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Chapter 25

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!

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Chapter 27

 p530  Chapter XXVI

 * * * *

(The numbers link directly to the sections.)

(172) Ukrainian Territories United Under the Russian Governments. (173) Cossack Officer Class Transformed into Russian Nobles. (174) Beginning of Ukrainian National Renaissance. (175) Brotherhood of SS Cyril and Methodius. (176) Russian Policy in the Ukraine of the Right Bank. (177) Kievan "Cossacks" of 1855.

 * * * *

172. Ukrainian Territories United Under the Russian Governments.

The Ukrainian national renaissance was very much like the revivals of other Slavic peoples such as the Serbs, Czechs, Bulgarians and others who, in consequence of adverse historic circumstances, had succumbed to the domination of their neighbors, lost their political independence and to a certain extent their cultural autonomy. The Ukrainian national renaissance had its roots both in historic tradition and in the awakening of their racial individuality. Historic tradition in the Ukraine was preserved chiefly in those parts of the Ukraine where, until the end of the Eighteenth century, the people lived their own lives and enjoyed political and cultural autonomy. These parts were the territories on the Left Bank of the Dnieper, the Ukraine of the Hetmans and the Slobidska Ukraine. It was in those parts that the awakening of ethnical individuality took place mainly through the discovery of the popular oral epic and lyric poetry, the folklore in those districts having been especially well preserved.

Ukrainian national renaissance began at the end of the Eighteenth century as a reaction to the hard political, social and economic position and cultural stagnation in which Ukrainians found themselves at that time throughout the whole breadth of their territory. After the Partition of Poland in 1772, almost all Ukrainian territory was united under the power of Russia. The existing social and economic order was left unchanged by the Russian  p531 government. Thus the provinces of Kiev, Volynia, and Podolia remained in the state in which they had been under Polish domination. Serfdom, which at the end of the Eighteenth century had reached its climax in Poland, received the full sanction of the Russian government as well as the support of the whole strength of the Russian military and bureaucratic machinery, which Poland did not possess on the eve of its downfall. The Ukrainian people, who expected that some improvement of their position would come from the change, were bitterly deceived in their expectations. The only change that came was the restoration of Uniate Churches to Orthodoxy. Russian authorities not only encouraged but pressed on the population this reconversion. It did not, however, bring any improvement to the position of Ukrainian peasants. On the contrary, abolition of the Uniate Church with its numerous cultural institutions, led to the elimination of the only cultural influence which up to that time had reached the peasant masses through these channels.

The conception of nationality, of an ethnical unity and its aspirations and rights was only beginning to dawn in the minds of some of the most advanced persons towards the end of the Eighteenth century. The "rights of peoples" were proclaimed as one of the revolutionary principles of the French Revolution. Absolutist monarchial governments such as Russia, Austria and Prussia which, taking advantage of the alienation of revolutionary France, had proceeded only shortly before to the Partition of Poland among themselves, were very far from understanding this conception. The Russian government in particular was averse to this idea. Catherine II and her ministers did not or could not see the existence of ethnical differences and opposition in the newly annexed Ukrainian provinces from Poland. They were accustomed to ignore the peasants completely and only reckon with the nobles. Thus, for them these territories were represented by a small number of Polish nobles and not by masses of Ukrainian peasants. Polish nobles accordingly received many privileges, especially in the  p532 realm of education. A few Polish patriots who were at the head of the Educational Department of the newly annexed provinces, in the University town of Vilna, took the utmost advantage of the circumstances. These provinces of which three were Ukrainian, were provided with a great number of very good schools. An institution of higher education was also founded in Kremianets in Volynia. Teaching in these schools was given in the Polish language and in the national Polish spirit, and they became for years nurseries of Polish patriotism and Polish culture. Polish education and learning made greater strides in the Ukraine of the Right Bank during twenty years of Russian government than in a century of Polish rule. The Ukrainian people, oppressed by serfdom and crushed by the strong military and bureaucratic Russian regime, were on the other hand deprived of even the most elementary education and doomed to complete ignorance. The wealth of the folklore and poetry enshrining the memory of former Cossack freedom was their only cultural possession or spiritual inheritance from the past.

Conditions were otherwise in the Ukraine of the Left Bank, where serfdom was not officially introduced until the end of the Eighteenth century. Autonomy was abolished in the Ukraine of the Hetmans, and a short time previously in Slobidska Ukraine. Cossack organizations, judicature and municipal self-government were also abolished and uniform imperial Russian institutions introduced instead. The Ukraine of the Hetmans was divided into two "Little Russian" provinces, Chernigov and Poltava; Slobidska Ukraine retained its name for some time, though it was changed later. Although the outward forms were brought into conformity with the Russian administration, yet something remained of the old constitution. Though the Cossack army no longer existed in the three provinces, the Cossacks themselves remained as a class of freeholders and the bonds of serfdom did not touch them. Thus almost one‑third of the agricultural population were free. The same happened  p533 in the administration of law. The old Cossack and municipal courts of justice were replaced by new institutions uniform with those in Russia, but the old Ukrainian procedure and laws remained in force. All the posts in the new Russianized administration from the Governor at the head to the lowest clerk were occupied by residents of the provinces. The most important circumstance, however, was that the Ukraine of the Left Bank retained its upper and leading class of the population, the former Cossack Officers, though now transformed into Russian nobles.

