiel the Wicked", one of the most sinister oppressors of the Jews of all generations, ... and the figure principally responsible for the holocaust of the Polish Jewry in the period.'
His reputation among Jews remains unchanged, 'even though in reality,' the same source admits, 'his control of events was rather limited.'1 Whatever the validity of Jewish opinion about Khmel'nyts'kyi, the fact remains that in the socioeconomic system of the Polish-Lithuanian Common¬wealth the Jews, alongside the Poles, had come to represent the oppressor. In the great social upheaval which began in 1648, the Jews found themselves caught between the proverbial hammer and anvil, and the result was the destruction of many of their communities.
Click on the map for better resolution
By the summer of 1648, the Cossack-peasant revolts had spread farther west, into Podolia. At this point, an influential polonized Ukrainian magnate from the Left Bank, Jeremi Wisniowiecki, took matters into his own hands. Impatient with discussions of the Cossack question on the part of the Polish government in Warsaw, Wisniowiecki decided to attack the rebels. He was repulsed, however, by Kryvonis. This development also prompted Khmel'nyts'kyi to come out of his short-lived seclusion. He marched westward toward Volhynia, where in September 1648, together with Kryvonis, he routed a large Polish army of 80,000 soldiers near the village of Pyliavtsi. The Cossack army then moved on to L'viv, where after suc-cessfully cutting off the city from outside aid, they accepted a ransom from the urban authorities. Now the way to Warsaw was open, and Khmel'nyts'kyi was urged by his Cos¬sacks to strike there, at the heart of Poland. He set out in the direction of Warsaw but in November stopped at Zamosc, about a third of the way between L'viv and Warsaw. Once again, in the hope of gaining greater concessions from the Polish government, Khmel'nyts'kyi preferred negotiation. The hetman's conditions were the following: (l) that traditional privileges be restored to the Cossacks; (2) that free access to the Black Sea, without Polish forts like Kodak to block their way, be granted them; (3) that the right to depend on the king alone, not on local Polish officials, be given the hetman; (4) that amnesty be extended to all partici¬pants in the rebellion; and (5) that the Union of Brest and thus the Uniate church be abolished. The new king, Jan Kazimierz (reigned 1648-1668), prom¬ised to do his best to fulfill these conditions. He asked Khmel'nyts'kyi to cease hostilities and to return home in the meantime.
Prince Jeremi Wisniowiecki
Considering the broken Polish promises in the past - whether because of an absence of good will on the part of the king or, more likely, the interference of the Polish nobility - one might well wonder how it was possible for Khmel'nyts'kyi to believe things would be different this time. But whether or not he believed the Poles, Khmel'nyts'kyi still hoped to function within the Polish-Lithuanian Com¬monwealth. As a result, he agreed to put a stop to unruly Cossack and peasant rebellions and to return home.
Khmel'nyts'kyi as a national leader
The hetman's attitude began to change, however, after his arrival in Kiev. At the head of a victorious Cossack army, which had within the space of less than a year defeated Poland's leading military forces, Khmel'nyts'kyi entered Kiev on Christ¬mas Day (according to the Julian calendar) in January 1649. There he was greeted by the Orthodox metropolitan of Kiev, Syl'vestr Kosiv, and by the patriarch of Jerusalem, Paisios, who was in Kiev at the time. As they had done with Hetman Sahaidachnyi in 1620, the Orthodox hierarchy provided a religious and national ideological context for Khmel'nyts'kyi's actions. The hetman was called a mod¬ern-day Moses who had succeeded in leading his Ruthenian people out of Polish bondage. In the opinion of the Orthodox leadership, the events of the past year had a bearing on the religious and cultural survival of the whole Ruthenian people (Ukraini¬ans and Belarusans), and not just the particular interests of a single group, whether Khmel'nyts'kyi himself, or the registered Cossacks, or the Zaporozhian Host as a whole. Patriarch Paisios was particularly concerned with the interna¬tional implications of the events in Ukraine. With the long-term goal of mobilizing the whole Orthodox world to free the church from the Ottoman yoke, the patriarch urged Khmel'nyts'kyi to work in close harmony with the neighboring Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Walachia and to recognize the authority of the tsar of Muscovy.
Khmel'nyts'kyi was undoubtedly affected by the new role conferred upon him. He is reported to have said to commissioners of the Polish king: 'I have hitherto undertaken tasks which I had not thought through; henceforth, I shall pursue aims which I have considered with care. I shall free the entire people of Ruthenian from the Poles. At first I fought because of the wrongs done to me personally; now I shall fight for our Orthodox faith.... I am a small and insignificant man, but by the will of God I have become the independent ruler of Ruthenia.'
Whether or not Khmel'nyts'kyi fully grasped the leadership role in which fate had cast him, in practical terms it was impossible for him to control the peasant uprisings or to expect that the masses, having had a taste of freedom, would calmly return home to their duties within the Polish socioeconomic system. Moreover, the hetman must have been impressed by the Orthodox hierarchy's expecta¬tions of him, expressed by no less than a patriarch from the Holy Land itself. Khmel'nyts'kyi proceeded to undertake diplomatic negotiations with Moldavia. Walachia, Muscovy, and its allies the Don Cossacks, as well as with Protestant Transylvania and the Lithuanian Prince Radziwill, who because of their own anti- Catholic interests might help him in his anti-Polish efforts. By the spring of 1649. when the king's negotiator Adam Kysil' - himself an Orthodox Ruthenian nobleman loyal to Poland - met with Khmel'nyts'kyi again, the change in the Cossack hetman was evident. Khmel'nyts'kyi now called himself 'Autocrat of Ruthenia by the Grace of God' and talked of liberation for all the Ruthenian people living in the Polish- Lithuanian Commonwealth.
It seemed inevitable that hostilities would break out again. By the summer of 1649, Khmel'nyts'kyi, together with his CrimeanTatar allies, had surrounded the Polish army led by King Jan Kazimierz at Zboriv. A peace, or, more precisely, a truce, was signed in August whereby (1) the number of registered Cossacks was raised to 40,000; (2) the Kiev, Chernihiv, and Bratslav palatinates (collectively known as Ukraine) were declared Cossack territory, to be rid of the Polish mili¬tary, Jews, and Jesuits; (3) the Orthodox metropolitan was to be given a seat in the Polish Senate; and (4) an amnesty was declared for nobles who had participated in the uprising. Apart from the 40,000 on the register, those others who called themselves Cossacks as well as the rebellious peasants were expected to return as serfs to their landlords. While the clergy and Cossack officers were satisfied with the Zboriv agreement, the peasants and peasants-turned-Cossack clearly were not.
Khmel'nyts'kyi once again seemed to be wavering in his role as leader of the whole Ruthenian (Ukrainian and Belarusan) society. After all, he was imbued with gen¬try values and concerned with social stability; he was not a revolutionary who favored the overthrow of the social order. In any case, the Zboriv peace gave him a convenient respite in which to begin organizing a structure for the rapidly expanding Cossack state. He made Chyhyryn the hetman's capital and from there conducted extensive diplomatic negotiations in an effort to find allies who would share his vision of eastern Europe.
