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Chapter 14

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,
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Chapter 16

 p248  Chapter XV

 * * * *

(The numbers link directly to the sections.)

(70) The Campaign of Berestechko. (71) The Treaty of Bila Tserkva. (72) Khmelnitsky's Moldavian Policy. (73) New War Against Poland. (74) Alliance with Muscovy, 1654. (75) Ukrainian-Muscovian War Against Poland, 1654‑1656. (76) Khmelnitsky's Political Plans. (77) Alliances with Sweden and Transylvania. (78) Khmelnitsky's Death.

 * * * *

70. The Campaign of Berestechko.

Khmelnitsky sent his delegates to Warsaw with instructions to obtain from the Seim ratification of the Treaty of Zboriv. The Metropolitan of Kiev, Silvester Kossiv, also went to Warsaw, as under the Treaty he was entitled to sit in the Senate. The Seim ratified the Treaty in very general terms. The section dealing with the abolition of Church Union provoked decided opposition from the Roman Catholic clergy. In order not to arouse further conflict, on the advice of Adam Kissil, Silvester Kossiv agreed to forego his right to a seat in the Senate, and the religious question was postponed until the next Seim. King John Casimir issued a solemn proclamation "to the whole Ukrainian nation" in which he said that "the union in one State of the three honored nations", Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians, was to their mutual advantage, and that the Greek religion of the Ukrainian people must be safeguarded by the confirmation and widening of King Wladislaus's Act regarding the equality of the rights of the Orthodox and Uniates in the Ukraine. The Orthodox's rights to the Bishoprics of Lutsk, Kholm, Peremysl and Vitebsk were confirmed and a number of monasteries and churches were to be returned. The Orthodox Rites might be freely celebrated throughout Poland and Lithuania and the Orthodox Church was to have the right to found and maintain religious brotherhoods, schools and printing presses. Ukrainian Orthodox burgesses were to be admitted to municipal offices and dignities, while the Ukrainian Orthodox clergy were to enjoy all the privileges  p249 due to their ecclesiastical rank. Thus the Treaty of Zboriv while giving satisfaction to the Cossacks and clergy, completely ignored the peasants and continued the same social order that existed previous to the uprising. The interests of the peasants who had taken such an active part in the war, were entirely overlooked and neglected during the political parleys and negotiations. Their disappointment and discontent were profound. Though most of the landlords were careful enough in returning to their estates to try to start friendly relations with the peasants, some at once set themselves to discover leaders and participants in the rebellion and punish them severely. In consequence, fresh peasant uprisings broke out in different places, and Khmelnitsky was obliged to put them down.

Generally speaking, the Treaty of Zboriv did not make for solid and durable relations. Khmelnitsky was aware that a new conflict would arise sooner or later, and tried to secure his position through diplomatic alliances and different political combinations. His position was a very difficult one. On the one side Ukrainian domestic affairs gave him much trouble, peasant revolts breaking out now and then, in different places, the general unsettlement and dissatisfaction among them causing constant conflicts with the Cossacks and the Polish administration. Also certain differences of view existed among the Cossacks themselves. Abroad, the political situation constantly introduced complications and dangers. The Tatars insisted on drawing Khmelnitsky into a war with Muscovy entirely contrary to his intentions, as he wished to maintain good relations with the Muscovite Tsar, relying on his help in case of a new war with Poland. In the meantime the old plans of King Wladislaus IV for a war against Turkey were again revived in official Polish circles, and there were schemes to set the Cossacks against the Turks and thus break up their alliance. Just then the Venetian government which was at war with the Turks wished to draw the Cossacks into a coalition. An envoy from Venice arrived in the summer of 1650 at Chihirin  p250 with proposals to Khmelnitsky for a united naval campaign against Constantinople. Khmelnitsky very cleverly made his participation in the campaign dependent on the Polish King and on the attitude of the Khan of Crimea. It was rumored that the latter wished to free himself from dependency on the Ottoman Porte.

The Crimean Khan insisted on Khmelnitsky joining in a war against Muscovy, and threatened to break up his friendship. In order to avoid this undesirable war and to deflect the attention of the Tatars elsewhere, as their only aim was to plunder, Khmelnitsky proposed a war against the Moldavian Prince Basil Lupul, with whom he was angry because of Lupul's unfriendly attitude towards the Ukraine in the war of 1649. Lupul was defeated, his capital Yassy taken and burnt to the ground. He was compelled to make an alliance with Khmelnitsky and to strengthen it by giving his daughter Rosanda in marriage to Khmelnitsky's eldest son, Timothy. Rosanda's sister was married to Prince Radziwill, actual ruler of Lithuania, and Khmelnitsky hoped through this matrimonial alliance to obtain influence with Radziwill and detach him from Poland, or at least secure his neutrality in case of a new war with Poland.

The reason for the evasive answer given by Khmelnitsky to the Venetian ambassador was Khmelnitsky's desire to maintain Turkish neutrality, if he could not secure their direct help. He opened diplomatic relations with the Porte as early as 1649. In the spring of 1651, Sultan Mahomet IV sent a brilliant mission to Chihirin with rich gifts and promises of help and protection to Khmelnitsky, "glory of the princes of all Christian nations", and wished to have a Cossack ambassador constantly resident at his court.

At the time when Khmelnitsky, anticipating a new war with Poland, was developing intense diplomatic activity in order to secure for the Ukraine allies and friends among the neighboring states, the Polish government was also engaged in negotiations of a similar kind, and with the same purpose of strengthening itself in the  p251 anticipated war. In the summer of 1650 they renewed the old treaty with Muscovy and made an unsuccess­ful attempt to break up the Cossack alliance with the Tatars. In the extraordinary Seim of 1650 it was voted to triple the regular Polish army, and to give the king full power to mobilize the whole szlachta. War credits and heavy extraordinary taxes were voted to raise the necessary money. Negotiations were carried on for some time between the two hostile sides, but war actually began in the summer of 1651.

