Short URL for this page:
https://bit.ly/DORHOU11


[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 10

This webpage reproduces a chapter of


History of the Ukraine
by Dmytro Doroshenko

printed by
The Institute Press, Ltd.
Edmonton, Alberta,
1939

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 12

 p163  Chapter XI

 * * * *

(The numbers link directly to the sections.)

(48) Attempts at Union of the Churches During Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Centuries. (49) Orthodox Bishops, Promoters of Union. (50) The Council of Brest (Berestia) and Its Immediate Consequences. (51) Religious Polemic. (52) First Cossack Rebellion Against Poland.

 * * * *

The history of the Union of the Churches in the Ukraine at the end of the Sixteenth century, as well as its influence on contemporary Ukrainian life has been studied by Ukrainian, Polish and Russian historians and forms a bulky mass of material. Yet, it is impossible to say that historians have come to any consistent view or conclusions on this subject. Besides purely ecclesiastical affairs, the question presents important political and national considerations. It created a turmoil in contemporary Ukrainian life, and upset it for a long time to come. For three centuries, the question of the Union of Churches did not cease to agitate minds, especially in western Ukrainian territories and disturb the course of their history. Even to‑day the question is surrounded with smouldering fires of religious, political and national passions. Neither side is disinterested, and it is not to be wondered at that only seldom do we find among the historians of the Union of the Churches an impartial view, independent of religious, political or national differences or controversies. As Professor M. Hrushevsky has said, the history of the Union of the Churches is still too much treated "cum ira et studio" and the factual knowledge of the masses of accumulated material is far more advanced than the true understanding and impartial explanation of it.

48. Attempts at Union of the Churches During Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Centuries.

Attempts at the Union of Churches in Ukraine began as early as the Thirteenth century, and at the time when the Union was realized at least partially at the end of the Sixteenth century, it could already boast of a long history.  p164 Indeed, Ukrainians having accepted Christianity under the Byzantine form stood at the same time at the meeting place of two different cultural influences. The Latin influence was certainly very important. About the time of Vladimir the Great and his sons we meet Latin missionaries in Kiev, and contemporary Orthodox controversialists, mostly Greeks, found it necessary to mention the Romans and their errors, (thus proving that Latin propaganda was an actual fact). Later, we also find in the Ukraine members of Roman Catholic Monastic Orders and Missionaries, and the dynastic ties of the Ukrainian princes with the reigning houses of Central and Western Europe very often led to intercourse with the Roman Catholic world. It is difficult to say how far the plans for the Union of Churches of the Galician Princes since the Twelfth century were disinterested, that is how far they were endeavors to reunite the two sundered parts of the formerly one Christian Church in the interests of Christian Universalism. Political considerations, such as the desire by submission to the Pope to obtain his influence in enlisting the help of western Europe against the dangers from the Tatars in the east, certainly played an important part. The same situation again arose in Byzantium in the Fifteenth century owing to the Turkish invasion, and its repercussions also affected the Ukraine. However, these attempts did not achieve very definite results. The most important of all the efforts was the Union of Florence in 1439. For Greeks as well as for Ukrainians, the Orthodox Rite was intimately bound up with their national culture, and the Roman Catholic Rite was in their eyes, especially in the case of the Ukrainians, a form of religion which would inevitably bring with it national and political influences of their neighbors, the Poles. Thus all attempts to conclude a Union of Churches with Rome, even assuming the purest motives of good faith on the part of their promoters, encountered in the Ukraine a decisive reticence from the leading classes of the population. But it is difficult to deny that exactly at the end of the Sixteenth century, owing to the livelier intercourse of Ukrainians  p165  with western Europe, there were more grounds than ever for the Union of the Churches, though at the same time there was also more bitter opposition.