Khmel'nyts'kyi's vision departed from the traditional approach of the Chris¬tian powers, whether that of Catholic Poland and the Habsburgs or that of Ortho-dox Muscovy backed by the Eastern patriarchs. The traditional alliances had instinctively been directed against the Ottoman 'infidels.' Khmel'nyts'kyi, how-ever, hoped to form a great coalition of Orthodox, Islamic, and Protestant powers - Moldavia, the Ottoman Empire, the Crimean Tatars, Transylvania, and Lithua¬nia's powerful Protestant figure Prince Radziwill - to force Poland's rulers to make structural changes in their society. The Cossack hetman also hoped to entice Poland's rival in the west, Brandenburg, and even Cromwell's Protestant England into helping him force the restructuring of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as a federation of three equal states - Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine - to be headed by a new king, Gyorgy Rakoczi of Transylvania.
The key to this grandiose scheme was initially the Danubian principality of Moldavia, where Khmel'nyts'kyi and the Tatars led a campaign in 1650 to force the Moldavian ruler (Vasile Lupu) to give his daughter in marriage to the het- man's son, Tymish. The marriage finally took place in 1652, but only after further Cossack military intervention, which alarmed neighboring Walachia and Tran¬sylvania and led to war with those two states and the death of Tymish in 1653.
Prince Jeremi Wisniowiecki at Berestechko
Khmel'nyts'kyi's war with the Poles continued while he was being drawn into Danubian politics. The attempted alliance with Lithuania's Prince Radziwill failed (the prince instead sided with the Poles and captured Kiev during the Polish- Cossack conflict of 1651); the Cossacks were defeated in June 1651 at the Battle of Berestechko, in Volhynia; and Khmel'nyts'kyi agreed to abide by conditions set in the peace treaty signed at Bila Tserkva (September 1651). The Bila Tserkva agree¬ment reduced the number of registered Cossacks to 20,000 and restricted their residence to the royal lands of the Kiev palatinate. The Bratslav and Chernihiv palatinates were returned to Polish governmental administrators, and nobles were allowed to return to their estates. Although the Bila Tserkva treaty was never rati¬fied by the Polish Diet (it was blocked by the application of one member using the privilege of the liberum veto), Khmel'nyts'kyi upheld its provisions, even sending Cossack detachments to put down peasant uprisings against returning Polish noblemen in the Kiev palatinate. Not surprisingly, the hetman's actions caused great discontent among the peasants and unregistered Cossacks, who in despera¬tion moved farther east to lands along the upper Donets' and Don Rivers that were under Muscovite control. There they were allowed to form tax-exempt settle¬ments, known as slobody, from which the whole region got its name - the Sloboda lands, or Sloboda Ukraine. Khmel'nyts'kyi was able to defeat Polish armies in 1652 (at Batih, in Bratslav) and in 1653 (at Zhvanets', in Podolia), and in the treaty signed at Zhvanets' (December 1653) the favorable conditions established by the 1649 Zboriv treaty were restored.
It was becoming increasingly clear to Khmel'nyts'kyi, however, that his efforts against the Poles could at best end in a stalemate, with no real improvement for the Cossack lands within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Also, with the death of his son, Tymish, in August 1653, it was equally evident that the hetman's diplomatic effort to create a grand coalition against Poland had become entan¬gled in the uncertainties of Danubian politics and in the end had produced noth¬ing positive. Even his military alliances with the Crimean Tatars had proved uncertain at best - the khans having chosen to negotiate independently with the Poles during the battles at Zboriv (1649) and Zhvanets' (1653) and having retreated at a critical moment during the battle at Berestechko (1651). Finally, Khmel'nyts'kyi's intention to submit as a vassal to the Ottomans (his submission was proposed in 1650 and confirmed by Istanbul in 1652) resulted in little more than the sultan's urging the Crimean khans to help the Cossacks. With failure evident in all corners, there seemed only one course of action left whereby Khmel'nyts'kyi might break the military and political stalemate with Poland. That alternative was the tsardom of Muscovy, and it is there that Khmel'nyts'kyi turned next.
Muscovy and the Agreement of Pereiaslav
Khmel'nyts'kyi's efforts to create an international coalition of the Cossacks, the Ottoman Empire, and its vassal states directed against Poland had failed. The ongo¬ing military conflict with Poland moreover, had reached a stalemate. Accordingly, by 1653 the Cossack hetman had been forced to conclude that forming an alliance with Muscovy might be the sole means of helping the Ruthenian-Ukrainian cause. In fact, at the instigation of the visiting Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, the Zaporozhian Cossacks had been negotiating with Muscovy since the very outset of the 1648 rev¬olution, and the discussions became more frequent beginning in early 1652. But what was Muscovy's view of the Cossack problem and, in particular, of the Ukrain¬ian territories? And what did the tsar and his advisers think of Khmel'nyts'kyi's con¬tinual requests to form an alliance? Before trying to answer these questions, it is necessary to glance, however briefly, at developments in Muscovy itself.
Muscovy was only one, and initially not the most important, of the several northern Ruthenian lands which followed a separate historical development after the transformation of Kievan Rus' in the thirteenth century. At that time, Muscovy was a principality within the Grand Duchy of Vladimir-Suzdal', which, alongside Novgorod, was the most powerful center in northern Rus'. From their capital city, Vladimir-na-Kliazma, the rulers of Vladimir-Suzdal' claimed they were the successors of the grand princes of Kievan Rus'. It was also to Vladimir-na-Kliazma that the head of the Orthodox Ruthenian church, the metropolitan of Kiev, went after the Mongol invasion, and eventually, in 1299, he transferred his residence there. But any possibility of the northern Ruthenian lands' being united under the leadership of Vladimir-na-Kliazma or any other city was thwarted by the Mongols of the Golden Horde. The Mongols' military strength enabled them to enforce a policy whereby the northern Rus' principalities, whose rulers were their vassals, remained inde¬pendent of one another and dependent solely on the khans in their capital at Sarai, on the lower Volga.
The rise of Muscovy
It was precisely during the period of greatest Mongol political influence in the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries that the various principalities within the Grand Duchy of Vladimir-Suzdal' (Rostov, Suzdal', Tver', and others) increas¬ingly asserted their independence. Among them was Muscovy, which also proved the most deferential to Mongol rule. As a result, Muscovy was granted certain favors by the Golden Horde. In the fifteenth century, by which time the Golden Horde had itself broken up into three khanates (the Crimean, the Astrakhan', and the Kazan'), the Grand Duchy of Muscovy, led by a series of talented and able rulers, took the opportunity to begin uniting the northern Rus' lands. This proc¬ess was largely completed during the reign of Grand Duke Ivan III (reigned 1462- 1505) at the beginning of the sixteenth century. It is important to note that Ivan III considered as part of his goal to gather together not only the northern, or Rus¬sian, territories of former Kievan Rus', but the Belarusan and Ukrainian territo¬ries as well. Muscovy, however, was not yet completely independent of the Kazan' and Astrakhan' Tatar khanates along its eastern and southeastern borders, which claimed the annual tribute formerly paid to the Golden Horde. Nor was Muscovy a match for the powerful Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which firmly controlled the Ruthenian (Belarusan and Ukrainian) lands in the west and south.