In this war the Poles as well as the Ukrainians wished to deliver a decisive blow to the enemy in order to terminate a situation intolerable to both sides, and making a supreme effort, they endeavored to designate the campaign a holy war for the faith. A special Papal Legate arrived in Poland bringing a benediction for the Polish King, and the Ukrainian Hetman in his turn received a blessing from the Greek Metropolitan, Joseph of Corinth, who also brought Khmelnitsky a sword blessed at the Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Orthodox East saw in Khmelnitsky the champion of the Orthodox Faith. Not relying on his own forces, Khmelnitsky sent a mission to the Sultan asking him to order the Crimean Khan to come to the help of the Cossacks. The Khan was at this time not inclined to fight. Compelled to take part in the campaign, he came bringing his hordes, but without much enthusiasm.

The decisive battle, like those of other campaigns, was fought on the Volynian-Galician frontier. In the middle of August 1651 the Cossack army led by the Hetman supported by the Tatars met the Polish army led by King John Casimir near a town Berestechko, on the river Styr. Both sides were in command of considerable forces. The Poles numbered over 80,000, among them 20,000 Germans, partly mercenaries, partly lent by the Elector of Brandenburg, and about as many armed servants. The Cossacks were about 100,000 strong, including armed peasant volunteers and 30,000 Tatars. The Polish army had very strong German artillery. The Battle of Berestechko  p252 took place on 28th‑30th June and was a victory for the Poles. Many accounts of the battle have been preserved on both sides but they are so contradictory and contain so many exaggerations and legends that it is difficult to re‑trace the actual succession of events and create a true picture of this three days' battle. Till recently, the opinion has prevailed that the Khan of the Crimea once again betrayed the Cossacks as he did in the Battle of Zboriv, and not only fled, but also carried with him the Hetman, who was with the Khan trying to persuade him to stand fast. Modern investigations, however, show that the reason of the Polish victory was the superiority of the German artillery and the presence of 20,000 German infantry, and above all the superiority of the Polish strategy planned by German generals. It is true that the Tatars did not withstand the deadly bombardment of their positions, but were seized with panic and began to retreat leaving exposed the left wing of the Cossack position, but the Cossacks succeeded in closing their ranks about the camp, and for ten days success­fully resisted attacks and siege. Khmelnitsky himself was not present. He was recruiting new forces, and trying to organize the defences of the country. The camp was left under the command of Ivan Bohun. On the night of the 10th of July, Bohun began secretly to evacuate his army from the camp, and had succeeded in withdrawing a considerable part of the artillery and cavalry, when the alarm was given to the enemy, who immediately attacked. This caused a panic, and about 30,000 men, mostly transport men and peasant volunteers, perished in the marshy river, Pliasheva, which protected the Cossack position, including the Metropolitan, Joseph of Corinth, who very courageously tried to stem the panic and stop the fugitives. The enemy seized the field office of the Hetman with many diplomatic documents, 28 guns and many arms. The main Ukrainian army, however, succeeded in retreating in good order towards Kiev. The Polish army also suffered losses, and much weakened by epidemics and  p253 lack of food, was not able to pursue the defeated and retreating enemy.

During the campaign of Berestechko, the Ukraine was invaded from the north by the Lithuanian army led by Radziwill. He defeated the small Cossack detachments which defended the frontier, occupied Chernigov and approached Kiev. Colonel Zhdanovich, who was entrusted with the defence of the ancient capital, left the city without giving battle in order to avoid its destruction, and the Lithuanians occupied Kiev. Then the burgesses of the city proposed that the Cossacks should burn down the suburbs, especially the Podol (lower part of the town) outside the walls, sacrificing their homes in order to force the enemy to abandon Kiev. The Lithuanians, indeed, found it undesirable to remain in a partly ruined city and withdrew. The Lithuanian army then joined at Vassilkov, south of Kiev, the Polish forces which came down from Berestechko.

At this critical moment, Khmelnitsky showed extraordinary energy and presence of mind. In a short time he had made good the losses in the Cossack regiments, mobilized new forces, and by the end of September had mustered a new and power­ful army at Bila Tserkva against the united Polish and Lithuanian forces. The Ukrainian people gave him every possible help, the peasants burning their villages and destroying victuals and forage. Every village put up a fight and offered stern resistance, the people being ready to die rather than submit to the enemy. The forces of Khmelnitsky were daily increasing and from all parts came fresh detachments to swell the army. The Polish commander, Potocki, decided to open negotiations for peace, and Adam Kissel was again sent to the Hetman.

71. The Treaty of Bila Tserkva.

On the 28th September, 1651, the hostile armies concluded a treaty known in history as the Treaty of Bila  p254 Tserkva. It was a reduced edition of the Zboriv Treaty: the rolls of the Registered Cossacks were brought down to 20,000, the Cossack territory was limited to the province of Kiev; Bratslav and Chernigov were returned to Polish administration and were to be evacuated by the Cossacks. Khmelnitsky had to promise to break off his alliance with the Tatars and abstain from diplomatic international relations. The rights of the Orthodox Church were confirmed and an amnesty was granted to all the participants in the rising.

The Treaty of Bila Tserkva was of a still more provisional character than the Treaty of Zboriv, but both sides were so exhausted that they needed some compromise even if it were only a short pause. The Treaty was to be ratified by the next Seim.