173. Cossack Officer Class Transformed into Russian Nobles.

The Cossack Officers, as we have seen, acquired during the Eighteenth century the position of a privileged class. At first their position was even better than that of the Russian nobles, who had no corporate self-government and no special jurisdiction but were bound by compulsory and exacting State service. However, since the time of Empress Anna the Russian nobles had gradually become emancipated: in 1730 they obtained the right to dispose more freely of their landed property, and the compulsory State service was limited to certain periods; in 1763 Peter III granted them emancipation from compulsory military service; and, lastly, Catherine II published in 1785, the well-known "Nobles' Charter", which gave to the Russian nobles corporate or class self-government and fixed their position as that of a privileged class having all rights except that of participating in the political power which in an absolutist country, like Russia, belongs to the monarch alone.

The sanction of the privileges of the nobles in Russia coincided with the abolition of Ukrainian autonomy. The Cossack army being disbanded, Cossack Officers were to receive imperial Russian military or civil rank. The Ukrainian privileged class was now very much interested in obtaining in the Russian empire equal privileges with the Russian nobles, as a safeguard in case of possible  p534 changes and to protect themselves against possible social degradation. At first the Russian government had made known that former Ukrainian military and civil officers were entitled to obtain an Imperial Russian patent of nobility. With the introduction of serfdom in the Ukraine a great number of persons, who never had been Cossack Officers, afraid to find themselves in the ranks of those doomed to serfdom, declared their claim to nobility. Not only former lower officials and clerks in Cossack institutions and offices and their dependents, but also clergy, merchants and others, flooded the offices of the competent authority with their petitions and documents, proving their rights to noble ranking. The Russian government was compelled to examine closely the rights of Ukrainian candidates to a Russian imperial patent of nobility. At first the highest authority in Russia, the imperial Heraldic Office, refused to grant to Cossack military and civil officers the right to imperial Russian nobility. This brought about indignant protests from former Cossack Officers of the three provinces, who now addressed petitions to the Tsar accompanied by documents and historic proofs to substantiate their claims. They appealed to the treaties of the Ukrainian Hetmans with the Muscovite Tsars, produced charters of Polish kings, Lithuanian princes, Ukrainian Hetmans and so on. This common interest of the Ukrainian nobles instigated a mass-research into old historical documents, traditions and precedents in order to prove the rights of old Ukrainian families to imperial Russian nobility. Historical materials of every description, chronicles, memoirs, charters, etc., were searched for and collected. This not only provoked interest in Ukrainian history as a whole but also roused Ukrainian patriotism; in defending their traditional family rights, Ukrainian nobles felt themselves to be defending the rights of their native country.

174. Beginning of Ukrainian National Renaissance.

The struggle for recognition of their right to nobility through descent from all categories of Cossack Officers  p535 lasted several decades and was finally terminated for the most part favorably for the petitioners by the imperial Ukase of 1835. A consequence of this was the revival of Ukrainian historic traditions in this part of the Ukraine. It revived interest in the past of the Ukraine and led to historical research and even to the idealization of this past, inspired not only by selfish class interests but also by loftier idealistic sentiments.

The breaking up of the Cossack State and the abolition of Ukrainian autonomy brought about a certain reaction on the part of the more enlightened and patriotic Ukrainians. That this reaction was not limited to literary productions, is proved by the journey of a Poltava nobleman, Vassyl Kapnist, to Berlin in 1791, where he tried to enlist the sympathy and help of the Prussian government against "Muscovite tyranny". The same Vassyl Kapnist wrote and published an "Ode on Serfdom" in which he deplored the introduction of serfdom in the Ukraine. But the times for armed insurrection and foreign intervention had long since passed. Literary interest in the past and historical research encountered modern ideas emanating from the West at the end of the Eighteenth century, and which began to be grasped more and more by the educated nobles in the Ukraine of the Left Bank.

The modern conception of nationality was one of the effective causes of the Ukrainian national revival. The idea appeared in Western Europe late in the Eighteenth century; among Slavic peoples the Czechs were the first to adopt it. This idea found expression in a new interest in the life and speech of the people and in folklore generally. It was expressed in that mighty literary movement which is called Romanticism. Ukrainian educated people in the second half of the Eighteenth century did not yet understand nor value the beauty of the living popular tongue and the popular epics and lyrical songs of which there was such a wealth in the Ukraine. They looked down on everything connected with the people as being "ordinary" and "common". They were attracted  p536 by foreign forms and examples, formerly by Polish and later by Russian and French. They abandoned their native language very much as they exchanged their old fashioned national clothing for modern, fashionable, foreign garments. The whole wealth and originality of popular traditions and customs, the poetry of popular rites, superstitions and beliefs, popular songs and fairy tales, were in their eyes only provincialisms that did not merit the attention of educated people and were only to be mentioned as a curiosity. But before some twenty or thirty years had passed people were to be found in the Ukraine, who began systematically taking down popular poetry, studying popular speech and even introdu­cing it into literature.

In the year 1798 two notable books were published simultaneously in St. Petersburg. One under the title, "Notes on the Little Russia", was a small encyclopaedia of information about the Ukraine, its nature, history, popular language and folklore written by Jacob Markovich. This book was brimful of patriotic enthusiasm which gushed and sparkled in every sentence of its young author. Without being a work of scientific importance, this book initiated a long series of other works on Ukrainian history and folklore which followed one another in the first decades of the Nineteenth century. The second book was far more important since it began the modern period of Ukrainian literature. This was the "Aeneid" by Ivan Kotliarevsky of Poltava. His play "Natalka Poltavka", staged for the first time in Poltava in 1819, was the beginning of the Ukrainian modern theatre.