The Grand Duchy of Muscovy consequently had for the moment to be content with control only over the northern Rus' lands. But ideologists around Ivan III seemed to be preparing for the future. They emphasized Muscovy's supposed right to the so-called Kievan inheritance, implicit in Muscovy's considering itself a 'Second Kiev' - the political and cultural successor to Kievan Rus'. Also of sym¬bolic importance was the marriage of Ivan III, a descendant of the Riuryk dynasty, to a Byzantine princess, which linked Muscovy (as similar marriages had linked Kievan Rus' centuries before) with the imperial heritage of Byzantium. Moreover, the head of the Orthodox Rus' church, who retained the title Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus', under pressure from Muscovite rulers had transferred his resi¬dence from Vladimir-na-Kliazma to Moscow in 1328. Then, in the mid-fifteenth century, on the eve of Ivan Ill's accession to power, the Muscovite church began its evolution toward autocephaly. Beginning in 1448, the metropolitans in Mos¬cow were elected without the approval of the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople. Ecclesiastical circles also made possible the revival of chronicle writing in Muscovy and other northern Rus' lands, in which scribes composed new texts and 'improved' on the old with the object of having all such accounts support the dynastic claims of the Muscovite princes that they were descended from Riuryk and his Kievan successors Volodymyr the Great and Iaroslav the Wise. Finally, under Ivan Ill's successor, Vasilii III (reigned 1505-1533), the idea of Moscow as the Second Kiev was enhanced by the use of an even more prestigious epithet whereby Moscow became the 'Third Rome.'
Thus, by the beginning of the sixteenth century, Muscovy had all the ideological symbols necessary for implementing its claim to be the political successor of Kievan Rus', the inheritor of the Orthodox mantle from Byzantium (which had fallen in 1453), and therefore the rightful ruler of all the East Slavs who inhabited the Rus' patrimony - Russians, Belarusans, and Ukrainians.
But much still had to be accomplished in the realm of politics. In large measure, it was accomplished during the second half of the sixteenth century under the Muscovite ruler Ivan IV (reigned 1547-1584), known in history by the epithet 'the Terrible,' or, more precisely, 'the Dread.' Ivan IV was the first Muscovite ruler to be crowned as tsar, or absolute ruler in the tradition of Rome's caesars. His realm was thereby transformed into the tsardom of Muscovy, with a nominal claim to universal rule. Under Ivan IV, the domination of the Tatars was finally broken as both the Kazan' and the Astrakhan' khanates were destroyed. With his eastern flank secured, the aggressive tsar was able to turn his attention to the west. There the results were mixed. Although in 1558 the Muscovites were finally able to break the power of the Livonian Knights (the last of the Teutonic military orders to survive along the Baltic Sea in what is present-day Latvia and Estonia), their doing so created a power vacuum into which Sweden and Lithuania entered. The consequence was almost a quarter century of cosdy wars between these two powers as well as against Muscovy for control of Livonia. It was also during these struggles that the borderland between Muscovy and Lithuania - the regions around Smolensk, Starodub, and Chernihiv - changed hands several times. And it was this Muscovite threat to Lithuania's eastern borders that encouraged the grand duchy to draw closer to Poland and to agree to the Union of Lublin in 1569.
Such foreign military campaigns were extremely costly to Muscovy, and at the time of Ivan IV's death in 1584 the tsardom was in a shambles. The limited success of Ivan's foreign ventures was matched by the disastrous results of his domestic policies. These policies were directed at weakening the power of the boyars, the wealthy magnates who had ruled Muscovy during his youth. Despite Ivan's brutal methods, the boyars were not entirely eliminated as a political force. When the tsar died in 1584, he left no suitable successor. This was because he had murdered his eldest son with his own hands in a characteristic fit of rage in 1581; his succes¬sor Dmitrii died under mysterious circumstances in 1591; and his only other legitimate heir, Fedor, was mentally retarded. Consequently, the tsardom of Muscovy entered a period of boyar rule that was to last almost three decades. Marked by widespread civil war, famine, and foreign invasion, this period came to be known as the Smutnoe Vremia, or Time of Troubles. The very existence of the Muscovite state seemed to hang in the balance.
Muscovy, Poland, and Ukraine
It was during Muscovy's Time of Troubles that Poland, strengthened after its unification with Lithuania in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569, came to play a dominant role in Muscovite politics. Polish-Lithuanian armies invaded Muscovy several times at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The Poles supported a pretender to the Muscovite throne (the so-called False Dmitrii), and after 1608 Poland's King Zygmunt III put forth his own son, the future Wladyslaw IV, as a candidate for tsar. With the help of the Zaporozhian Cossacks under Het- man Sahaidachnyi, the Poles occupied Moscow on several occasions. Although Polish forces were finally driven out in 1612, Wladyslaw IV, who was elected king of Poland in 1632, continued for the next few years to claim the Muscovite throne.
In 1613, Muscovy's Time of Troubles came to an end with the election of a new tsar, Mikhail Romanov (reigned 1613-1645). He became the founder of a new dynasty, the Romanovs, who were to rule Muscovy and later the Russian Empire until 1917. Tsar Mikhail and his successor, Aleksei (reigned 1645-1676), succeeded in restoring order within the Muscovite tsardom. It was also during their long reigns that the basis of the modern Russian state evolved. That state was marked by one overriding characteristic - centralized authority. By the last years of Mikhail's reign in the 1640s, the power of the aristocratic boyars (as expressed in their council, the Zemskii sobor) had diminished, and a bureaucratic structure had been set up throughout Muscovite territory to act as a conduit for all authority, which rested in the person of the tsar. Special chancelleries were established in Moscow to admin¬ister towns and rural areas. It was through these chancelleries that the central government issued decrees (gramoty) instructing the residents of each town and rural district how to run their administrations. Soon nothing could be done in the tsardom without instructions from the chancelleries in Moscow. Complementing this administrative structure was a social structure that became highly stratified as well. Each individual from the tsar down to the peasant had a given place in society, and the primary function of each was service to the state. Such stratification allowed for a stable tax base from which the central authority could draw funds.
Accordingly, by the mid-seventeenth century the two states which had come to control most of eastern Europe - Poland and Muscovy - had completely different political structures. Whereas in Poland the authority of the elected king was circumscribed by the Polish nobility (magnates and gentry) through the central Diet (Seym) and local dietines (sejmiki), and whereas in the countryside the resident magnates and gentry ran their properties as autonomous entities with almost no interference from a central government, in Muscovy the boyars (magnates) had lost their political prerogatives to a hereditary tsar who ruled the country through an increasingly complex bureaucratic system in which, correspondingly, it became more and more difficult to act without the approval of the central government.