The Treaty of Bila Tserkva had, however, very severe immediate consequences for the Ukraine: the Polish army occupied the left bank of the Dnieper, and the Lithuanians occupied the province of Sieversk. The land­owners felt encouraged to return to their estates and restore the former conditions. In some places the peasants tried to break out in fresh revolts, but Khmelnitsky himself was compelled to put them down. The population brought to extreme exasperation sought a solution in emigration. Thousands left their homesteads and fled with their families and a few moveables eastwards beyond the Muscovian frontier, where before them the fugitives after the Ostrianin defeat of 1638 had found refuge. This was a vast uninhabited area which formed a continuation of the fertile plain of the Ukraine, the present provinces of Kharkov and Voronezh. The Muscovian Government readily gave them permission to settle on these empty spaces and only stipulated that they would protect the country against the Tatars. The fugitives took with them the Cossack organization by regiments. Thus was populated the so‑called Slobidska Ukraine, from the word "sloboda" (free settlement) as the fugitives called their new settlements.

The Seim had no opportunity of ratifying the Treaty  p255 of Bila Tserkva. For the first time its session was terminated by a veto of a Lithuanian nobleman on the decisions of the Seim, thus making a precedent which started the pernicious practice of breaking up the sessions of the Seim by the veto of a single member, a practice which proved to be fatal to Poland.

72. Khmelnitsky's Moldavian Policy.

Khmelnitsky's hands were thus freed, and he acted as if he were not bound by a treaty at all. He continued his diplomatic relations with Muscovy, Turkey and the Crimea, and in the summer of 1652 sent his son Timothy with an army into Moldavia in order to wed the Princess Rosanda, whose father, Basil Lupul, had postponed the marriage. The Polish Field-marshal, Kalinovski, who was himself one of the suitors for the hand of the beauti­ful princess, tried to bar his way with 20,000 Polish soldiers near the village Batoh in Podolia. Khmelnitsky defeated and dispersed the Polish army. Kalinovski was killed. Khmelnitsky took 57 guns and a great number of prisoners.

73. New War Against Poland.

The defeat at Batoh caused great tension between the two sides. The situation was indeed far from clear since there was neither peace nor war. Negotiations were started and broken up again. Lupul tried to mediate but also failed. Intermittent desperate fighting interrupted the negotiations. In the Ukraine the situation became even more complicated when, at the news of the defeat of the Polish Field-marshal at Batoh, the peasants again rose and the Polish detachments stationed on the left bank of the Dnieper left when they felt they were not strong enough to resist. The situation became still more intricate when Khmelnitsky, having married his son to Lupul's daughter, was involved in far‑reaching plans of acquiring the principality of Wallachia or even Transylvania for Lupul, whereas Timothy Khmelnitsky  p256 was to get the throne of Moldavia. These plans brought about a coalition of the princes of Wallachia and Transylvania against Lupul, which was supported by the Poles. Timothy started out at the head of 9,000 Cossacks to help Lupul, but was besieged in the town of Suchava in Bukovina by the allied Rumanians, Magyars and Poles. During the siege Timothy was mortally wounded and soon died. His Cossacks held out for a month, but surrendered at last on condition that they were allowed to return freely to the Ukraine with their arms and the body of their leader.

In consequence of the failure of the Balkan plans and the exhaustion of the country, Khmelnitsky was compelled to seek a closer alliance with Muscovy, and in the summer of 1653 the Muscovian Tsar considered taking the Ukraine under his protection. In the meantime, King John Casimir started a campaign against the Ukraine in August, 1653. Khmelnitsky gave the order for the mobilization of the Cossacks, but it was not received with any enthusiasm, many of the Cossacks having emigrated to Slobidska Ukraine. The Khan of the Crimea came to Khmelnitsky's help at the end of September. Then the Polish King, who had advanced into Podolia as far as Bar, began to retreat. Khmelnitsky besieged him in Zhvanets on the Dniester a little to the south of Kamenets. There were no important battles, the Polish army suffered much from cold, lack of provisions and sickness. They were threatened with starvation and ready to capitulate when, as once before in Zboriv, the Khan stepped in, and compelled Khmelnitsky to make peace on the basis of the Treaty of Zboriv, securing for himself a large contribution from the King. The Treaty of Zhvanets was concluded on Dec. 15th, 1653.

74. Alliance with Muscovy, 1654.

This time Khmelnitsky gave even less thought to the treaty he had concluded. He had other political plans in view, and was about to realize them, namely an alliance with Muscovy and a protectorate of the Tsar over the Ukraine to enable, it was said at the time, the Ukraine to  p257 free herself entirely from Poland. Khmelnitsky hastened to conclude the negotiations at Zhvanets so as to free his hands, as he was expecting the arrival of the ambassadors of the Tsar.

As has already been stated, Khmelnitsky in the first years of his activities had no intention of breaking the political bond with Poland, although he dealt her heavy blows and inflicted severe wounds. He wished merely to compel the Polish Government and szlachta to make the utmost concessions to the Cossacks as the leading section of the Ukrainian nation, and aimed at Cossack autonomy within the Polish Kingdom. He was, however, compelled by events to see that his achievements far outreached the limits of Cossack autonomy and that the aspirations of the whole Ukraine were directed towards a complete breach with Poland, and that a compromise was quite impossible. So Khmelnitsky was compelled to break with Poland and construct an independent Ukrainian State.

It seemed, however, to Khmelnitsky and his followers that separation from Poland and the erection of an independent state could not be achieved without some help from outside. The help given by the Turkish Sultan in the form of military aid rendered by the Tatars proved to be of doubtful utility. The Tatars were unreliable allies, they had several times betrayed the interest of Ukrainians as well as ruining the land and taking the inhabitants prisoners.