Endeavors to investigate the past of the Ukraine resulted in a long series of works on Ukrainian history, the most important being the Ukrainian History of D. Bantish Kamensky. These works laid the basis for scientific research into the Ukrainian past and, on the other hand, widely diffused among the population knowledge and interest in national history.

The modern period of Ukrainian literature, intimately connected with the study of Ukrainian history and folklore,  p537 opened the eyes of educated Ukrainians to an entirely new world of popular life full of spiritual meaning. It included highly poetical folklore; beauti­ful epics in which the image of the heroic past of the Cossack period was preserved in wonder­ful freshness; and touching and delicate lyrical popular songs. From this time the idea of "nation" had a wider content: instead of limiting it to the upper educated classes, the nobles, the whole Ukrainian people was now included. And the conception of the "native country"1 now included not merely the limited historical territory of one's birthplace, but all the territories inhabited by the Ukrainian people. Now traces of past glories were no longer sought only in old chronicles, Hetman's Universals or in yellowing family papers or charters of kings and princes, but also in popular epics still on the lips of the people and in the living popular tradition.

Prince Nicholas Tseretelev published in 1819, the first collection of Cossack epics, the so‑called "Dumy kozatski". This collection had the same significance for the awakening of Ukrainian national feeling as the publication of Serb popular songs by Vuk Karadjich for the Southern Slavs, or the publication of the Kraledvor manuscript for the Czechs. In editing the Ukrainian historical epics, Prince Tseretelev believed he was doing a patriotic action. "If these epics", he said in the preface, "do not serve as historical documents, nevertheless they show the poetical genius of the Ukrainian people, their spirit, their old traditions and customs and lastly, the pure morals for which Ukrainians were always known and which they jealously preserve even to this day as their only ancestral inheritance saved from the covetousness of their neighbors . . .". It was with the same feelings of love for his country that Professor Michael Maksimovich published his collection of Ukrainian popular songs in 1827. We may judge the deep impression they made  p538 on other contemporaries, not only Ukrainians, from the enthusiasm with which they were greeted by Pushkin, the greatest Russian poet.2

It was Kharkov, the capital of Slobidska Ukraine, which early in the Nineteenth century became the centre of cultural life in the Ukraine. The University, founded there in 1805, was mainly supported financially by local nobles and merchants. The initiative was due to the local patriot Vassyl Karazin. The learned and cultured Ukrainian scholars gathered around this University, most of them being historians and literary men. The well-known Ukrainian poet, Peter Hulak Artemovsky, was for a long time Rector of the University. The names of reviews "Ukrainski Vestnik", "Ukrainski Journal", published at that time in Kharkov show that they were dedicated to the national interests. Gregory Kvitka, the founder of the Ukrainian novel, was at the head of the literary movement in Kharkov. It was in Kharkov that historians such as Izmail Sreznevsky, Nicholas Kostomarov, Ambrose Metlinski, and others began their activity. Their works concerned, also, other Slavic peoples and they became representatives of the spiritual unity and brotherhood of all Slavs.

In speaking of the Ukrainian renaissance in the first half of the Nineteenth century, we must bear in mind that this patriotic and purely idealistic movement was started and carried on by the upper classes only, that is, by the Ukrainian gentry. This movement did not penetrate the masses for the obvious reason that the common people, enslaved as they had been since the introduction of the serfdom, were entirely cut off from education and schools. About the middle of the Eighteenth century there was a school in every Ukrainian village but with the abolition of Ukrainian autonomy  p539 and the introduction of serfdom those schools disappeared. They disappeared even from the settlements of the Cossacks, who though remaining personally free, suffered such severe economic conditions that they could not afford to keep up their schools. Besides, under the Russian regime all careers other than farming were closed to the Cossacks. Education could lead to nothing and so went out of fashion. The standard of education fell even among the clergy. Formerly the sons of Ukrainian clergymen attended schools open to all classes of the population and were not restricted exclusively to clerical schools. Until the end of the Eighteenth century the clerical profession in the Ukraine was not hereditary. Candidates to the office of parish priest were freely elected by the parishioners who could even elect a layman, who would then have to be ordained priest by the bishop if he was found to fulfil the requirements. Thus the Ukrainian clergy were not an exclusive caste as were the Russian priests. After the reforms of Catherine II, which made the State service a privilege of the nobles, sons of clergymen were compelled to take the only career open to them and to which they were destined from the elementary schools. And the standard of education in clerical schools fell very low under the Russian regime. Taking this into consideration, we can understand why the literary movement of the Ukrainian renaissance was represented exclusively by nobles who alone were educated, and that this movement, as such, also showed certain traces of class ideology.