49. Orthodox Bishops, Promoters of Union.

This time the initiative for Union with Rome came from the Bishop of Lvov, Gedeon Balaban, who was embittered against the Patriarch of Constantinople on account of the latter's conduct in the conflict which Gedeon Balaban had with the Brotherhood of Lvov. During his visit (1588‑89) to the Ukraine the Patriarch Jeremy undertook to put the Ukrainian ecclesiastical affairs in order. Not being acquainted with local circumstances, he showed a lack of tact and consideration towards the Ukrainian Bishops, and in particular, hurt the feelings of Gedeon Balaban, Bishop of Lvov, by giving special privileges to the Assumption Brotherhood. His conduct provoked general discontent among the Ukrainian Bishops, which was further aggravated by his replacing the Metropolitan of Kiev, Onisiphorus by Michael Rogoza without calling the usual Council of Bishops. The Bishop of Lvov took the initiative at a private meeting of several Bishops, including both Ukrainians and White Russians in Belz in 1590, where he brought up the question of Union with Rome as a means of strengthening the position of the Ukrainian Church in Poland, and of recovering the authority of the Bishops endangered by the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The idea of Union, as we have seen, was not a new one, even on the part of the Orthodox Ukrainian Bishops. It is sufficient to recall the part played by Gregory Zamblak in the Council of Constance in 1418, and the attempts at Union made in Florence in 1439, not to mention the negotiations for Union, vague and little known it is true, of the Ukrainian Metropolitans during the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries. The leading spirits this time were Cyril Terlecki, Bishop of Lutsk and Hypathius Poti, Bishop of Vladimir. The Metropolitan Michael Rogoza, head of the Ukrainian Church was also later initiated into the  p166 question of the Union, but being a timorous and vacillating man, he could not play an active part. The four Bishops who had held the clandestine meeting in Belz in 1590 now addressed a petition to the King, in which they declared their wish to have the Pope of Rome as their head instead of the Patriarch of Constantinople, but to retain the Orthodox Rite and the existing inner organization of the Ukrainian Church.

King Sigismund III accepted the declaration, promised to put the Uniates on the same footing as the Roman Catholics and wished to have all the plans for Union made public. Until now all negotiations had been kept secret. Though the Jesuits were at the same time carrying on active propaganda for the Union, the Ukrainian Bishops were afraid to bring their intentions to the knowledge of the public. For a few years longer everything was kept secret. At last, at the end of 1594, an Act of Union was definitely drawn up and handed to the king and to the Papal Nuncio in Cracow. The draft of the Florentine Union of 1439 was taken as the point of departure in questions of Christian dogma. The Uniate Church was to be subject to the Pope in matters of dogma and the Uniate clergy were to accept the Gregorian calendar. All the religious rites and ceremonies of the Orthodox Church were to remain, but the form of communion was left to the Pope. The Uniate priests were not to be bound by the vow of celibacy, Uniate Bishops were to sit in the Polish Senate and be exempt from all taxation. All Uniates were to have equal rights with Roman Catholics as regards the holding of State Offices.

The Metropolitan, Michael Rogoza, could not make up his mind for a long time, but at last was persuaded by the energetic Poti, Bishop of Vladimir to sign the Act of Union, which now received the approval of the King and the Nuncio. In spite of all the secrecy, rumors of what was afoot reached the ears of the Orthodox population, who were greatly alarmed. The first to be apprehensive was old Prince Konstantine of Ostrog. He addressed a circular appeal to all Orthodox communities in which  p167 he revealed the action of the Bishops, calling them traitors, and invited resistance to the Union by all available means. The Prince of Ostrog was by no means opposed to Union, but he objected to the matter being privately decided by the Bishops, and called for an ecclesiastical Council. His appeal was printed and widely circulated. It made a great impression. Ukrainian Orthodox nobles called meetings of protest and tried to enter into relations with the Protestants who were holding their Synod in Thorn with a view to common action for the protection of religious interests. The promoters of the Union accelerated their proceedings. Poti, Bishop of Vladimir, and Terlecki, Bishop of Lutsk, went to Rome at the end of 1595 and made an official declaration before Pope Clement VIII in favor of the Union of the Orthodox Church in Poland with the Roman Catholic. The Pope accepted their declaration and the Union was officially proclaimed. A commemorative medal was struck with the inscription "Rutenis receptis". Poti and Terlecki returned home from their mission in March 1596. It now remained to reconcile the Ukrainian and White Russian population to the Union.