75. Ukrainian-Muscovian War Against Poland. 1654‑1656.

There remained the hope of the Muscovite Tsar, who had his own account to settle with Poland. We have seen that since 1649 Khmelnitsky was in constant touch with the Muscovites, persuading them to go to war against Poland. Khmelnitsky appealed to the religious feelings of the Tsar, as the protector of the Orthodox Church, tempting him with the certain advantages to be gained from this war, the recovery of the provinces of Smolensk  p258 and Sieversk taken by the Poles not so long ago. The Muscovite Tsar, indeed, greatly wished to take revenge on Poland for recent losses, but feared to involve himself in war. Home affairs in Muscovy were far from prosperous and external relations with their neighbors, such as the Swedes, Turks and Tatars, very unsettled. So the Muscovite Government in its relations with Khmelnitsky maintained a watching policy, waiting until both sides should exhaust their forces in this fierce strife. As the successes of the Cossack arms dealt Poland new blows and exhausted her means of defence, the Muscovite policy towards that country became ever more and more aggressive. The tone of the Muscovite diplomatic notes stiffened as their government claimed from Poland satisfaction for different imaginary wrongs caused by the Polish government to the Muscovian Tsar. When in 1653, Khmelnitsky made a definite proposal to Muscovy for a closer alliance against Poland, having in view the complete separation of the Ukraine, and offering to put himself and his country under the protection of the Tsar, the latter was moved to decisive action. He summoned the Zemski Sobor (convention of officials) in 1653 to examine the Ukrainian proposal and a final decision was taken in October. Considering the dishonor done to the person and name of the Tsar by the Poles and the persecutions of the Orthodox Church, as well as the danger of Khmelnitsky seeking the help of the Sultan, the Zemski Sobor decided to ask the Tsar to take the Ukraine under his high protection out of pity for the Orthodox Faith and the Holy Churches of God. In consequence of this decision a special mission, led by Buturlin, was sent to the Ukrainian Hetman. He arrived in Pereyaslav at the end of 1653 to meet the Hetman.

A few days later, Khmelnitsky arrived from Zhvanets. After a private meeting with Buturlin, the Hetman held a council with the officers of the Cossack headquarters and the heads of the regiments, at which it was decided to accept the protection of the Tsar. On the same day, 18th January, 1654, the public ceremony took place.  p259 First, the Hetman addressed the people assembled in the Market Place inviting them to accept the protection of the Tsar, which invitation they received with acclamations. Then Buturlin handed to the Hetman the charter of the Tsar, and they all went into the Cathedral where the solemn oath was to be taken. The Hetman, naturally, expected the oath to be taken by both sides, first that Buturlin should swear in the name of the Tsar that he would protect the Ukraine from the Poles, and respect the privileges and rights of the Cossacks, Ukrainian Nobles, Burgesses, and all classes of the population. Buturlin refused to take oath, maintaining that according to the Muscovite despotic regime, it was beneath the dignity of the Tsar to take an oath, his word being sufficient. Long negotiations ensued, but Buturlin was not to be persuaded. Finally the Ukrainians decided that the Tsar's word should be accepted in place of his oath, and the Hetman and Cossack officers swore "that they with their lands and towns were under the protection of the great Tsar forever". Buturlin then handed to the Hetman presents from the Tsar.​a

The Hetman and Cossacks endeavored to obtain from Buturlin at least a written declaration that the Ukrainian rights and privileges would remain unchanged. Buturlin refused to give this, as he had refused to take oath. Therefore, no written treaty was made in Pereyaslav, and the exact relation­ship between the Ukrainians and theº Muscovy was left undefined. Buturlin left the Hetman on January 26th and went to Kiev. The negotiations had been carried out in a dry cold manner without any manifestation of joy or satisfaction, the conduct of the Tsar's ambassador having cooled any enthusiasm there might have been.

Buturlin took the oath to Kiev. Here he met with some difficulties. The burgesses took the oath without demur, but the Metropolitan, clergy and nobles at first refused. At last, after many evasions, and persuaded by the example of the Hetman and Cossack officers, they swore, but as an eyewitness describing the scene says:  p260 "for tears they could not see God's daylight". Buturlin administered the oath in Chernigov and Nizhin and returned to Moscow. In the smaller towns the Muscovian agents took similar action. In several places opposition was shown as for instance, when the regiments of Poltava and Kropivna beat the Muscovite officials with cudgels; some regiments, such as Uman and Braslav refused altogether, as did some of the higher Cossack officers, for example Ivan Bohun and Ivan Sirko, among others.

After Buturlin's departure, the Hetman and Cossack officers set themselves to work out the condition of the Treaty. After two special meetings in Korsun and in Chihirin a draft was made and taken to the Tsar by two Cossack officers, Samuel Zarudny the supreme judge of the Cossack court, and Pavlo Teteria, Colonel of the Pereyaslav regiment. The draft was drawn up somewhat unsystematically. Historians explain this by the fact that it had been altered several times as the interpolations and addenda in the text plainly show. The chief headings were: maintenance of the rights and privileges of the Cossack courts of justice; increase of the number of Registered Cossacks to 60,000; maintenance of the rights of the Ukrainian nobles. Further it was declared only Ukrainians could hold offices or be tax‑collectors; the Hetman was to be elected by the Cossacks and only notified his election to the Tsar. It was stipulated that the Hetman reserved his right to carry on international diplomatic relations. A series of paragraphs dealt with the immediate war against Poland and the form of Muscovite assistance which would be acceptable to the Ukrainians.