The Ukrainian nobles of the first half of the Nineteenth century showed a considerable spirit of opposition towards the Russian government. The sources of this spirit were above all the discontent aroused by the reluctancy of the Russian authorities to recognize the rights of the Ukrainian gentry. But there were also other causes: in numerous reports and memoirs of high Russian officials both military and civil serving at that time in the Ukraine, we read of the Ukrainian gentry being "full of hatred" against Russia and the Russians. The  p540 causes of this hatred seemed to the authors of these documents to lie in the "disregard of the rights of the Ukraine" by the Russian government, as well as in heavy taxation, the unsatisfactory economic policy of the Russian government, leading to general impoverishment and to inequitable treatment. This hatred and the spirit of opposition in the Ukraine were observed not by Russians alone, but also by foreigners who visited the Ukraine. The German traveller Kohl, who visited the Ukraine later at the end of the Thirties, wrote about this hatred against Russia among the Ukrainian nobles, about their national movement, their patriotism and even their dreams of again separating the Ukraine from Russia. Indeed, the policy of Tsar Alexander I, and Nicholas I his successor, could not give the Ukraine satisfaction. The long wars which Alexander I waged against France and Napoleon were in themselves a burden, and especially so for the Ukraine, which for all her sacrifices of men and material only received further taxation and limitations of rights. Moreover, the Russian government did not keep their promises concerning the Ukrainian Cossacks to whom the Russian Tsars turned in critical moments, and who were always ready for every military service. For example, in 1812 during Napoleon's campaign against Moscow, Tsar Alexander I ordered the Governor General of Little Russia (Ukraine), Prince Lobanov Rostovski, to form several regiments of Ukrainian Cossacks, promising that after the termination of the war they would remain as a permanent Cossack army. This order was received with great joy by the Cossacks of Poltava and Chernigov provinces who in a short time and without any help from the government, formed fifteen horse regiments, each 1,200 men strong. The government, however, disbanded them in 1816 even without having refunded their expenses of providing their own equipment of arms and uniforms during all the years which, as Russian Ministers themselves admitted, "completely ruined the Ukrainian Cossacks". Instead of keeping the promise of a permanent Cossack Army, they ordered  p541 25,000 men to leave their homes against their will and join the Kuban Cossacks, former Zaporogians settled on the river Kuban. During the Polish uprising of 1831, Tsar Nicholas I again appealed to the Ukrainian Cossacks. The Governor General of Little Russia, Prince Repnin, undertook the formation of eight regiments of Ukrainian Cossacks, Ukrainian gentry giving them means to provide themselves with horses. Again a permanent Cossack Army was promised to the Ukrainians and again, when the Polish uprising was put down, the Ukrainian Cossacks were deceived and partly incorporated in the Russian standing army and partly sent to the Caucasus. When naturally, they protested, they were severely punished and a number of them were put to death by flogging. Thus all these dealings of the Russian authorities with the Cossacks appeared more like provocation on a grand scale than anything else.

The economic policy of the Russian government was at all times directed against the interests of the Ukraine. In the first half of the Nineteenth century the Finance Minister, Count Kankrin, was checking the development of Ukrainian agriculture by his tariffs and customs, and by his whole financial policy ruining the Ukrainian population. The local administration in the person of the Governor General nominated by the Russian government, was compelled to take sides with the Ukrainian population in order to defend them from utter impoverishment and ruin. Taking all this into consideration we can understand that the "hatred against the Muscovites" and the spirit of opposition we read about in the memoirs of Russians and foreigners' travel-diaries was fully justified. We shall then understand such reports as the following: "the gentry of Poltava rejoice greatly at Napoleon's successes and wish that he would destroy Russia" or the reported words of demobilized soldiers, peasants in Pereyaslav district (Poltava province), who said that "when again mobilized they would fight not the French but the Muscovites". The Marshal of the nobles of the same Poltava province of the Piriatin district, Vassyl  p542 Lukashevich, proposed the toast of Napoleon's health and the gentry of the same district openly drank to the "Republic".

After the Napoleonic wars, public opinion in the whole of Russia was seething with liberal and even more extreme ideas resulting from their contact with West European life during Russian campaigns in Germany, Austria and France. During these campaigns not only the officers but also the common soldiers saw another life, not marred by primitive slavery or the serfdom which still firmly held in its embrace the vast Empire in the East of Europe. Many of them returned home bringing with them not only the "latest Parisian fashions", but also blushes of shame for the primitive and ugly conditions and ways of Russian life. In consequence of these experiences of the Russian armies abroad and especially among the officers of the Guards, mostly youths of the aristocratic families, the fashion of Freemasonry became widespread. Masonic lodges and various secret societies with political aims gradually developed into a wide conspiracy, ending in the unfortunate uprising of the 14th of December, 1825, known in Russian history as the "Decabrist-uprising" and its members known as the "Decabrists".

Freemasonry also spread in the Ukraine where it inevitably took on a special tinge in dealing with national problems. From this point of view they are of interest to historians and we must mention the Freemasonic lodge in Poltava to which the famous Ukrainian poet, Ivan Kotliarevsky, belonged. Especially interesting was the Masonic Lodge of Kiev known under the name of "United Slavs", to which Ukrainians belonged together with Poles and Russians, the name of the lodge showing an attempt to introduce friendly relations among the three Slav peoples. The Masonic movement in Russia, as was natural in a country deprived of freedom, was soon transformed into secret political societies, some of which had for their object Russian affairs in general; some took up general Slavic interests, while others devoted themselves to purely Ukrainian affairs. When the  p543 Russian government, after having put down the December uprising of 1825, discovered the existence of secret political societies, the members intimidated by the cruel fate of the "Decabrists", did everything to exculpate themselves, denying their member­ship in such societies, destroying every possible trace of them and even denying their very existence. In consequence, we now possess very few documents about those societies. Still, according to contemporary memoirs published much later and to documents lately discovered in archives, enough is known for us to be able to reconstruct a sufficiently complete picture of the political movement in the Ukraine before the uprising of the 14th of December, 1825.