50. The Council of Brest (Berestia) and Its Immediate Consequences.

This proved to be a matter of some difficulty. Neither the masses of the Ukrainian clergy nor the Ukrainian nobles and burgesses would even hear of the Union, considering it to be nothing less than an attack on the Faith of their fathers and their nationality. The idealistic motives for the Union of Churches, and for gathering all Christendom into one Fold under One Shepherd retreated in their eyes into the background when confronted with latinization and the polonization of Ukrainian culture. An energetic agitation against the Union was at once started. Under its influence and the passions it let loose, the first promoters of the Union, Gedeon Balaban, Bishop of Lvov and Michael Kopistensky, Bishop of Przemysl, repudiated the Union by a solemn act officially inserted in  p168 the Municipal Books. The protests of Ukrainian gentry at local Seims were made public at the Seim of Warsaw in 1596. The situation became very critical. It was decided to solve the difficulties at a Council which the King ordered to be called in Brest Litovsk at the end of 1596. Both sides prepared for a decisive battle. The Patriarch of Constantinople sent his representative, Nicephorus, Professor at the University of Padua; the Patriarch of Alexandria also sent a representative, and many of the Orthodox clergy, Greek, Balkan and Muscovian, were present. Never has there been such a brilliant and solemn assembly in the Ukraine. Delegates of Ukrainian and White Russian gentry came from all the provinces, as well as delegates representing Ukrainian and White Russian burgesses from all the important towns, and thousands of Ukrainian clergy, both high and low. The Orthodox Council assembled in the house of the Prince of Ostrog who played a most important part on the side of orthodoxy. The Orthodox refused to sit together with the adherents of the Union on whose side were the representatives of the King and the Government, the Ukrainian Bishops, who were promoters of the Union, and several Roman Catholic Bishops.

51. Religious Polemic.

From the start, both sides took up irreconcilable positions towards one another, and formed two separate Councils which were practically two hostile camps. The town was actually surrounded with military forces and guns. It did not, however, come to an armed conflict, but neither did the opponents arrive at any understanding whatever. Finally, both sides excommunicated and anathematized each other. Thus it came to an open and definite breach, and a fierce and relentless struggle ensued which lasted for centuries. Literary evidence is considerable of the written and verbal controversy which took place between the promoters and opponents of the Union. Among the defenders of the Orthodox Church, a Ukrainian noble, Martin Bronevsky, became conspicuous  p169 in literature. He was the author of an important work "Apocrisis" printed in Ukrainian and Polish. Then a burgess of Lvov, George Rohatinets, wrote a book "The Warning", full of deep patriotic feeling and showing a remarkable understanding of the cultural needs of his land and people. Most important in Ukrainian literature are the works of a monk from Mount Athos, a Ukrainian, John of Vishnia, who is author of the famous "Epistles" in which he charges the Ukrainian Bishops with apostasy from the Orthodox Faith and castigates the low standard of morals of the Ukrainian clergy. His "Epistles", excellent in their form and penetrated by real feeling and pathos, with their expressive and plastic language, belong to the best works of contemporary Ukrainian literature. They may well be compared with the best contemporary literary works elsewhere in Europe.

Parallel with the literary warfare an actual struggle was going on. The most important fact was that the Polish Government now recognized only the Uniate Ukrainian Church as legal. The King began the persecution of the Orthodox by arresting the representative of the Patriarch of Constantinople at the Council of Brest, and the Exarch Nicephorus under the pretext that he was a Turkish spy. Notwithstanding protests on all sides, Nicephorus was imprisoned in the fortress of Marienburg in Prussia, where he died. On the other hand, the Patriarch of Constantinople, head of the Orthodox Church, confirmed all the decisions of the Orthodox side of the Council of Brest, thus from the Orthodox point of view they were canonically sanctioned.