The negotiations of the Ukrainian delegates with the Muscovite Boyars lasted for about a fortnight, and finally the Ukrainian draft was accepted. Almost all the conditions of the Cossacks were accepted by the Tsar, but in the matter of international relations the Hetman was limited to the extent that he was not to have direct dealings with Poland or with the Sultan. Simultaneously, with the Cossack delegation, one from the Ukrainian burgesses arrived in Moscow, who wished their rights and  p261 privileges under the Magdeburg Law to be confirmed by the Tsar. This delegation, though it had an introduction from the Hetman, came independently of the Cossacks. This was a very bad precedent for Ukrainian-Muscovite relations, the Muscovite agents at once observing that there was a certain antagonism between the Cossacks and the burgesses, and that the latter were not always satisfied with the Cossack administration, so that the Muscovian government might turn this antagonism to their own advantage. Indeed, the Ukrainian burgesses found a very attentive ear in Moscow and were generously accorded all the privileges they desired, especially in Kiev. In this way the Muscovite government won over the Ukrainian towns which now made it their custom to go direct to Moscow with their requests, disregarding the Hetman administration. The same tactics were also applied to the Ukrainian clergy, though negotiations did not run so smoothly at first. A delegation from the Ukrainian clergy, headed by the Archimandrite of the Kiev-Pecherski monastery, Innocent Gizel, came to Moscow in the summer of 1654. They wished to petition the Tsar to restore all the Ukrainian and White Russian Orthodox Sees which he had won with the Cossacks' help, to the Metropolitan of Kiev, instead of putting them under the Muscovian patriarch, since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was autonomous and under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Muscovite government, on the other hand, had a settled plan for putting the Ukrainian Church under the Patriarch of Moscow, but its tactics were not to press the matter and irritate the Ukrainian clergy, but to win them over gradually. Thus this delicate point was left open, and the Tsar confined himself to confirming the Ukrainian Church rights to her possessions.

On the whole, the Muscovite policy of penetration, setting their feet firmly on Ukrainian soil must have been very disappointing to the Ukrainian government. Khmelnitsky, seeing what Muscovite "protection" meant, at once took precautions, and set limits to the Muscovite penetrating tendency. So long as he was in power he  p262 held the reins firmly in his hands, disregarding all the charters and treaties.

Generally speaking, the text of the Treaty of Pereyaslav, more correctly called the Treaty of Moscow of 1654, was so vague, each party interpreting it differently, that even now historians are not agreed as to the character of the political relations which it meant to establish, and which were in fact established by it. Some, as for instance the well-known scholar of political law, V. Sergievich, consider the Treaty of 1654 to have united the two States in the person of their common monarch only. Others see in it a case of so‑called "factual Union", the two states becoming one under the same central government. Most Russian and Ukrainian historians, the most important among them being M. Hrushevsky, consider that by this treaty the Ukraine entered into a state of vassalage under Muscovy. Others again consider that the Ukraine became dependent on the Muscovite side on the basis of autonomy, and some say that the Ukraine was simply incorporated into Muscovy with certain local privileges and rights for individual social classes in contra-distinction to the Muscovites who had no rights whatever, the Muscovite Tsar being the unlimited despotic ruler of his subjects. Lately, recent investigators, for example, the eminent Ukrainian historian, Viacheslav Lipinsky, took the view that the Treaty of 1654 was only an ordinary military alliance of Ukraine and Muscovy against Poland. In this light, it seems it was regarded by Khmelnitsky and contemporary Ukrainians.

In whatever way we regard the relation­ship created by the Treaty of 1654, we must always keep in mind that the two parties, Muscovy and Ukraine, certainly interpreted it differently. The Muscovite Tsar, "taking the Ukraine under his high hand" and promising his protection, set himself at once to turn this protectorate into incorporation. The Muscovite government made use of every unguarded word or turn of speech in the addresses of the Hetman to the Tsar as stepping stones to further and wider encroachments, strengthening Muscovite  p263 influence in Ukraine by every possible means. They were especially skilful in taking advantage of, and turning to their profit, every manifestation of local class antagonism in Ukraine, fomenting it with truly Muscovite craftiness and unscrupulousness, fostering it and instigating it. It was, indeed, on the policy of playing on these local differences that the Muscovites based their tactics in dealing with the Ukraine. On their side, the Hetman and Cossack officers undoubtedly looked upon the protection of the Tsar as a probably temporary political combination enabling them to terminate the hard strife against Poland in consequence of the Lublin Union. They had tried to do this with the help of the Turks and Tatars, but had not succeeded, so they would try to achieve their ends with the help of Muscovy. The Ukrainian government considered it to be of the first importance to draw Muscovy into war with Poland as soon as possible.

The war, indeed, began in spring 1654. Certain changes took place in the grouping of the belligerent nations; the Tatars went over to the side of Poland, and instead of being allies, became enemies of Ukraine. The Ukrainians now had a new offensive front in the south. Tsar Alexis took the field in April 1654, leading his army to Smolensk. The Hetman sent him 20,000 Cossacks led by Ivan Zolotarenko, a distinguished soldier and statesman. The campaign was very success­ful, Smolensk and other towns, such as Borisk, Minsk, Vilno and Kovno were taken, thus placing most of the Lithuanian territory in the hands of the Tsar. In the meantime, Zolotarenko occupied southern White Russia and introduced the Cossack organization among the local population, dividing it into hundreds and regiments, and obtained from the Hetman instructions to unite White Russia to Ukraine. The Muscovite generals wished it to be annexed directly to Muscovy, and a conflict was created which was far from improving the already strained relations of the newly allied powers.