In one respect, Poland and Muscovy were similar. Both came to establish socio-economic and judicial systems that transformed their respective peasant populations into serfs. In Muscovy, that process began in the late fifteenth century and was complete by the mid-seventeenth century. In 1649, a new law code (the Ulozhenie) outlined fully all aspects of the service state, in which the primary function of each individual was service to the state. The code, which remained the basis of Russian law until as late as 1833, legalized serfdom and bound the peasants to the land. Land was often awarded to the Orthodox church or to individuals within the military or civil service, and the serfs attached to land that became their property were forbidden to leave it.
It was during the Time of Troubles (1584—1613) that Ukrainians increased their contacts with Muscovy. Registered Cossacks who served in the Polish army participated in Poland's numerous invasions of Muscovite territory, which thus became a source of booty. Before long, however, Muscovy became for Ukrainians not simply a place to raid, but a source of aid. This was particularly the case with regard to religious affairs.
As a result of the Union of Brest in 1595, the Orthodox church was outlawed in Poland-Lithuania. Although the church managed to survive in that country's Ukrainian- and Belarusan-inhabited lands, thanks to the dedication of a few Ruthenian magnates, the brotherhood movement, the monasteries, and the political pre¬sure of the Cossacks, its situation remained precarious. This continued to be true even after 1632, when the Orthodox hierarchy was finally permitted to function legally once again. Consequently, during the decades following the Union of Brest the beleaguered Orthodox church in Poland sought help from other Ortho¬dox states, in particular Muscovy.
By the 1620s, Ukrainian monasteries were making frequent requests to the Orthodox tsar in Moscow for money to build churches or to purchase vestments. Then, beginning in 1623 and each year thereafter Ukrainian monks arrived in Putivl', Okhtyrka, and other towns along the Polish-Muscovite border begging the tsar to allow them to come to Muscovy in order to practice 'the Christian [Orth¬dox] faith, which the Poles want to suppress.'1 At the same time, Orthodox hier- archs like Metropolitan Iov Borets'kyi of Kiev and Bishop Isaia Kopyns'kyi of Przemysl, both secretly consecrated in 1620 but not recognized by the Polish government, sent messages or traveled personally to Muscovy, asking the tsar to take their land and its inhabitants under his 'mighty hand.' Even after the Orthodox church hierarchy of Poland-Lithuania was legalized in 1632, traditionalist hier- archs continued to express pro-Muscovite attitudes, especially as they were in opposition to the pro-Polish and Latin-oriented policies of the new Orthodox metropolitan of Kiev, Petro Mohyla.
Finally, large numbers of peasants and discontented Cossacks sought refuge by fleeing to Muscovy. Even before the outbreak of the revolution, in the decade between 1638 and 1648, as many as 20,000 people emigrated from the Left Bank to Sloboda Ukraine, the free-settlement frontier just north of what is today Kharkiv and the Russian-Ukrainian border. The migrants went east for several reasons. They were fleeing the spread of Poland's expanding manorial system, or they were refugees from the Cossack uprisings, the most recent being the unsuccessful ones in 1637 and 1638. Also, in general they hoped to find greater psycho¬logical and physical security under tsarist rule.
Precisely what kind of psychological and physical security? First, the Orthodox Ukrainians and Belarusans of Poland-Lithuania would no longer be discriminated against or persecuted for their religion under tsarist rule. Second, Muscovy offered greater protection against Tatar raids, which, despite the existence of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, still took their annual toll of the Ukrainian population. The Polish response to the Tatar threat was to build fortified centers near the edge of the steppe zone, staffed, usually, with registered Cossacks. The Tatars naturally could and did ride around these centers. In contrast, the Muscovites, beginning in the late sixteenth century, built a series of solid walls (zasechnaia cherta) consisting of felled trees and palisades of sharply pointed logs inter¬spersed with fortified cities. These lines were built progressively farther south until a major defence system known as the Belgorod Line had been constructed, between 1635 and 1651. The Belgorod Line ran for more than 480 miles (770 kilometers) from Okhtyrka, near the Polish border, straight across Sloboda Ukraine through Belgorod and on to Voronezh, father northeast (see maps 16 and 20). Along this line twenty cities were founded between 1637 and 1647, half of them in Sloboda Ukraine. An extension of the Belgorod Line was built farther south toward the Donets' River. Behind these lines emigrants from Ukraine sought refuge. Thus, Orthodox inclinations and migrational patterns revealed that a pro-Muscovite attude among Ukrainians had existed long before Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi ever came on the scene.
Khmel'nyts'kyi and Pereiaslav
Khmel'nyts'kyi himself had become part of this pro-Muscovite trend. Despite his victories in May 1648 over the Polish armies at Zhovti Vody and Korsun', the Cossack hetman remained concerned that the conflict with Poland was not yet over. Hence, between June 1648 and May 1649 he addressed seven letters to Muscovy asking for military assistance, offering Cossack services to the tsar, and expressing the hope that at the very least the Muscovite army would not attack his Tatar allies. At that very moment, however, the tsar was incapable of action, since Moscow itself was facing a serious revolt that was to last through the summer and early fall of 1648. Moreover, the nineteen-year-old, still politically weak Tsar Aleksei was reluctant to antagonize Poland, which he would certainly do if a Muscovite- Zaporozhian alliance were concluded.
While it is true that at the beginning of the seventeenth century Muscovy had succeeded in re-establishing internal order after the Time of Troubles, in foreign affairs the tsardom remained on the defensive, especially vis-a-vis Polish military might. For instance, as late as 1634, Polish kings still laid claim to the Muscovite throne, and after military campaigns in 1618 and again in 1633-1634 Muscovy was forced to give up to its western rival territories around Smolensk and Severia (including Starodub and Chernihiv). Faced with continual Crimean Tatar raids from the south and a potential Swedish invasion of Livonia, along the Baltic Sea, Muscovy did not feel it could afford to alienate Poland. Thus, Tsar Aleksei's refusal of Khmel'nyts'kyi's requests in 1648-1649 was understandable.
Khmel'nyts'kyi's victories during the next two years, however, revealed that Poland's armies were not invincible after all. Consequently, when the Cossack leader, having exhausted his Balkan and Ottoman foreign policy ventures, turned to Tsar Aleksei on numerous occasions between 1652 and 1653, much had changed. The Russian Orthodox church, led by its new and enterprising patriarch Nikon (reigned 1652-1681), was anxious to reform itself by using the intellectual talents of Ruthenian churchmen trained in Mohyla's Collegium at Kiev. Nikon, who was the tsar's closest adviser on Ukrainian matters, urged the Muscovite government to support the Cossacks' requests. It is not surprising, therefore, that it was the Russian Orthodox patriarch who was serving as the mediator when in April 1653 Khmel'nyts'kyi's envoys asked the tsar to extend his protection over the Cossacks. Finally, in June of that year, Tsar Aleksei agreed to accept the Zaporozhian het¬man and his Cossacks 'under the tsarist majesty's high arm.'