After the death of the Ukrainian Metropolitan, Michael Rogoza, the energetic Poti became Metropolitan and started an active campaign to introduce the Uniate principles. He opened a persecution against the Orthodox bishops, abbots and lower clergy, confiscated Orthodox monasteries, printing offices and schools, and founded Uniate institutions in their place. His successor, Velyamin Rutsky was as energetic as Poti had been. The Orthodox Church in Ukraine gradually lost her bishops until  p170 there was only one left, the Bishop of Lvov; they were not replaced, and the Church fell into a state of disorganization which was adroitly exploited by the Uniates. The Ukrainian gentry defended the interests of the Orthodox Church as best they could. For this purpose they concluded a Confederation, or Political League with the Polish Protestants.

A meeting of the Confederation was held in 1599 in Vilna in the presence of the old Prince of Ostrog, where the representatives of the Orthodox clergy and laity, especially nobles, met with the representatives of different sections of Protestants, Lutherans, Calvinists, Hussites, etc., and decided to "maintain peace and not permit religious differences to lead to bloodshed, or that anyone should be persecuted for his religious opinions with confiscation, restrictions of rights, imprisonment or banishment". The Confederation acquired certain influence over the Seim. Thus in 1601 the Seim in Warsaw decided to abolish law‑suits in religious matters and decreed that Orthodox Church benefices should only be given to Orthodox clergy. The King, however, refused his sanction to these decisions of the Seim. In the Seim of 1603 the Confederation obtained the surrender to the Orthodox of certain monasteries seized by the Uniates, but the King would not agree to any general ruling. Though on accession to the throne he had taken a solemn oath to maintain religious toleration, now under the influence of the Jesuits he openly and repeatedly broke his oath. Only after a long struggle and under the threat of rebellion did the Protestant and Orthodox nobles obtain from the Seim of 1667​a a concession that the Orthodox Church might maintain all its former rights and privileges, and that Orthodox clergy who opposed the Union were not to be persecuted. All these decisions, however, had not much influence. In Poland there was already a custom that everything depended not on law but on the actual balance of power within the State, and this balance was not to the advantage of the Orthodox. In spite of great tension between the two sides, and great opposition to the Union  p171 in the Orthodox camp, the idea of the Union of Churches continually found adherents, mostly from among the Orthodox Ukrainian clergy, and not only those who became converted for personal and material advantage, but also from idealistic motives. As time went on there were even fanatics and martyrs for the idea of Union. Still more important was that mass desertion of Ukrainian nobles already mentioned who went over directly into the Roman Catholic camp. Education in Jesuit schools led to the repudiation by Ukrainian nobles of the religion of their fore-fathers and not religion only but also their language, habits and customs. After the death of Prince Konstantine of Ostrog, the "Pillar of Orthodox Religion", in 1608 his children became Roman Catholics. In place of the famous Orthodox Academy in his residence in Ostrog, there was opened a Jesuit College. Almost all the aristocratic Ukrainian houses showed the same change. The old Ukrainian aristocracy almost completely abandoned the ranks of the Orthodox.

The measure of pain and despair which seized all those faithful to the Orthodox creed can be seen in the famous "Trenos" or Lament of the Orthodox Church written by Meleti Smotritsky. In this Lament the Orthodox Church addresses her apostate sons. "Oh Bishops, Bishops", she appeals, "are you not satisfied with the losses I have sustained through your carelessness, such losses of gold and silver, pearls and precious stones, in which I used to glory like a brilliant queen. Where is now the priceless stone ruby which shone like a light in my crown among other precious stones, like the sun among the stars? Where is the princely house of Ostrog which shone above all others with the light of devotion to the old Faith? Where are the other precious stones of my crown, the glorious houses of the Ukrainian princes, the priceless diamonds and sapphires? Where are the children of the Princes of Slutsk, of Zaslav, of Zbaraz, of Vishnevets, Sangushko, Chartorysky, Pronsky, Massalsky, Lukomsky, Ruzinsky and countless others impossible to enumerate? Where are my other jewels? I mean the  p172 old Ukrainian noble houses?" Here the author enumerates scores of old Ukrainian families where the fathers were Ukrainian and Orthodox and their children had become Poles and Roman Catholic. This desertion seemed to be catastrophic for the Ukrainian nation, its universality illustrated by the fact that even the author of this Lament, Meleti Smotritsky, a Ukrainian Orthodox Bishop, was himself later converted to the Union and died a Uniate.