In the meantime, when Lithuania and White Russia was being lost to Poland, the Polish-Ukrainian front was  p264 for a time quiescent. Khmelnitsky at this time showed a strange passivity, and let the Poles take the initiative out of his hands. Having won over the new Khan of the Crimea, Mahomet Giray, a Polish army 30,000 strong entered Ukrainian territory in the autumn of 1654 in the province of Braslav, the present Podolia. The population left to its own defences, offered desperate resistance. Each town and borough offered battle to the whole Polish army and was almost annihilated. The Polish commander, Stefan Czarniecki, one of the best Polish generals, was at the same time a cruel man, and much incensed with the Cossacks against whom he had fought since the battle of Zhovti Vodi (Yellow Waters) in 1648. He ruined the country without consideration, showing mercy neither to old nor young. The campaign took the form of a life and death struggle, and is known in Ukrainian history as one of the hardest and most cruel wars. After most of the defenders were slain, the heroic defence of the town Busha specially impressed contemporaries, and is recorded in several chronicles on both sides. After most of the defenders were slain, since they were few in number as compared with the Polish army, and the castle was on the point of being taken by the Poles, Irene, the wife of Zavistny, the slain commander of the castle, with her own hands, set fire to the powder magazine, blowing the castle into the air, and perishing herself, together the rest of the defenders. Thirty thousand Tatars joined the Polish army and the conquest of the province which had lasted until the summer of 1655 was now complete, and the once rich and fertile province was laid in ruins. According to a report of the Polish General which has been preserved, dated February 1655, 50 towns and 1,000 Orthodox churches were burnt to the ground, and 100,000 of the population taken prisoner by the Tatars; during the later stages of the campaign these numbers should be doubled. Evidence has been preserved in the travel-diary of the Syrian Archdeacon, Paul of Aleppo, who went northwards in 1654 through Ukraine and left a description of the province of Braslav as a rich and flourishing  p265 land, densely populated and high civilized. On coming southwards again in 1656 through the same country, he noted having seen only ruins, charred remains and wilderness.

Only in January 1655 when the Polish army laid siege to Uman, where the brave Bohun was defending himself, did Khmelnitsky set out to his relief. Khmelnitsky's slowness may be explained by his hope that he might yet win over the Tatars, so he waited until they had definitely sided with Poland. On January 29th‑30th, in bitter frosty weather a pitched battle was fought on the field of Drizhipole. The Poles broke through the Muscovite front line and seized part of their artillery. The Cossacks, however, succeeded in closing the ranks, and repelled the attacks. The position of the Ukrainian-Muscovite army was very dangerous, and only with great effort and after incessant fighting did Khmelnitsky succeed in breaking the blockade of the Polish and Tatar forces and leading his army safely out of danger. About 15,000 men were left slain on the battlefield, the Muscovites alone lost about 9,000, and many perished from the bitter cold. Both sides were exhausted. The Poles retired to the west, and the Tatars returned to the Crimea, plundering and taking prisoners as they went through the southern part of the province of Kiev. Thus ended the first year of the Ukrainian-Muscovite alliance. These events must have considerably diminished the Ukrainians' hopes of the Muscovite Tsar, the power­ful protector who was at last to give to the Ukraine peace and freedom.

76. Khmelnitsky's Political Plans.

As has been stated, misunderstandings between the Muscovite government and Hetman Khmelnitsky began from the very first days of the alliance. The Hetman desired only one definite thing from the Tsar, namely, speedy and power­ful assistance against Poland in order to unite the Ukrainian territories into an independent Ukrainian state. The satisfaction he planned for the Muscovite was to be the Lithuanian and White Russian  p266 territories they should jointly win. The alliance was regarded quite differently in Muscovy. First of all, they wished to make the protectorate a reality, and to have Cossack help in conquering Lithuania and White Russia, and to this end they expected the Hetman to be guided in his political and strategic plans exclusively by instructions and orders from Moscow. Under such circumstances, it is only natural that Khmelnitsky should be quickly disappointed in his Muscovite allies, and compelled to seek other political combinations in order to secure Ukrainian safety and independence.

77. Alliances with Sweden and Transylvania.

During the spring and summer of 1655 the Hetman initiated very lively diplomatic action; he received ambassadors from the Transylvanian Prince George Rakoczy, from the Sultan, and from Charles X of Sweden. The Polish government on their side endeavored to win back the Ukrainian Hetman, now offering the widest concessions. Lastly, Khmelnitsky started relations with the Elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William. Up to this time the latter, being a vassal of the Polish King, had helped Poland against the Ukrainians and his excellent Brandenburg regiments were seen not only in Berestechko but also in the last Polish campaign of 1654‑55. Now, menaced by Sweden and Muscovy, the Elector of Brandenburg sought reconciliation with the Ukraine. Of all these international relations the most vital for Khmelnitsky was the alliance with Sweden. According to an understanding with the Hetman King Charles X attacked Poland in the spring of 1655. Khmelnitsky, having with him a Muscovite detachment under Buturlin, then renewed the war against Poland. In the summer of the same year he repulsed them from Braslav province (Podolia) and transferred his military action into Galicia. He defeated the Polish army near Horodok, and for the second time besieged Lvov. But he was hampered by the presence of the Muscovites, who insisted that all the captured towns, being the spoil of the Muscovite Tsar,  p267  should take an oath of allegiance to him. In order to prevent the same thing happening in Lvov, Khmelnitsky refrained from storming it, and declared himself satisfied by a small war levy. His misunderstandings with the Muscovites were already so evident that they were known to the Polish government, and King John Casimir made repeated offers offering a break with Moscow. The Ukraine would again unite with Poland on the easiest terms. He sent his ambassador with a private letter to Khmelnitsky to which his queen added one from her to Khmelnitsky's second wife, Hanna. Khmelnitsky had married a widow of a distinguished Cossack who had fallen in the war. The Polish queen asked her to intervene with her husband in the interest of peace. The Cossacks distrusted the Polish nobles too deeply and Khmelnitsky expressed himself very sceptically as to the possibility of an understanding with the Poles.

The campaign of the Swedish king against Poland was very success­ful. In July 1655 he took Poznan and very soon most of Poland was in his hands. He took Warsaw, and in the autumn, Cracow also, many nobles going over to him. The King, John Casimir, fled to Silesia.