There is sufficient data proving the existence of a secret political society whose members occupied public positions. The president of it was Marshal of the nobles of the Piriatin district in Poltava province, Vassyl Lukashevich. According to one author of contemporary memoirs, the aim of this society was to bring about political independence for the Ukraine. The "Decabrist" conspiracy also had its ramifications in the Ukraine and Ukrainian officers and local land­owners were among its members. Whilst northern branches of the conspiracy, and among them the Central Committee with Colonel Pastel at its head, were imbued with the principle of centralization and paid no attention to the differences between peoples in the Russian Empire, the southern branches saw the future Russian constitution as an ideal federation of nationalities and put the national question on the order of the day. From this point of view the "Society of United Slavs" in the Ukraine in 1825, into which the Masonic Lodge of the same name was transformed, deserves our special attention. In the memoirs of one of the members of this society we read: "the Society of United Slavs puts as its chief object the deliverance of all Slavic peoples from absolutist power and their union in one federative State. The frontiers of each separate Slavic State were to be exactly fixed and the form of the government was to be a democratic parliamentary  p544 republic: affairs affecting the whole Union were to be dealt with by a Congress which alone could change, if necessary, the fundamental constitution of the Union. Each separate State was to have independence and full liberty to decide its internal affairs". During the inquiry into this society a "Catechism" was discovered which, among other instructions, contained this admonition: "Do not wish to possess a slave if you do not wish to be a slave yourself". In this lay the same condemnation of serfdom which we meet in the early works of modern Ukrainian literature and which, some twenty years later resounded so power­fully in the poems of the famous Ukrainian poet, Shevchenko.

Shortly after the December uprising in St. Petersburg, there was another uprising in the army stationed in the Ukraine in Vassilkov, in the Kiev province. Both uprisings, having been insufficiently prepared, ended in failure and a complete breakdown of the whole conspiracy resulted. Harsh treatment of the revolutionaries by the young Tsar, Nicholas I, terrorized Russia. There was also a lull in affairs in the Ukraine. Opposition, though not extinguished, showed itself in more subdued forms. For some time we know nothing of political societies nor organized bodies, and the national Ukrainian movement only manifested itself in literature and in historical and ethnographical studies.

175. Brotherhood of SS Cyril and Methodius.

The first manifestations of the Ukrainian movement were in the Ukraine of the Left Bank, where the educated classes uniting historic tradition and modern West European ideas had put forward pioneers and partisans of a Ukrainian renaissance. The Ukraine of the Right Bank, dominated by Polish or polonized Ukrainian upper classes, did not participate in this awakening. On the contrary, it was there that the Polish national movement came to light. A Polish uprising against the Russian regime which broke out in 1831, was well supported  p545 by Polish land­owners in Ukrainian territories, especially in Volynia.

The suppression of the Polish uprising had also certain consequences for the Ukraine. The Russian government was forced to change its treatment of Ukrainian territories on the Right Bank which they, up to now, regarded as a Polish province. It was now officially proclaimed that the Ukraine of the Right Bank was an ancient "Russian" territory that had fallen under Polish influence and energetic means were taken to weaken Polish influence in these provinces and to support instead the "Russian" population.

First of all the educational system was dealt with. The College of Kremianets was closed as well as all the Polish schools. The University of Vilna was transferred to Kiev in 1832. The Roman Catholic Church was in its turn deprived of its power and influence. Most of the Roman Catholic convents in the Ukrainian provinces were closed. The Uniate Church was abolished in 1839 on Ukrainian and White Russian territories and only remained in Kholm province, where it lasted for some time until definitely abolished in a very brutal fashion in 1875. The Russian authorities now understood well enough that all these limitations only affected a very small part of the population, the upper classes, that is the Polish or polonized Ukrainian nobles. Besides the nobles, there were great numbers of peasants belonging to the Orthodox Church who were Ukrainian or, according to the official terminology of the Russian government, "Russian". These peasants were the serfs of Polish land­owners. It was necessary to do something for them. The government attempted some limitation of the number of days peasants had to work for the landlords, but this brought about only a slight improvement in the position of the population, which remained in complete dependence on their owners. As to introdu­cing any education for the peasants or any sort of schools, there was no thought of it. In their endeavors to weaken Polish influence the Russian government never hit on  p546 the idea of supporting the national dignity of the Ukrainian population. In the meantime the spiritual and intellectual movement which was going among the Polish nobles in the Ukraine of the Right Bank, in the twenties and thirties of the Nineteenth century, remained not without influence on the development of the Ukrainian national movement. As a matter of fact, most of the Polish nobles were Poles only in language and culture. In reality they were polonized descendants of the former Ukrainian gentry. Even the anthropometrical investigations of Polish anthropologists show that the Polish nobles in the Ukraine of the Right Bank belonged, anthropologically speaking, more to the local Ukrainian population than to the Polish nobles and peasants from Poland. This relation­ship of the gentry in the Ukraine of the Right Bank and their attachment to their native land led, in time, to a certain local patriotism among them. When at the beginning of the Eighteenth century under the influence of Romanticism interest in the life of the people was also awakening among the Polish gentry, Polish poets, natives of the Ukraine, created the so‑called "Ukrainian schools" in Polish literature. They loved the Ukraine, and drew their inspiration from its warlike past and the exploits of the Cossacks; they took up subjects from Ukrainian history, introduced themes from Ukrainian popular traditions and Ukrainian folklore into their works and imitated the form of Ukrainian popular epics, and so on. While remaining patriots of the historical Poland and taking part in the Polish national movement, the representatives of the "Ukrainian school" in Polish literature yet influenced generally the development of Ukrainian patriotic feeling and the Ukrainian renaissance. Among the more distinguished representatives of this movement are the poets; Malchevski, Zaleski, Hoschinski, and the novel writers and literary critics; Hrabovski, Chaikovski. The famous poet, Julius Slowacki, also belonged partly to the Ukrainian school. Considerably influenced by this school and by the local Ukrainian patriotism of the Polish gentry, a movement  p547 developed in the second half of the Nineteenth century, which brought a number of them into the Ukrainian national camp. Kiev, with its new University, became the meeting place of the polonized Ukrainian nobles from the Ukraine of the Right Bank and those of the former Ukraine of the Hetmans who were now under Russian influence. At this centre of culture, the cross roads of different cultural influences, on a soil rich in historic Ukrainian memories, a great impetus was given to the Ukrainian national movement. The influence of Polish revolutionaries gave it a definitely radical tinge.