The Orthodox Church in the Ukraine had now to rely on the lesser gentry and the burgesses. This fact gives a more popular and democratic character to the later struggle of the Orthodox Church. At the beginning of the Seventeenth century, the Cossacks, as representing the Ukrainian nation in the eyes of the people, came to the rescue of the Orthodox Church. Along with the political and social claims which the Cossacks made on the Polish State, the claims of the Orthodox Church were now added. Thus the Cossacks became the leading class of the Ukrainian population.

52. First Cossack Rebellion Against Poland.

We have already seen that as early as the end of the Sixteenth century the Cossack class was rapidly growing in importance. The Zaporogian Sich, the centre of the free Cossack organization, was independent of the central and local authorities. The Zaporogian Cossack Brotherhood took up the attitude of an independent State. Nominally, they acknowledged the sovereignty of the Polish Lithuanian State, sometimes taking the name of the "Royal Army", but in practice they acted quite independently, made war, interfered in the affairs of neighboring States, carried on diplomatic relations with foreign powers, and accepted subsidies from foreign rulers. To a certain extent Moldavian affairs served the Cossacks as a school of international politics. After a period of political independence and a certain political importance, Moldavia, about the middle of the sixteenth century, fell into the hands of two strong neighbors, Turkey and  p173 Poland, changing hands from one to the other. The crown of Moldavia became a prey to different adventurers who secured it with the support, sometimes, of Poland and sometimes, of Turkey. Usually the Turks surrendered the Moldavian throne to any pretender who promised more tribute and knew how to win over the Sultan's courtiers with rich gifts. We have already seen how Prince Dmitri of Vishnevetz, surnamed Bayda, an early Cossack leader, intervened with tragic consequences to himself, in the war of two Moldavian pretenders (1563). A score of years later, the Cossacks, under the leader­ship of Sverchovsky, set up another pretender on the Moldavian throne, a certain Ivonya.​b The Turks made a speedy end of Ivonya, but very soon a successor turned up in the person of Ivan Pidkova, a Ukrainian who gave himself out to be Ivonya's brother. He was supported by the Cossacks, and seized the town of Yassy, capital of Moldavia. As we have seen, Pidkova perished tragically in 1578 but the Cossacks took so much interest in Moldavian adventures, that the same year, when Pidkova was beheaded in Lvov, they brought to Yassy Pidkova's "brother" Alexander, and the next year Alexander's "son" Peter. Evidently Moldavian campaigns were very advantageous to the Cossacks, bringing in rich spoil as well as military fame.

Simultaneously with Moldavian wars, the Cossacks made almost annual inroads on Turkish and Tatar possessions, avenging the Tatar invasions on the Ukrainian border. This made them very popular among all classes of the Ukrainian population.

At the end of the Sixteenth century, the Cossack forces were considerably augmented by the refugees from the territories which after the Lublin Union in 1569 were united to Poland. The population there became very discontented with the newly introduced regulations coming from landowners, Poles or polonized Ukrainian nobles. It is important to examine the social composition of the Cossacks at this time, because therein lies one of the principal causes of the conflicts which began to occur  p174 at the end of the Sixteenth century between the Cossacks and Polish government. Undoubtedly, the mainstay of the Cossack organization was the free town and country population of the Ukrainian territories forming part of the Great Princedom of Lithuania which, after the Union of Lublin, became part of Poland. These were town burgesses and lesser country gentry. The upper classes of the Ukrainian nobles and even members of the highest aristocracy furnished leaders or Hetmans of the Cossacks. Such was the situation until the Lublin Union and the mass colonization of the Ukrainian steppes which followed. Great masses of country people were removed closer to the centres of Cossack organizations and among these discontent with the new social order introduced into the Ukraine by the Polish Government soon grew and made itself manifest. These disaffected elements formed endless new detachments which began to swell the ranks of the Cossacks. If in the first half of the Sixteenth century the Cossacks were numbered by thousands, at the end of the same century they were increased tenfold. The new Cossacks coming as they did from the peasant class brought with them a new spirit of opposition to the new social order. The mass of the peasants, who could not, of course, leave their homesteads, fields and families, began to look upon the Cossacks not only as avengers of the Tatars, but also as protectors against the Poles. Between the Cossack and the peasants unseen bonds of mutual understanding and sympathy were developed, and to some extent there was community of interest.