As a result of this decision, Muscovite ambassadors were dispatched in late December 1653 to meet with Khmel'nyts'kyi. The meeting place chosen was the town of Pereiaslav, along the Dnieper River, halfway between Kiev and the het- man's capital of Chyhyryn. According to Muscovite sources, on the day of the ambassador's arrival the local archpriest led a multitude of Pereiaslav's citizens to greet the Muscovite envoys and to 'thank God for having fulfilled the desire of our Orthodox people to bring together Little and Great Rus' under the mighty hand of the all-powerful and pious eastern tsar.'2
The negotiations at Pereiaslav lasted for several days during the month of January 1654. Disagreements arose because the Cossacks expected that the tsar would swear an oath to them, as was the practice for Polish kings. Moreover, the Orth¬dox metropolitan of Kiev, Syl'vestr Kosiv (reigned 1647-1657), was opposed to negotiations that he feared would lead to the subordination of his jurisdiction to the patriarch of Muscovy. In the end, Khmel'nyts'kyi and the Cossacks did swear an oath of allegiance to the tsar, after which the Muscovite envoys were sent to sev¬eral other Ukrainian cities to administer the oath.
The 1654 agreement of Pereiaslav, which resulted in the union of the Cossack- controlled territory of Ukraine with Muscovy, actually consisted of three elements: (1) the oath sworn by the Cossacks and the people of Pereiaslav and other Ukrain¬ian cities in January 1654; (2) Khmel'nyts'kyi's twenty-three 'Articles of Petition,' brought to Moscow by his delegates in March 1654; and (3) the tsar's response in the form of eleven articles issued later that same month. In addition, several charters were issued between March and August 1654. These various charters included agreement as to certain basic principles. The Cossacks and the Ukrainian people as a whole swore allegiance to the tsar. The Zaporozhian army was granted confirmation of its rights and liberties, including the independence of Cossack courts and the inviolability of Cossack landed estates. The Zaporozhian army was to elect hetmans, who must swear allegiance to the tsars. Chyhyryn was to remain the het- man's capital, from which relations with foreign countries (with the exception of Poland and the Ottoman Empire) could be conducted. The number of registered Cossacks was fixed at 60,000, all of whom were to receive wages from that part of the revenue from Ukraine to which the tsar was entitled. The tsar would provide the Cossacks with military supplies. The traditional rights of the Ukrainian nobility were confirmed. Urban dwellers could elect their own municipal govern¬ments. Finally, the Orthodox metropolitan and other clergy throughout Poland- Lithuania were to be 'under the blessing' of the patriarch in Moscow, who promised not to interfere in ecclesiastical matters.
Alexey Mikhaylovich Romanov (1629-1676),
Tsar of Russia
When the negotiations between the Cossack envoys and the Muscovite govern¬ment were finally completed in August 1654, the tsar's title was changed from Tsar of All Rus' (vseia Rusii) to Tsar of All Great and Little Rus' (vseia Velikiia i Malyia Rusii). Thus, without having made any special effort, Tsar Aleksei had taken a sig¬nificant further step toward Muscovy's goal, set out in the late fifteenth century by Grand Duke Ivan III, to unite under one Orthodox ruler all the lands formerly within the sphere of medieval Kievan Rus'.
The agreement of Pereiaslav subsequently proved an important turning point in eastern European history. It signaled a gradual change whereby Muscovy, not Poland, became the dominant power in the region. As for Ukraine, 1654 ended a six-year period which marked the culmination of more than a half century of Cossack struggle for autonomy within Poland. When the Polish solution no longer seemed feasible, the Cossacks sought autonomy within Muscovy instead.
Historians have debated at length the juridical significance of the agreement - or treaty, as some say - at Pereiaslav. Some consider it to reflect the incorporation of Ukraine into the tsardom of Muscovy with guarantees for autonomy, whether based on a treaty (B.E. Nolde) or on personal union (V. Sergeevich). Others consider Ukraine to have become a kind of semi-independent vassal state or protec¬torate of Muscovy (N. Korkunov, A. Iakovliv, M. Hrushevs'kyi, L. Okinshevych). Still others see it as no more than a military alliance between the Cossacks and Muscovy (V. Lypyns'kyi), or an 'atypical' personal union between two juridically equal states (R. Lashchenko).
Aside from the debates among legal scholars and historians, Pereiaslav and its reputed architect, Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi, have taken on a symbolic force in the story of Ukraine's relationship with Russia and have become the focus of either praise or blame. For instance, in the nineteenth century the Ukrainian national bard, Taras Shevchenko, designated Khmel'nyts'kyi the person responsible for his people's 'enslavement' under Russia (see chapter 28). The government of Tsar Alexander III (reigned 1881-1894), however, erected in the center of his¬toric Kiev a large equestrian statue of Khmel'nyts'kyi, his outstretched arm point¬ing northward as an indication of Ukraine's supposed desire to be linked with Russia. After World War II, the Pereiaslav myth was resurrected, this time by Soviet ideologists, who, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the agreement in 1954, transformed the event into the ultimate symbol of Ukraine's 'reunifica¬tion' with Russia, from whom it had been forcibly separated by foreign occupation since the fall of Kievan Rus'
Whatever writers subsequently have speculated about Pereiaslav, one thing is certain: after 1654, the tsardom of Muscovy - which within seventy-five years would be transformed into the Russian Empire - considered Malorossiia (Little Russia, i.e., Ukraine) its legal patrimony. Since the tsar considered Little Russia part of his Kievan Rus' inheritance, whatever rights or liberties he granted the Cossacks at Pereiaslav were gifts he could take back whenever he wished. But if Pereiaslav provided legitimization for tsarist rule over Ukraine, for the highest Cossack officers (the starshyna) it took on the character of an institutional charter which they felt both defended and guaranteed their administrative distinctiveness within the Russian Empire.
Even though the tsar subsequently reconfirmed and even amended 'Little Russian rights and liberties' whenever a new hetman took office (1657, 1659, 1663, 1665, 1669, 1672, 1674, 1687), and even though new wars would be fought and borders changed, the Ukrainian territory, basically east of the Dnieper River, that was acquired in 1654 was henceforth to remain within a Muscovite or Russian state. By the end of the eighteenth century, further territorial acquisitions had been made whereby most Ukrainian lands (with the exception of Galicia, Buko- vina, and Transcarpathia) found themselves within the Russian Empire. It is with Pereiaslav, then, that one can speak of the beginnings of a new Muscovite or Rus¬sian phase in Ukrainian history.
The Period of Ruin
The agreement concluded at Pereiaslav in 1654 resulted in an extension of Mucovy's borders to include the Zaporozhian Cossacks and the Ukrainian-inhabited Polish palatinates of Chernihiv, Kiev, and Bratslav, as well as the Zaporozhian steppe farther south on both sides of the bend in the Dnieper River. The agreement, however, did not bring peace to Ukrainian lands. Rather, it ushered in, or, perhaps more precisely, simply continued, a period of conflict marked by foreign invasion, civil war, and peasant revolts which was to last uninterruptedly until 1686, when a so-called 'eternal peace' was concluded between two of the three dominant powers in the region, Poland and Muscovy.