In the meantime Khmelnitsky's relations with the Muscovites became more and more strained. The chief point of misunderstanding was for the moment White Russia, where Ukrainian administration was being gradually introduced as the conquest advanced northwards. The local population accepted Ukrainian supremacy much more willingly than the Muscovite. Local magnates, such as Chetvertinski and the Princes of Slutsk recognized the Hetman. The town of Old Bykhov took an oath of allegiance to the Hetman and was declared to be the free port on the Dnieper.

The Ukrainians were still more dissatisfied with the foreign policy of the Muscovite government, which, in the spring of 1655 entered into negotiations with Poland. The Polish politicians offered a plan for electing Tsar Alexis to the Polish throne after King John Casimir's  p268 death. In return the Tsar Alexis was to protect Poland against Sweden. Accordingly, the Tsar declared war on Sweden in the spring of 1655 and in August peace negotiations between him and Poland were opened in Vilna. The Ukrainians were not invited to take part in these negotiations which, however, only ended in establishing a truce. Still the fact alone of not allowing Ukrainian representatives to participate in the negotiations caused great indignation in Chihirin. The conduct of the Muscovite government was considered a betrayal. In the first moment of his wrath Khmelnitsky almost decided to break off the alliance. However, he did not formally do so, but concentrated all his energies on the creation of a coalition against Poland from which Muscovy was excluded. His hands were freed by the Muscovites who concluded the truce without even informing him.

Khmelnitsky's chief object was now to make himself independent of the aggressive policy of Muscovy; to wrest from Poland those areas, Volynia, Galicia, Kholm, which had not yet entered the Ukrainian State; keep the Crimean Tatars in check; obtain international recognition of his dynastic plans; strengthen his military title of Hetman by that of a sovereign prince; and secure the hereditary succession for his house in the new Ukrainian State. In order to gain this he set himself to create a coalition of Sweden, Brandenburg, Transylvania, Moldavia, Wallachia and Lithuania. This coalition was directed on the one side against Muscovy until the strife with Poland was terminated, and to obtain the neutrality of the Tatars.

We can obtain a clear idea of the aims and character of the coalition which the Ukrainian Hetman was endeavoring to create from the political treaties which at that time were concluded one after the other between the various members of the coalition. In September 1656 an "eternal alliance" was concluded between Transylvania and the Ukraine by which the Ukraine was to obtain Galicia and White Russia. In December of the same year, Sweden, Transylvania and Brandenburg made a treaty providing for the partition of Poland amongst  p269  themselves. Sweden was to receive Pomerania, West Prussia, Courland, and Livland and a part of Lithuania; Brandenburg was to receive Poznan and Kalish; Transylvania, Cracow and Little Poland; Lithuania was to be an independent state.

Negotiations with Sweden continued while the Ukraine and Transylvania began their campaign against Poland. The Transylvanian Prince George Rakoczy crossed the Carpathian mountains, and, in January 1657, joined the Ukrainians whom Khmelnitsky sent to Galicia under Anthony Zhdanovich. They defeated the Polish army at Zamostie, occupied Cracow, Brest and finally Warsaw, where they were joined by Sweden. When Zhdanovich occupied Brest, the nobles, Orthodox as well as Roman Catholic, of this ancient Ukrainian territory which was called the Princedom of Turov-Pinsk under the Kievan Great Prince, handed him a written declaration of voluntary union with the Ukrainian State and the Hetman accepted them giving a promise to safeguard their privileges. The Volynian nobles followed their example and asked the Hetman to take them under his protection. This was the culminating point of Khmelnitsky's prestige. He was getting old, and in order to secure the succession, he called the General Council of Officers, which met in April 1657 in Chihirin, and chose Khmelnitsky's young son George to be his successor. This choice was certainly made in accordance with his father's wish, for among the old collaborators of Khmelnitsky there was no lack of possible candidates.

Already in the summer of 1657 a change came in the successes of Khmelnitsky and his allies. The political plans of the Ukrainian Hetman and the Swedish King alarmed the neighboring states and particularly the Austrian Court. In February 1657, Emperor Ferdinand III sent his ambassador, Bishop Parchevich, to Chihirin offering the Emperor's services as intermediary with a view to reconciling Poland and the Ukraine. The Hetman received the Imperial ambassador with great honor, but after keeping him for almost three months sent him away  p270 with vague promises not to accept any other mediator than the Emperor, and also to recall the army of Zhdanovich. The latter promise was an empty one, as Zhdanovich continued operations in Galicia. These operations, however, were nearing a crisis. The terrible misfortune which had befallen Poland, threatening to ruin its political independence, roused a spirit of patriotism in the Poles. The Swedes, being Protestants, plundered and ruined Catholic churches, extorted from the population enormous war levies and roused against them the indignation of all classes of the Polish people. Similar ruin and violence was brought by the army of Rakoczy. The Poles were then roused to desperate resistance against the invaders, those who previously had gone over to the Swedish king now left him and took up arms against the Swedes. General Stefan Czarniecki became the heroic leader in this patriotic war. The monastery of Chenstochov​b became famous because of its heroic resistance to the Swedish army. At this moment, Denmark declared war on the Sweden and King Charles X was compelled to withdraw his army, leaving Rakoczy to his own devices in Warsaw. This raised the morale of the Poles. Meanwhile, Austria sent military assistance to John Casimir and in May the Khan of the Crimea also came to Poland's rescue.

Rakoczy found himself in a desperate situation, as the Cossacks refused obedience to their leader and started back to the Ukraine. This last event must be laid to the account of Muscovy, who had attentively followed Zhdanovich's campaign in Poland and kept sending one mission after another to Khmelnitsky requiring him to break his alliance with Sweden and Rakoczy. Seeing that this led to nothing, the Hetman merely ignoring their remonstrances, the Muscovite government took to other methods. They sent agents to Zhdanovich's army to start subversive propaganda among the Cossacks. The Cossacks were on the whole dissatisfied with the campaign, and particularly with Rakoczy, who, to tell the truth, had conducted the campaign without any reasoned plan, never having taken counsel with Zhdanovich, pursuing his  p271 own way. His Magyars disliked the Cossacks, and deprived them of their rightful share of booty, wronging them in every possible way. Therefore the Cossacks mutinied and started for home. Rakoczy abandoned by his allies, was surrounded in July, 1657, by the Tatars near Medzibozh in Volynia, and compelled to capitulate. Notwithstanding their promise of free passage, the Tatars rushed his camp, and took prisoner all who had not fled. Rakoczy himself managed to escape.