This connection between the Cossacks and peasants soon became very evident and found expression during the first conflicts between the Cossacks and the Polish government. Ukrainian historical tradition attributed to these first conflicts features characteristic of later times when the struggle between the Cossacks and the Poles certainly assumed the character of a national and religious struggle. According to this tradition which long persisted in Ukrainian history, the leaders of the first Cossack revolts received a heroic halo as defenders  p175 of the Orthodox religion and Ukrainian national culture. Many legends were created to this effect only to be destroyed later in the light of modern scientific criticism.

In speaking of the beginnings of the Cossack movement it must not be forgotten that within the Cossack class itself a certain differentiation is to be observed which became more evident about the last decade of the Sixteenth century. On one side there were the well-to‑do Cossacks who possessed rich homesteads sometimes far distant from the steppe, as for instance, in the forest part of the Province of Kiev. It was among these that the contingents of the Cossack army of Stephen Bathory were recruited. They were more conservative, more loyal to the authorities and were not easily tempted to an adventure. They were known as the "Town Cossacks" (horodovi Kozaki) as opposed to "down the river Cossacks" (nizhovi Kozaki) or Zaporogians (beyond the Rapids). These "down river" Cossacks constituted the other element among the Cossacks, more active, more opposed to the Polish government because they were continually incorporating the elements dissatisfied with the new social order introduced into the Ukraine under Polish influence. Thus the active conflict of the "down river" Cossacks clearly showed their character from the first, and it was these who were supported by the bulk of the peasants.

The first revolt of the Cossacks is connected with Christopher Kossinsky, a noble from Pidliasha, about whom little is known. Whether he was a Pole, or a Ukrainian, a Roman Catholic or Orthodox has not been ascertained. In 1590, together with other nobles from the Cossack leaders he received as a grant from the King lands in the province of Kiev, but was prevented from taking possession of them by Yan, Prince of Ostrog, who was starost of Bila Tserkva. Kossinsky then at the head of a Cossack unit attacked in 1591 the lands of the Princes of Ostrog. The Government nominated a Commission to investigate and punish the disturbers of the peace. The Commission collected armed forces and set out against the Cossacks who shut themselves in the fortified town  p176 of Tripillia on the Dnieper. The Commission had not the courage to attack them and was satisfied with the promise of the Cossacks that they would choose another leader instead of Kossinsky and keep quiet. In the meantime the revolt of Kossinsky reacted among the peasants in the Dnieper region, in Volynia and Podolia. The promise given by the Cossacks to the Commission was not fulfilled as Kossinsky remained their leader. The Nobles, alarmed, set themselves to deal with the Cossacks. The gentry of Volynia were mobilized. At the head of the armed forces stood old Prince Constantine of Ostrog and in 1593 near Zhitomir a pitched battle was fought in which the Cossacks were defeated, leaving on the battlefield 2000 killed, 26 guns and several banners. However, the victors did not feel strong enough and Kossinsky retired with the rest of the Cossacks beyond the rapids giving another vague promise to keep quiet. The revolt of Kossinsky was only a prelude to a series of Cossack revolts which likewise had the character of opposition to the new social order introduced into Ukraine after the Lublin Union, and moreover were complicated by the fact that the Cossacks began to play an active role in the international politics of the time.