The years 1657 to 1686 at times witnessed an almost complete breakdown of order. All or some of these years have been characterized in Ukrainian history as the Period of Ruin (Ruina), whose very beginning (1655-1661) is known in Polish history as the Deluge (Potop). These characterizations represented the eastern variant of a series of political and social convulsions that at the time were racking all of Europe, from England and Ireland in the west to Russia in the east, and from Scandinavia in the north to Italy and Spain in the south, referred to by historians as 'the crises of the seventeenth century.' In a sense, these crises represented the culmination of a struggle which had been taking place for several centuries within many European states, between a centralized authority, usually vested in a king, on the one hand, and rival political centers, often noble and urban estates, on the other. The struggle has also been viewed as a phase in European history in which the political power of representative assemblies (the English Parliament, the French Etats Generaux, the Muscovite Zemskii Sobor, etc.) was either substantially reduced or entirely eliminated and replaced by governing systems in which all power rested in the hands of monarchs who, with their closely controlled administrations, attempted to rule in a more efficient and, so they pretended, enlightened manner.
In this new era of enlightened absolutism, states like the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which maintained the tradition of diffused power, seemed fated to lose ground against more highly centralized and absolutist neighbors — whether Brandenburg in the west, Sweden in the north, Muscovy in the east, or the Austrian and Ottoman empires in the south. Moreover, the age did not augur well for those elements on the periphery of established states, such as the Cossacks, whose desires for local autonomy and the maintenance of an estates system in which they would have special privileges were out of step with the general trend in European society. After the seventeenth century, this trend favored the development of strongly centralized and bureaucratized state structures. In this sense, it might be argued that the efforts of the Cossacks to preserve their autonomy in Ukraine represented an anomaly doomed from the start - unless, of course, they could create an independent and centralized state structure of their own.
Indeed, there were some Cossacks, especially from among the registered and officer class (the starshyna), who tried to create a distinct and viable state structure. But they were continually opposed by unregistered and other independent- minded peasants-turned-Cossack farther south in Zaporozhia, whose only goal seemed to be to maintain a society free of any kind of control beyond their own traditional and rudimentary democratic local order. Faced with these contradictions within Cossack society, the only reasonable solution for those Cossacks seek¬ing social stability was to attempt to obtain autonomy within some existing state. In the short run, this solution proved feasible, although in the long run loss of autonomy and absorption by the controlling state structure turned out to be inev¬itable. The process, of course, which now appears inevitable in historical hindsight, was neither apparent nor complete for at least another century. The Period of Ruin between 1657 and 1686 can be seen as the first stage in this long process.
The Period of Ruin in Ukrainian history is marked by such complexity that it will be possible to discuss only its basic outlines here. Briefly, the period began with the death of Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi, by which time Poland and Muscovy were already engaged in a war as a result of Ukraine's placing itself under the sovereignty of the tsar in 1654. The period ended in 1686 with an agreement between Poland and Muscovy to recognize each other's sphere of influence over Ukraine, which they divided roughly along the Dnieper River.
Changing international alliances
The agreement of Pereiaslav in 1654 prompted an immediate change in the alliance structure in eastern Europe. The new Muscovite-Cossack alliance forced the Crimean Tatars, who were traditional enemies of Muscovy, to break with the Cossacks and to form an alliance with the Poles instead. Tsar Aleksei, feeling confident in the military potential of his new subject, Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi, decided to launch a pre-emptive attack on Poland as early as April 1654. His goal was not only to acquire the long-disputed territories along the Muscovite-Lithuanian border, but also to detach the Belarusan lands from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and to include them in the recently created Muscovite-Ukrainian federation. In fact, the Belarusan peasants rebelled against their Polish and Lithuanian landlords, welcomed the tsar as liberator, and helped make possible Muscovy's conquests in 1656 as far as Vilnius and Kaunas. At that point, Aleksei even changed his title once again, this time from Tsar of All Great and Little Rus' to Tsar of All Great and Little and White Rus' (vseia Velikiia i Malyia i Belyia Rusii). Aleksei seemed about to realize the age-old Muscovite dream of uniting all the Orthodox lands that had once been part of Kievan Rus'.
Meanwhile, the Poles and their new Tatar allies were ravaging the Bratslav palatinate in Ukraine, until Khmel'nyts'kyi, with Muscovite help, finally fought them to a military stalemate in January 1655 (the Battle of Dryzhypole). The Cossacks and Muscovites cooperated in military matters, including operations in Galicia, but at the same time Khmel'nyts'kyi continued to follow an independent diplomatic policy. For instance, he wanted the newly conquered Belarusan lands incorporated into a Cossack state, and in order to be certain that Poland would be permanently damaged he joined with Poland's enemies to the north, west, and south - namely, Sweden, Brandenburg, and Transylvania. All these states were led by Protestant rulers who hoped to destroy Roman Catholic Poland once and for all. Sweden's armies under King Charles X Gustav (reigned 1654-1660) invaded Poland in 1655 and captured both Warsaw and Cracow. Sweden was joined by Brandenburg, which had its own designs on Polish-controlled Prussia. Eventually, Lithuania (led by the son of the Protestant Janusz Radziwill) and the majority of Poland's nobility recognized Sweden's Charles X as their king.
Click here to read more about the events in Poland and around it during the described period
It was precisely at this moment, when Poland was at its nadir, that a wave of patriotism spread through the country, inspired by accounts of the defence of the Catholic monastery of Czestochowa. The otherwise politically contentious and militarily passive nobility was moved by a new-found sense of patriotism and united behind their king. With support from Poland's nobility, assistance from the Tatars, and the signing of a truce in November 1656 with Muscovy (who now feared the expansion of Swedish influence), King Jan Kazimierz was able to restore his authority.
Khmel'nyts'kyi, meanwhile, was disturbed by Muscovy's truce with Poland. Since he considered himself a free political agent (notwithstanding agreement of Pereiaslav), he took the opportunity to renew diplomatic alliances with Moldavia, Walachia, and Transylvania in the south and with Lithuania, Branden¬burg, and Sweden in the north. This move reflected a basic change in his diplomatic orientation, from dependence on the Islamic world (the Ottoman Empire and the Crimea) to alliance with Protestant northern and southern Europe (Sweden. Brandenburg, and Transylvania), which he hoped might bring independence for Cossack Ukraine. According to the negotiations over the future division of Poland, the Cossacks and each of the Protestant allies were to obtain parts of the kingdom.
These plans all hinged on the military success of Sweden. Charles X, however, was for the moment interested in the Brandenburg theatre of operations. Moreover, the Swedish king faced political difficulties at home which forced him to withdraw his troops from Poland during the second half of 1656. In the end, the grand alliance was limited to Transylvanian troops under the Hungarian Protestant prince Gyorgy II Rakoczi (reigned 1648-1660) and Khmel'nyts'kyi's Cossacks. But instead of cooperating, the Zaporozhians and Transylvanians clashed over what each considered their rightful share of territorial spoils in Galicia and Volhynia. Thus, Khmel'nyts'kyi's grandiose diplomatic plans - this time based primarily on an alliance with Protestant countries — failed once again to result in the destruction of Poland. Moreover, the Cossack hetman's new diplomatic ventures alienated the Muscovites and his recently acquired sovereign, Tsar Aleksei, who in response tried to weaken Khmel'nyts'kyi's authority by sowing discord within the Zaporozhian army. At this critical moment, in August 1657, the hetman died.