78. Khmelnitsky's Death.

The Muscovite agents not only caused mutiny among Zhdanovich's Cossacks, but also among those who were under the command of young Khmelnitsky and who had been stationed near Korsun in order to prevent the Tatars invading Ukraine. When the Hetman ordered them to Poland to help Zhdanovich, they refused to obey. These mutinies were more than the old Hetman could stand. On hearing of the retreat of Zhdanovich's army he had a stroke, and in a few days the great Hetman was no more. He died on August 6th, 1657, in Chihirin, and was buried at his country place at Subotiv in the church he had built and where his son Timothy lay buried.

Almost three hundred years separate us from the death of Bohdan Khmelnitsky, yet to this day history has not recorded any unanimous verdict on the character and actions of the great Hetman. Political and national passions that are still alive centering around his name are a hindrance to a detached and scientifically impartial judgment. More than of any other historic personage, the views of Ukrainian historians about Khmelnitsky have varied according to the epoch in which they wrote. Polish historians in general cannot pardon him the blows which he dealt to the Polish State; Russian writers see in him only the man who "united Ukraine to Muscovy" and thus laid the foundation of Russia as a great power. But even these historians who from one reason or another have held a critical opinion of Bohdan Khmelnitsky's place in history, recognize his profound political intellect, his iron  p272 will, his great diplomatic abilities, and his military and organizing genius. Perhaps the best description of Khmelnitsky is to be found in the writings of the Polish historian L. Kubala, who after having studied for many years Khmelnitsky's life and activity, came to the conclusion that in the person of the Ukrainian Hetman, Poland had to do with a formidable rival of exceptional genius. "Foreigners", writes Kubala, "have compared Khmelnitsky to Cromwell. This was indeed very natural, especially at that time when they both held almost exclusively the attention of western and eastern Europe. Both were representatives of the country gentry, springing, so to speak, from the soil, found themselves at the head of an uprising, won victories, and making mock of the theories and experiences of the cleverest strategists and politicians, created strong armies. Almost contemporaneously, with the help of these armies, they won supreme political power, holding it until death, and handing it on to their sons. We must acknowledge that Khmelnitsky's task was by far the more difficult; his country had no natural frontiers, being open on all sides. In contradistinction to Cromwell, Khmelnitsky had at his disposal neither experienced statesmen nor an old and power­ful national organization. Army, finance, administration, national economy, relations with foreign powers, all were brought into being by him, provided for and looked after. He had to find men, train them, and look after the smallest details. If his army was not starving, if he had arms, munitions, and spies and clever agents, the merit was his alone. From every point of view he was a man of quite exceptional stature, and gifted far beyond the ordinary. We can say of him that he was a born ruler. Knowing how to conceal his intentions, he never hesitated in a critical moment. Everywhere his iron hand and power­ful will were to be felt. There was no situation out of which he was not able to derive some advantage".

If among modern historians who see Khmelnitsky's character and activity in the light of their own respective  p273 national and political opinions, we find a certain divergence of appreciation, his contemporaries as well as the generations who stood near to him saw the great Hetman in quite a different light. To them he was a true national hero about whose person a series of great epics and songs was created. To his contemporaries he was the "God‑sent leader", the "Moses who led his people out of Egyptian-Polish thraldom". Odes and panegyrics were composed in his honor in which he was quite sincerely compared with Attic heroes, a Leonidas, a Hannibal, and in which he was celebrated as "our true leader, patron and defender of the Ukrainian 'Fatherland', a great hero, a great and wise ruler", and so on. The Ukrainian historian, Velychko (1720) put in the mouth of the Hetman's secretary, Samuel Zorka, a beauti­ful speech on the funeral of Khmelnitsky in which he depicts all the sorrow and despair of the Cossacks at the death of their beloved leader. Another historian, Hrabyanka (1710), begins his chronicle with a laudatory poem on Khmelnitsky "through whom the Ukraine came to stand on her own feet", and who "covered himself with undying glory". Hrabyanka's chronicle is chiefly devoted to depicting Khmelnitsky's heroic deeds. A patriotic drama enacted in 1728 is entitled "God's Grace that freed Ukraine from Polish wrongs through Bohdan Zenobius Khmelnitsky". To the Ukrainian philosopher of the Eighteenth century, Gregory Skovoroda, Khmelnitsky was "a hero and father of freedom". Thus do we see Khmelnitsky on the pages of old Ukrainian literature where the love and almost devoted worship is reflected which the Ukrainians of the Cossack period offered to the great Hetman. The generations of Ukrainians which stood nearer in time to Khmelnitsky well understood that it was he who picked up the thread of Ukrainian national independence broken in the Middle Ages, and that the Cossack State called to life by him, again introduced the Ukraine into the circle of politically independent, sovereign nations.


Thayer's Notes:

a The matter of the oath is covered in detail by Ohloblyn, Treaty of Pereyaslav 1654, pp23‑27.

b An odd English transliteration of Częstochowa. Even in an English transliteration out of Ukrainian — itself a poor procedure — one would expect Chenstochova. I suspect Doroshenko's original text (which I have not seen) had Ченстоховський монастир and the translator, strangely unfamiliar with Poland's most famous shrine, failed to include in the proper noun the final -a that is not represented in the adjectival form.


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