A European coalition against the Turks was planned in central Europe between 1592 and 1593. The chief incentive to this coalition was given by Pope Clement VIII on the one side and Emperor Rudolf II on the other. These plans found an echo in Ukraine. The Bishop of Kiev, Joseph Vereschinsky became a warm supporter of the coalition to which he wished to attract the Ukrainian Cossacks. Prince Jan of Ostrog, who had recently defeated the Cossacks at Zhitomir, also became a member of the coalition, perhaps because he wished to direct their surplus energies against the Turks in order to distract their attention from Ukrainian home affairs. At any rate, the idea of the Cossacks as most desirable members of the anti-Turkish coalition at once gained ground in Rome and Prague. In 1593 the Pope sent a special ambassador, a Catholic Priest of the name of Komulovich, to the Cossacks  p177 bringing them the sum of 12,000 ducats towards the expenses of a campaign against the Turks. The Pope's ambassador did not go far, as he met in Podolia two of the well-known Cossack leaders (one of them, Nalivayko, later became famous for a revolt against the Poles) and gave them the money for the Cossacks. The ambassador of the Emperor, Erich Lassota, whose mission we have already mentioned, left the imperial residence in Prague and in the summer of 1594 visited the Zaporogian Sich, the central camp of the Cossacks beyond the rapids of the Dnieper. He remained several weeks negotiating with the Cossacks about the conditions of their joining the coalition. He brought gifts from the Emperor, silver trumpets, drums, banners and 8000 ducats. Lassota's mission did not lead to any concrete result. The Cossacks only succeeded in making several diversions against the Turks, and on this occasion it did not come to serious war. Ukrainian history was, however, enriched by a foreigner's account of the camp of the Cossacks, their habits and customs. This is found in Lassota's Diary in which he noted down in detail his journey from Prague through Lvov and Kiev to the Zaporogian Sich and back. This Diary is thus a valuable historical document of the early history of the Cossacks.

At this time as may be noticed the Cossacks did not as usual desire to fight the Tatars and Turks, so that it was necessary to encourage them with presents to do what they had formerly thought to be their sacred duty. This is explained by the fact that they were now imbued with the wish to attempt other exploits in another direction, namely that indicated by Cristopher Kossinsky, the plundering of the manors and castles of the nobles. This change in the direction of the Cossack activities can only be explained by the change which had taken place in their composition. Their ranks were now swelled by those discontented with the new social order, and the introduction of serfdom, and great was their desire to avenge the loss of freedom and the oppression of the new lords. This element among the Cossacks, full of burning  p178 hatred against the Polish government and their oppressors carried with them the old more or less loyal Cossacks, who also began to feel, not the chains of serfdom, for they remained free, but vexation against the Polish administration which tried more and more to control them and limit their independence.

As leader of a new Cossack rebellion we find Severin Nalivayko, a burgess from the small town, Satanov in Podolia. He was for a time among the military followers of Prince Constantine of Ostrog and was forced by him to fight Kossinsky and the Cossacks. This, many historians think, made him break with the Prince of Ostrog. He left him, and in 1594 we find him at the head of a Cossack detachment which he led against the Turks in south Bessarabia. Having under him 2,500 men, he defeated the Turkish garrisons on the lower Dniester and, having seized from the Tatars great quantities of horses, he offered alliance with the Zaporogian Cossacks. Several thousand Cossacks joined him with their Hetman Loboda.

In 1594, with united forces consisting of about twelve thousand men, they crossed the Dniester and attacked the Moldavian prince, and having defeated him, forced him to renounce the overlord­ship of the Turkish Sultan and recognize the Emperor as his suzerain. In the following year, (1595) together with the Moldavian prince, they took several fortified towns from the Turks, among them Bilhorod (present Akerman), Tiahinia (now Bender) and Kilia, an important fortress at the mouth of the Danube.

The Polish government was far from being delighted with the independent military exploits of the Cossack victories. The Polish candidate, Jeremy Mohyla, was put on the Moldavian throne, having recognized the protectorate of Poland. Mohyla, a skilful diplomat, obtained the recognition of Turkey by taking advantage of the Cossack victories. The Cossacks were ordered by the Polish Government not to interfere further in Moldavian affairs, and to return to their quarters. They pleaded  p179 lack of food supplies, and remained in Podolia and Volynia for the winter. They took up their quarters on the land belonging to the nobles, exacted supplies, and took them if they were not voluntarily given. When the exasperated nobles offered armed resistance, the Cossacks of Nalivayko and Loboda began what was practically a military campaign, plundering and levying contributions on the landed gentry.