The pattern for Ukrainian politics set by Khmel'nyts'kyi was to be followed by his successors. Unable to create an independent state structure of their own, and desirous of acquiring an advantageous position within some existing state, the Zaporozhian leaders decided that their future and the future of Ukraine lay with Orthodox Muscovy. Nonetheless, almost from the outset Khmel'nyts'kyi consid¬ered himself independent of the tsar and was not averse to following an independent foreign policy. Also, the long-standing friction between the so-called Cossack starshyna (i.e., the hetman, his officers, and the well-to-do registered Cossacks) on the one hand and the mass of more socially undifferentiated Cossacks in Zaporo- zhia on the other — a friction which was evident under Polish rule during the first half of the seventeenth century and which surfaced on more than one occasion during the 1648 revolution — was now being used by the Muscovite government for its own purposes. Essentially, from their base at the sich along the lower Dnieper River the Zaporozhian Cossacks and their peasant supporters favored the alliance with the tsar. For its part, Muscovy used Zaporozhian loyalty as a counterweight to the independent-minded policy of the hetman and the Cossack starshyna. Of course, the Muscovite government knew that their erstwhile and somewhat reluctant allies, the Cossack starshyna, were not averse to renewing traditional alliances with the Poles if they felt doing so would bring them greater advantages.
The Cossack turn toward Poland
Khmel'nyts'kyi's successor, Hetman Ivan Vyhovs'kyi, chose the Polish orientation. Vyhovs'kyi was elected hetman in 1657 by the starshyna, but he was immediately challenged by Cossacks in the Zaporozhian Sich. The reason was simple. Even the universally respected Khmel'nyts'kyi had gotten his revolutionary start by going to the Sich and being chosen hetman by its members. Hence, when Vyhovs'kyi tried to go around the Sich by dealing directly with the starshyna, the Zaporozhians rebelled. The rebellion, led by Iakiv Barabash and joined by Cossacks in the Poltava region under Martin Pushkar, was aided by Muscovy.
In the end, Vyhovs'kyi was able to defeat the Zaporozhian rebels as well as their allies, although he remained disenchanted with Muscovy's interference in Cossack affairs. While not breaking entirely with the tsarist government, he signed a treaty with Sweden in October 1657 (at Korsun'), which promised the creation of an independent Cossack state that would include Calicia and Volhynia as well as eastern Ukrainian lands. When the Swedish alliance failed to produce concrete results, and when it became clear that Muscovy would lend its support to the anti-starshyna Cossack rebels, Vyhovs'kyi, with the counsel of his talented advisor Iurii Nemyrych, decided to try once again to reach an accord with the Poles. Nemyrych was a Ruthenian magnate who before 1648 had converted to Protestantism and become one of Protestantism's intellectual mentors in Poland. He subsequently served with the Polish army against Khmel'nyts'kyi and later favored the election of a Protestant king to the throne of Poland, from either Transylvania or Sweden. Finally, in 1657 Nemyrych entered the service of Hetman Vyhovs'kyi, and soon afterward he returned to the fold of Orthodoxy.
Ivan Vyhov’skyi (Wyhowski), Hetman of the Ukraine in 1657-1659
Nemyrych promoted the idea that for Poland to survive it should be transformed into a federation of three states - Poland, Lithuania, and the Grand Duchy of Ruthenia. Although the Cossack negotiators originally demanded that Galicia and Volhynia be part of the new state, in the end the Grand Duchy of Ruthenia was to consist of the Ukrainian palatinates of Kiev, Chernihiv, and Bratslav. Ruthenia, together with the two other members of the tripartite federation, Poland and Lithuania, would sign a mutual defence pact which also set as its goal the conquest of the shores of the Black Sea. Muscovy could become part of the confederation should it so desire. As for Ruthenia, it would have its own judicial system, treasury, and mint and a Cossack register of 30,000 men to be paid by the government as well as a standing army of 10,000 men under the Zaporozhian hetman. The officers of these forces would be elected by their own members and, most important, the Cossack starshyna would be recognized as a social estate equal to the Polish gentry. In that context, each year the hetman would recommend to the king 1,000 Cossacks to receive the hereditary patent of nobility. Moreover, all Cossack and Polish landholdings confiscated after 1648 would be returned to their original owners. Finally, the Uniate church would be abolished within the Grand Duchy of Ruthenia; the Orthodox church would be made fully equal to the Roman Catholic church throughout Poland-Lithuania; Kiev's Orthodox Collegium would be raised to the status of an academy; and a second Orthodox higher institution of learning would be established. Nemyrych's final version of the treaty was put forward to the Poles in the small town of Hadiach in September 1658. Notwithstanding the opposition of Poland's Roman Catholic nobility to many of the terms, the plan, which became known as the Union of Hadiach, was approved by the Polish Diet in 1659.
The Union of Hadiach could be viewed as an attempt by a far-sighted political thinker to create a framework for federation among eastern Europe's warring Christian political powers: Poland, Lithuania, Muscovy, and the Zaporozhian Host. Conversely, it could be viewed as yet another attempt by the Cossack elite, the starshyna, to gain legal entry into the Polish nobility and thereby become part of the ruling stratum of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. After all, the Union of Lublin, which in 1569 had created the Commonwealth, was basically the union or equalization of two dominant estates, the Polish and the Lithuanian nobility. The proposal at Hadiach was to add a third component, the Ruthenian nobility of Cossack origin. In this sense, the Union of Hadiach could be considered another attempt by one segment of Orthodox Ukrainian society to assure itself of a legally and socially recognized place within the ruling structure of what was to be known as the Grand Duchy of Ruthenia within a Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian Commonwealth. In the end, the Hadiach proposal was an ingenious attempt to satisfy the demands of the Cossack starshyna as well as to achieve peace among the region's warring states.
Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian-Ruthenian Commonwealth, as per the Treaty of Hadiach (Click on the map for better resolution)
The proposed arms of the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian-Ruthenian Commonwealth
Unfortunately for the plan's proponents, the problem of the semi-independent Zaporozhian Cossacks was not resolved, since at best only a few of their elite might have been ennobled. Much more difficult to overcome was the heritage of animosity toward the Poles among broad segments of Ukraine's population, who still remembered the wars of the Khmel'nyts'kyi period. Finally, the disenfranchised Zaporozhians distrusted Hetman Vyhovs'kyi and continued to look toward Muscovy, which in any case was not about to join the Hadiach confederation. Thus, the Union of Hadiach died a stillborn death.