It was in Kiev, midway in the forties of the Nineteenth century, that a secret society was founded which drew up the first political programme for Ukrainians. This Society, called "The Brotherhood of SS Cyril and Methodius", in honor of the Apostles of the Slavic lands, united the flower of the Ukrainian patriots of the time, men who had a decisive influence on the further development of the Ukrainian national renaissance. Among them were the historian Kostomarov, Professor of the University of Kiev; Kulish, a well-known literary man; Markovich, an ethnographer of note; and finally Taras Shevchenko, the greatest Ukrainian poet. The last named was a peasant's son, who only shortly before had been bought out of serfdom. The first volume of his poems, published in 1840 in St. Petersburg, made his name extremely popular in the Ukraine and procured him literary fame. His influence on the development of the Ukrainian national movement was extremely important. Members of the "Brotherhood" were of a different social position from those of former Masonic lodges and political societies of the first decades of the Nineteenth century; instead of aristocrats and rich landed proprietors, we here encounter sons of the middle and even the poorest classes, including a former serf. This was the class which, in the forties, entered the arena of public life in the intellectual field  p548 and took the place of the former nobles. In modern times this class is called "intelligentsia".

The "Brotherhood of SS Cyril and Methodius" was of short duration. Hardly had they formulated their programme and begun practical activity when the government was informed of their existence; its members were arrested, brought to St. Petersburg and after a summary trial by the authorities, punished very severely with imprisonment and exile. Only after ten years, following the death of Tsar Nicholas I who personally conducted the trial and chose the punishments, were the members of the Brotherhood allowed to return to their literary and scientific activities. The ideas put forward by them in the programme of the Brotherhood were, however, of enormous importance for the Ukraine; we can safely say that they determined the chief lines of development of the Ukrainian national revival for a long time to come.

The programme of the Brotherhood, who had put themselves under the protection of the Slav Apostles in order to stress their common Slavic aims, is best seen from the text of the proclamation written by Kostomarov:

"To brother Ukrainians! We believe that all Slavic peoples should unite, that every one of them should have its own Commonwealth and settle its affairs independently from others. Each people should have its own constitution, language and literature. To the Slavic peoples belong, we affirm, Muscovites, Ukrainians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Bulgars and Slovenes. There should be one Seim or Slavic Rada (Parliament) where the representatives of all Slavic Republics could meet and settle the affairs of the whole Slavic Union. Each country should have its leader elected for several years, and at the head of the whole Slavic Union there should be a leader, also elected for several years. In each Republic freedom and equality should be introduced and social classes should be abolished. Representative members as well as all officials should be elected, not according to their birth or wealth, but according to their gifts and attainments.  p549 The laws and the administration of the whole Union as well as of the separate Republics should be based on the Holy Christian Faith".

The Constitution of the Brotherhood supplies further details about the Slavic Federation of which its members were dreaming. According to it the political and spiritual union of the Slavic peoples was the true objective at which they must aim. Kiev should stand outside the States and should be the place where the General Seim (Parliament) should meet. Each State should have a President elected for four years. The General President was also to be elected for four years.

As is seen from extant documents, the struggle against serfdom was the most immediate of the practical aims of the Brotherhood who pledged themselves to carry on ceaseless propaganda in literature, schools and so on, in order to educate a new generation of nobles in the abolitionist spirit. At the same time they considered it necessary at the outset to spread education among the masses by publishing popular and easily understood books and papers in order to raise their level of culture. The plans of the Ukrainian idealists were not destined to be realized, but their ideas were not lost. The struggle against serfdom became the theme of Ukrainian literature. We can safely say that before serfdom was abolished by the government, it had already received its death-blow from Ukrainian and Russian literature.

176. Russian Policy in the Ukraine of the Right Bank.

The whole regime of Tsar Nicholas I (1825‑1855) was characterized by the blackest political reaction. Starting with the cruel suppression of the "Decabrist uprising", he declared from the outset an irreconcilable hostility to all liberal ideas. The chief principles on which the Russian Empire was to be based were declared to be autocracy, Orthodoxy and nationality. Orthodoxy meant the exclusive domination of one Orthodox Church, which was entirely subjected to the temporal power and made to serve exclusively the existing political regime. Autocracy  p550 meant not only concentration of the whole power in the hands of one absolute monarch, but also the exclusion of the people from all participation in political life, the abolition of all forms of self-government and the giving over of the whole enormous State government machinery with all its complicated economic functions, into the hands of an irresponsible bureaucracy free of every public control. The third principle of the political system of the Russian Empire was nationality: this meant the domination of the Great-Russians or Muscovites and the complete stifling of all the national characteristics of all the numerous other peoples of the Empire. All this was to be maintained by strict centralization which proceeded from the idea of autocracy. All the provinces were to be ruled from one centre, St. Petersburg, where the threads from all the ends of the empire converged. Even local affairs of minor importance were to be reported to St. Petersburg and decided there. Local agents, even in the highest post of a Governor General, were compelled to refer every detail to the Central government or even to the Tsar himself.