The rebellion of Nalivayko was warmly supported by the peasants who had practically never accepted the newly introduced serfdom. Emboldened by the Cossacks, they refused obedience, and in many places took to arms and open revolt. The Polish government was at last forced to take active measures. Up till then they had merely sent messages and orders to the Cossacks to stop their unruliness. Stanislas Zolkievski was charged with the mission of reducing the Cossacks of Loboda and Nalivayko to obedience. He was instructed to deal with them as open rebels. Zolkievski was one of the best generals of his time. He set out in the spring of 1596 with a small but efficient army and strong artillery. He was joined by several Ukrainian nobles, who brought their own armed forces with them. Up till lately, many of them had been on friendly relations with the Cossacks, some having indeed, been their leaders, as for example, Prince Kirik Ruginski and others. Now they were alienated from them by class feeling, and thought only of revenge for the exactions and plundering. Zolkievski's plan was not to allow the Cossacks to unite their forces, but to surprise single detachments and defeat them separately. Zolkievski's expedition had the character of a real military action, both sides fighting according to the rules of strategy. The Cossack leaders, Loboda and Nalivayko succeeded in uniting their forces, defeated the vanguard of the Polish army and crossed the Dnieper with the intention of retiring into the steppes of the province of Poltava, not expecting Zolkievski to follow them. He did follow them, however, and surprised and surrounded their main force on the river Solonitsa near the town of  p180 Luben, and besieged their fortified camp. The Cossacks fought desperately, and the siege proved to be long and was marked by hard fighting. However, it was the middle of the hot summer of 1596, and lack of food and water in the Cossack camp and ensuing illness broke their spirit. They accepted Zolkievski's terms; but that did not save them. Enraged by their resistance the Polish soldiers slaughtered several thousand of the disarmed Cossacks. Only 1500 escaped and fled to the Sich beyond the rapids. Zolkievski brought his prisoners to Lvov where the King was expecting him. Several Cossack leaders were executed in Warsaw in the spring of 1597, among them being Nalivayko. According to a legend, since proved to be untrue by modern historians, he was roasted alive in a hollow copper bull.

The immediate impression made by the Cossack defeat on the Solonitsa was very great. The Polish government, thoroughly alarmed by the danger of the Cossacks declared them to be outlaws and "hostes patriae", and undertook severe measures against them, among which was the destruction of their camp, the Sich beyond the rapids. This turned out to be practically an impossibility. Zolkievski's army was too much exhausted to be able to carry out this decision, and the ranks of the Cossacks continued to be swelled by increasing numbers of discontented Ukrainian peasants and those involved in the recent rebellion who had escaped punishment.

In the ranks of the Cossacks themselves, however, the distinction previously noticed grew ever wider. On the one side the Cossacks of the towns who, being more or less loyal, wished to reconcile the Polish government by renewed campaigns against the Tatars and thus obtain amnesty and be able to return to their homes and families; on the other, the more radical elements, who having nothing to lose, were burning for revenge. Soon however, the Polish government, having started two wars, was in need of Cossacks and recalled the decisions of the Seim and gave up trying to annihilate them. In the Moldavian  p181 war about 4000 Cossacks were engaged on the Polish side, and also in the following year (1601) in the war with Sweden. Thus the Cossacks were rehabilitated and once more on a legal footing.


Thayer's Notes:

a I'm almost certain that this is a typo in the printed book and should be the Seim of 1607, but have been unable to find confirmation. If you have good information either way, please do drop me a line, of course.

[decorative delimiter]

b Most often called Ivan Luty; he was put on the Moldavian throne in 1574, but was defeated and executed in the same year: in passing, not what we should call "a score of years" after Dmytro Vyshnevetsky's Moldavian adventure.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 16 May 22