Despite its failure, Hadiach warrants attention for two reasons. It was the last attempt to resolve the Ukrainian or Ruthenian problem as a whole within a Polish frame¬work. Moreover, it was used by later apologists for Poland as an example of the sup¬posed tolerant nature of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. More important, Hadiach revealed how much less interested were the leading social strata in Ukraine in attaining independence for their homeland than in retaining or expanding their own social and political privileges within an existing state. If their own interests could not be furthered in Poland, then perhaps Muscovy might offer a better chance. In essence, the whole Period of Ruin in Ukrainian history can be viewed as a time when the Cossack starshyna continually shifted its allegiance from Poland to Muscovy and sometimes even to the Ottoman Empire in a desperate attempt to find a strong ally that would guarantee its leadership role within Ukrainian society. The starshyna was hampered in its efforts, however, by two forces: (l) the governments of Poland and Muscovy, each of which had its own preferences as to how 'peripheral' areas within its realm should be governed; and (2) the lower-echelon Cossacks from Zaporozhia and the peasants, who from the outset were opposed to the idea of replacing rule by a Polish or polonized Ruthenian aristocracy with rule by their 'own,' but a no less oppressive, Cossack aristocracy.
Anarchy, ruin, and the division of Ukraine
During this era of continual civil war and foreign invasion, the Cossack starshyna had little effective control over events. The proposed Union of Hadiach, for instance, was viewed by Muscovy as a declaration of war, and in the spring of 1659 Tsar Aleksei sent an army of 100,000 troops to invade Ukraine. Although the Muscovites were defeated by a combined Polish-Tatar-Cossack force near Konotop (8 July 1659), Hetman Vyhov'kyi's position was not improved. Revolts, especially on the Left Bank and in Zaporozhia, led by Cossacks who were discontent with the starshyna's pro-Polish orientation resulted in the demise of Vyhovs'kyi in September 1659.
Following the Battle of Konotop in 1659, a new stalemate developed between Muscovy and Poland. What evolved was a situation whereby the Cossack state was divided between a Polish sphere of influence on the Right Bank and a Muscovite sphere of influence on the Left Bank (including Kiev and the region west of the city). Within each of these spheres, periods of cooperation were counterbalanced by periods of conflict involving various factions: the governments of Poland or Muscovy; the Cossack starshyna; the lower-echelon Cossacks, led by the sick, and the peasantry. There were efforts made by a few Cossack hetmans like Khmel'nyts'kyi's second son Iurii Khmel'nyts'kyi (in office 1659-1663) and, especially, Petro Doroshenko (in office 1665-1676) to unify these diverse factions and to restore the prestige of the Cossack state that existed after the 1648 revolution, but none were successful.
The possibility of an independent Ukrainian Cossack state became even more remote after Poland and Muscovy, exhausted by their inconclusive wars, decided to reach a modus vivendi. In 1667, both states signed the Treaty of Andrusovo, which was to last thirteen years and which delineated their de facto spheres of influence in Ukraine. In other words, Ukraine's Right Bank went to Poland, its Left Bank to Muscovy. The city of Kiev was placed under Muscovite suzerainty for two years, although this initially temporary time period was extended. In the end, Ukraine's capital would remain permanently within Muscovy. As for Zaporozhia, it was placed under the joint protection of Poland and Muscovy.
Within this new political constellation, Ukraine had two hetmans, one for the Polish Right Bank and one for the Muscovite Left Bank. The two hetmans often clashed with their own protectors - Poland and Muscovy - as well as with each other, especially when some dynamic leader tried to reunite both halves of Ukraine. The career of Hetman Petro Doroshenko epitomizes the confusion of the time. In 1665, he began as hetman in Poland's Right Bank, but subsequently he turned against Poland, signed a treaty with the Ottoman Empire and the Crimea, and, in 1668, invaded Muscovy's Left Bank. His pro-Turkish orientation - which revived a policy established two decades before by Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi - seemed to be the only policy that might bring some change in Ukraine's status at a time when Muscovy and Poland preferred to remain at peace. Ukraine turned out to be the greatest loser, however, since an Ottoman army arrived and, with its Crimean allies, ravaged the Right Bank. Finally, after defeating Poland in 1672, the Ottomans annexed Podolia and placed the Bratslav and southern palatinates (on the Right Bank south of Zhytomyr) under their protection. Meanwhile, Doroshenko scrambled wildly, changing his allegiance several times among Poland, the Ottoman Empire, and, finally, Muscovy, where he was forced to settle (with honors) after his defeat and abdication from the hetmanate in 1676.
Click on the map for better resolution
With the Ottomans in control of large parts of the Right Bank, Muscovy and Poland preferred to maintain peace with each other. In 1678, they renewed the Treaty of Andrusovo. Meanwhile, war continued, with Ottoman forces and local Cossacks on the Right Bank (Hetman Iurii Khmel'nyts'kyi was made Prince of Ukraine, 1677-1681, by the Turks) pitted against a Muscovite army and local Cossacks on the Left Bank. In what seemed to be perpetual conflict, the peasants on the Right Bank, who had already begun to emigrate in large numbers while Doroshenko was still hetman, continued to flee eastward across the Dnieper River to the Left Bank and Sloboda Ukraine. Consequently, the Right Bank became largely deserted. Finally, in 1681 Muscovy and the Ottoman Empire signed a peace treaty (the Treaty of Bakhchesarai) whereby both parties agreed to a twenty-year armistice. Although the Ottomans continued to hold Podolia and Bratslav, they agreed that a buffer zone, or no-man's-land without settlers, would be maintained in the heart of Ukrainian territory, that is, in eastern Bratslav and central and southern Kiev between the Southern Buh and Dnieper Rivers.
For its part, Poland could never acquiesce to Ottoman control of Podolia or any other part of what was considered the historical Polish patrimony. Moreover, Poland was now ruled by Jan Sobieski (reigned 1674—1696), famous for his successful defense of Vienna and crusade against the Ottoman Turks. Joined by Habsburg Austria, Venice, and the Papacy, Sobieski formed the so-called Holy Alliance against the Ottoman Empire. In order to continue his military ventures, he needed peace along Poland's long eastern boundary. For this reason, in 1686 Poland agreed to abide by a new agreement with Muscovy. The pact became known as the 'eternal peace' and simply rendered more permanent the arrange-ment reached at Andrusovo in 1667. Poland renounced all claims to Left Bank Ukraine, as well as to Kiev, Starodub, and Smolensk, which had been retaken dur¬ing the seventeenth century by Muscovy. Poland also acknowledged the supremacy of the tsar alone over the Cossacks in Zaporozhia, and it guaranteed all rights to the Orthodox Ukrainian population in its own sphere of influence on the Right Bank. Thus, by 1686 the two principal Christian states in eastern Europe, Poland and Muscovy, had agreed to a partitioning of Ukrainian territory more or less along the Dnieper River. The palatinates of Podolia, Bratslav, and southern Kiev were to remain in Ottoman Turkish hands until the end of the century, while the northern shores of the Black Sea continued as before under Crimean Tatar hegemony.
Click on the map for better resolution
The Period of Ruin, which for Ukraine started in 1657 and ended three decades later with the signing of the so-called eternal peace in 1686, witnessed great changes in the political status of the country. The period began with Hetman Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi and his successors controlling most of Ukrainian territory. In their efforts to maintain autonomy, however, Khmel'nyts'kyi and his successors continually transferred their allegiance among Ukraine's three powerful neighbors. The result, by 1686, was a Ukraine ravaged by civil war and foreign invasion, with little hope of independence or even full autonomy, and with its ter¬ritory divided among Poland, Muscovy, and the Ottoman Empire.