On the surface, this enormous State machine could impress by its ostensible shapeliness, by its seemingly integrated function and by its outward order. But all this order was built solely on the fear of punishment and consisted of a purely mechanical fulfillment of orders. The smallest opportunity to escape control led to fearful abuses of power and unprecedented venality. The chief reason for this was the fact that the whole State edifice was based on the slavery of the masses, who never ceased to be dissatisfied and disturbed, to be in a state of unrest even in Muscovy where serfdom had already existed for centuries and to feel their bondage acutely.

The situation in the Ukraine was even more complicated through special local circumstances. The Russian government was always afraid of the spectre of Ukrainian separatism and deeply mistrusted the Ukrainian population. Even when Ukrainians showed signs of official patriotism, as in 1812 and 1830 when whole regiments  p551 of volunteers were raised by them, after the danger had passed these armies were immediately disbanded with harsh and cruel measures and even exiled, as were the Cossacks who were sent to Kuban. When Prince Repnin, Governor General of the Ukraine, began proposing plans for the amelioration of the hard economic lot of the Ukrainian Cossacks and peasants, and by his humane administration won their affection, he was suspected of Ukrainian patriotism and separatism, deprived of his post and exiled abroad. In the trial of the "Brotherhood of SS Cyril and Methodius", the Tsar saw nothing other than the intention of Ukrainians to separate from Russia and renew their independent existence under their elected Hetmans. The Polish uprising of 1830 indirectly hastened the abolition of all traces of Ukrainian autonomy. The Magdeburg Law or municipal self-government was definitely abolished in the towns of the Ukraine of the Left Bank. This abolition was once more confirmed by the ukase of 1835, and in 1842 the so‑called Lithuanian Statute, which had entirely become Ukrainian Law, was also suspended and uniform Russian legislation introduced. In Kiev, together with the abolition of self-government, the Municipal Militia (Police), composed of about 2,000 men armed and clothed after Cossack fashion, was disbanded. Ukrainian merchants were forcibly transferred to Kievan suburbs and Muscovite merchants ordered for the purpose from Russia, were settled in the centre of town.

Ukrainian nobles were put on a par with Russian nobles and at last even the post of the "Little Russian" Governor General was cancelled in order that nothing should remain of the former distinctness of this territory. Henceforth, it was to be uniform with other Russian provinces. The Ukraine of the Right Bank was differently situated, especially after the Polish uprising of 1830‑31, when the Russian Government was more concerned about the Polish menace than about the Fronde of Ukrainian gentry of the Left Bank and all the dreams of Ukrainian patriots about the Cossacks and Hetmans.

 p552  Statistics dating from 1838, give the population of the three Ukrainian provinces of the Right Bank; Kiev, Volynia and Podolia. There were 4,200,000 Ukrainian peasants, serfs of Polish land­owners. The gentry, mostly Poles, numbered 100,000 of whom only about one‑third were land­owners possessing large and medium sized properties. About 65,000 were nobles who only had small estates or even no land at all, but were tenants or agents of the great land­owners. The Polish szlachta, like the Russian nobles, were free from all taxation and duties. The town population numbering 341,000 were only to an insignificant extent Ukrainians; most were Jews who in large numbers had followed the Polish nobles from Poland. They now controlled almost all the commerce, leased from the land­owners mills, breweries, inns and alehouses, ferries on the rivers, sometimes small estates and occasionally those who were rich rented large estates with the right to exact serf labor from the peasants.

Although the Russian government did not adopt the same methods against the Polish revolutionaries as the Austrian government did in Galicia in 1846, when they armed Ukrainian peasants against their Polish landlords, the Russian Field Marshal Osten-Sacken in 1831, published a proclamation to the peasants in the Ukraine of the Right Bank inviting them to denounce those of their landlords who joined the Polish uprising and arrest those whom they saw in arms. In the proclamation the peasants were promised that they should never again become serfs of the landlords who had joined the rebellion. This proclamation was read in the churches throughout the three provinces and was greeted with enthusiasm by the peasants. The attempted uprising of the Poles on Ukrainian territories was abortive, but after it had been suppressed, the Russian government quite forgot to keep its promise.

The Ukrainian masses were reduced to a point of extreme backwardness and ignorance. The Orthodox clergy could not help them much as they also were poorly educated, humiliated, poverty stricken and in complete  p553 material dependence on their Polish landlords. Nothing was done for the popular education. The Russian government, having closed the Polish schools, opened new Russian ones but they were meant only for the privileged class of nobles.

Since the Polish uprising of 1831, the Russian government had realized that the surest means of weakening the Polish element, politically dangerous to them, would be to improve the position of the peasant-serfs of the Polish landlords. But Tsar Nicholas I held the principle of serfdom as sacred and dared not attempt anything against it. Soon after his accession to the throne he declared in a session of the State Council: "I recognize that every thought of setting the serfs free would be a criminal attempt on the safety and well-being of the empire". In time Tsar Nicholas came to the conclusion that the slavery should somehow be abolished. During the thirty years of his reign five secret commissions sat and deliberated various projects for peasant reform, but to the end of his life, Nicholas I did not dare to take any practical steps in this direction.

The post of Governor General of Kiev was occupied in 1838 by General Bibikov. He was a typical reactionary, stubbornly opposed to every liberal thought, and in his administrative practice acted the despot to perfection. But he was an intelligent and an active man. He very soon grasped the abnormal situation, unfavorable to the State interests of the Russian empire, and endeavored to do something to improve the economic and legal position of the peasants in his province. By severe measures he rebuffed the political aspirations of the Polish nobles, and in order to lessen their influence found it necessary to put some check on their exploitation of the serfs. First, Bibikov dealt with the numerous small szlachta who especially oppressed the peasants, being intermediaries between them and the wealthy land­owner as stewards, agents or dependents of the latter. At the time of the Polish uprising these poor szlachta had provided a contingent of armed insurgents. During 1840‑45 a special  p554 commission under Bibikov himself reduced 64,000 Polish nobles who had not adequate documentary proof of their standing, from the status of gentry to that of free peasants or burgesses. Later these former szlachta, having been compelled to work mostly in agriculture, became merged in the local Ukrainian population and adopted their language, ways of life, habits and customs.

Bibikov's measures for the amelioration of the condition of the peasants began with the category of the so‑called State serfs. These were the peasants who worked on the lands of the confiscated Roman Catholic monasteries or on those belonging to Polish Land­owners who, having taken part in the uprising, had forfeited their estates to the government. These State domains with their serfs were usually leased by Poles or Jews. The tenants cruelly exploited the peasants in order to obtain the most out of the estates. Bibikov succeeded in obtaining a reform measure from the government, according to which these peasants were to pay a certain regular tax to the State treasury and were allowed to work as small tenants on their own homesteads on the land that belonged to the State. Thus a certain number of peasants in the three provinces were freed from serfdom. Even more important was his reform of 1847, according to which the work of the serfs was strictly regulated in the sense that only a certain number of days were due to the landlords, and if they wished to employ the peasants in excess of this, they had to pay them according to the rate fixed by the authorities. Moreover, the character of the work was adapted to the sex and age of the serfs. All taxation for the landlords was abolished, Sundays and feast days were to be observed. Certain limitations were introduced with regard to the rights of landlords to enforce or prohibit marriages of their serfs, to force them to enlist or to punish them by exile to Siberia. The work of the serfs was regulated according to the seasons of the year and it was prohibited to make changes transferring winter work to summer and vice versa. This  p555 reform introduced by Bibikov was known under the name of "Inventory Regulations".

The "Inventory Regulations" were, of course, far from being the enfranchisement of the peasants from serfdom. Yet to a certain extent, they protected the persons and properties of the peasants from the arbitrary power of the landlords and somewhat improved their position. These reforms, however, came to nothing for Bibikov vacated the post of Governor General in 1852, and a liberal, Prince Vassilchikov was nominated instead. He issued "supplements" to the "Inventory Regulations" of Bibikov which nullified the regulations, and the serfs were again oppressed, even more grievously than ever before.

In consequence of these vacillations in the official policy towards serfdom, the peasants were extremely upset. Here and there they revolted and were usually cruelly suppressed. The "Inventory Regulations", being very loosely worded, themselves led to misunderstandings, the landlords reading them in one sense and the serfs in another. In consequence the peasants very often refused to do any work at all: the landlords called in the police and military force and the culprits were severely punished.

177. Kievan "Cossacks" of 1855.

These outbreaks were very numerous, but the most important occurred in 1855 as result of the Tsar's manifesto concerning the Crimean war. It took place in the middle of Kiev province and spread over eight districts covering almost half the province. In the spring of 1855, soon after the outbreak of the war, Tsar Nicholas I published an appeal to the population inviting his subjects to join the army as volunteers and defend Russia against the coalition of England, France and Turkey. Some vague passages in the manifesto, which was written in the Russian language and solemnly read in the churches, were naturally misunderstood by Ukrainian peasants owing to their imperfect  p556 knowledge of Russian. The people interpreted those passages in the way familiar to them: they understood the manifesto as an order from the Tsar to organize Cossack regiments and go to war. The districts concerned were these territories where the Cossack past still lived in popular memory, was cherished and expected to return. Thus the appeal to join the army and to fight fell on very fertile ground. In some villages the priests, wishing no doubt to bring the matter home to them, explained that they must rise in defence of their faith and their native country as their ancestors, the Cossacks, had done. The peasants started to form detachments and demanded that clergy should administer the oath to them and enroll them as Cossacks. All work for the landlords was, of course, abandoned as the peasants were convinced that enrolment as Cossacks set them free. When in some villages the priests tried to explain their error they would not believe and even used violence against the clergy, accusing them of having hidden the true manifesto granting the peasants freedom. Police and military detachments were sent to reduce them to order. The peasants offered resistance. More military force was sent, their resistance was broken and now cruel reprisals were taken against them. Thousands of peasants, both men and women, were imprisoned and flogged. Hundreds were sent to Siberia as convicts. This extremely tragic episode is known in history under the name of the "Kievan Cossacks of 1855". We can safely say that there innocent people suffered for their mistake and paid in blood and tears for their aspirations to freedom. The much hoped‑for freedom was, however, not far away, and the disaster of the Crimean war hastened its coming.


The Author's Notes:

1 The Ukrainian word is "batkivschina" and means literally land of father or ancestors.

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2 Ukrainian folksongs were subsequently translated into several European languages, among others: in German by the well-known German poet, Friedrich Bodenstedt, in his collection "Die Poetische Ukraine"; in Danish by the modern Danish poet, Thor Lange, in his "Fjerne Melodier".


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