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Chapter 5

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

History of the Ukraine
By Dmytro Doroshenko

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

The text is in the public domain.

This page has not been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 7

 p90  Chapter VI

 * * * *

(The numbers link directly to the sections.)

(28) Conditions in the Ukraine After the Tatar Invasion. (29) Lithuania. (30) Ukraine Under the Lithuanian Princes. (31) Union of Lithuania and Poland.

 * * * *

28. Conditions in the Ukraine After the Tatar Invasion.

During the time when a new political centre of national life was forming in Galicia, around which capable rulers success­fully endeavored to unite the western Ukrainian territories, a further disintegration of the old political and social forces was taking place in the territory of the former Kievan Princedom, the basin of the Dnieper and its tributaries. New forms came slowly into existence, repla­cing the old, and early showing the germs of subsequent political organizations.

The Tatar invasion, as has been shown, greatly changed the political aspect of eastern Europe, and particularly the Great Russian territories grouped round the Princedomsº of Suzdal. Its influence was, as we have said, very deeply impressed on all manifestations of national life, on political forms, on social and cultural conditions, even on the character and psychology of the Great Russian population. Less deep, but yet very definite, was the influence of the Tatar invasion on the Ukrainian territory. Firstly, it confirmed the political disintegration of the Kievan State. The centre of national life was, as we have said, transferred westward into Galicia. All the dynastic, political, economic and cultural connections of the Ukrainian territories with the Great Russian Princedoms were entirely broken. The national development of the Ukrainians and the Great Russians, or rather Muscovians, continues from this time along different lines.

In speaking of the direct influence of the Tatar invasion on the Ukraine, the first question which arises is the extent to which the invasion led to actual extermination  p91 and disappearance of the population in the Ukraine, and to the subsequent repopulation of the deserted land by the new‑comers. Russian historians long maintained that the territory in the Dnieper basin was completely depopulated in consequence of the Tatar invasion, and this gave rise to the hypothesis formulated by Pogodin that these vacant spaces formerly occupied by Russians, were re‑populated by Ukrainians coming from Galicia. This view was based on imperfect knowledge of contemporary historical sources and evidences, and influenced by the fact that the Kievan Chronicle, chief source of our direct knowledge of Kiev, closes at the end of the Twelfth century. Chronicles, both of Suzdal and of Galicia-Volynia give us but scanty and fragmentary information about events on Kievan territories, and this fact contributed to the belief in the complete depopulation of the Dnieper basin.

Polish historians of the Nineteenth century supported this view chiefly with the object of giving the merit of the repopulation of the Ukrainian "desert" to Polish influence and efforts.

Later historical research and study of western European contemporary sources of information chiefly by Ukrainian historians (M. Maksimovich, V. Antonovich, M. Hrushevsky, M. Vladimirski-Budanov) led to an entire change of view on this question. Our chief source of positive knowledge of this period is the account of the journey of Plano Carpini,​a the Legate whom the Pope sent on a mission to the Tatars. Plano Carpini states in his diary that in 1246 he came to Kiev together with several merchants and found there a number of other merchants from Poland, Austria, Greece, Venice, Genoa, Pisa and France, showing that foreign trade with Kiev had not been entirely interrupted. The city of Kiev was, according to him, very much damaged, and the population had diminished, but it is incredible that a complete devastation and entire desertion of the population had taken place. A great number of the magnificent buildings were ruined, among  p92 them many churches, but St. Sophia and the Monastery of Pecherski were standing.

According to the testimony of Plano Carpini, supported by other contemporary sources of information, the system of the Tatars was to destroy the political organizations and attack the leading upper classes of the population in order to terrorize the masses and force them to pay tribute under the supervision of Tatar officials. Thus it was not to the interest of the Tatars to slaughter the population. They aimed at converting it into a docile mass deprived of national leader­ship.

It is in this light that we must interpret the Chronicles also. Though, on the whole, they give very little information about this invasion of the Ukraine by Batu, they do not speak of an entire devastation. Many were killed, especially those who opposed the invaders, but the mass of the population fled and took shelter in the forests, avoiding the first danger, and later returned. Thus, the towns and villages, ruined by the Tatars, were gradually and slowly rebuilt by their inhabitants. We must here take into consideration the fact that during former nomadic invasions, the Ukrainian population had been accustomed to an existence which required adaptation and mobility. Having constantly to be on the alert, they were ever ready to flee and hide in the forests and swamps and other natural shelters when invasions occurred. Thus a constant ebb and flow of population had become a characteristic feature of their history. In Galicia, the population sometimes fled into the hills. According to the Galician Chronicle, Prince Daniel, returning from the battlefield after the initial panic was over, met masses of his people coming down from the Carpathians on the way back to their abandoned homes.

We can, with confidence, now say that the mass of the Ukrainian population remained, though they, of course, suffered very much from invasion and the general insecurity of life. Kiev was without importance as a political centre. The Great Russian Princedoms were cut off from the Ukrainian territories, and too much held  p93 in check by the Tatars. Galicia was too far away to be of real help. When, therefore, a strong new political power grew up in the North-west, namely that of the Lithuanian Princes, the Ukrainian territories in the basin of the Dnieper and its tributaries, were easily attached to this political centre. We know for certain, that about the year 1360 Kiev, as well as most of the Ukrainian territories not belonging to the Galician-Volynian Kingdom, was in the possession of the Lithuanian Prince Olgerd. The Chernigov-Sieversk territory maintained its independence rather longer, but divided into a number of small Princedoms, it was too weak to resist, finally, the two power­ful growing States in the north, Lithuania and Moscow.

When speaking of the Galician-Volynian Princedom in the Thirteenth century, there was mentioned the new political power which now came into existence on the north-western frontier of the Ukrainian territories, Lithuania. Compared with the East Slavic Princedoms in the Twelfth century, the Lithuanians were weak and unimportant neighbors. In the Thirteenth century, however, they were united into one State, which grew rapidly in importance. At the beginning of the Fourteenth century, the Lithuanian Princes took upon themselves the task of uniting under their sway the territories of the White Russians and the Ukrainians broken up by the Tatar invasion. From this moment, Lithuania began to play an important part in the life of the two peoples, the connection with White Russia being maintained to this day. On this account, we must here consider the formation of the Lithuanian State. It was not a conquest in the ordinary sense of the word, but rather an example of the peaceful co‑existence in one political organism of three different peoples — the Lithuanians, the White Russians, and the Ukrainians.

29. Lithuania.

According to the latest scientific opinions, the Lithuanians are an independent branch of the Aryan group of  p94 peoples. Their language preserves to this day very archaic forms, and of all living European languages it is the nearest to Sanskrit. History found them, at the beginning of the Christian era, settled on the Western Dvina. Owing to their seclusion in the forests and swamps, they remained for a considerable time little known even by their immediate neighbors. When, in the Eleventh and Twelfth centuries, German and East-Slavic Chronicles began to mention them, the Lithuanians were divided into seven important tribes: the Pruss on the lower Vistula; the Zmud on the river Nieman; the Lithuanians proper on the River Viliya; the Zemgal on the left bank of the western Dvina; the Kuron at the mouth of the western Dvina; the Letgals on the right bank of that river and the Yatviags on the upper Nieman and Western Bug. Within the limits of each tribe they were organized into separate clans, disunited and practically independent. Together with hunting and fishing, they knew primitive agriculture. Their religion was very much like the pagan religion of the Slavic peoples. The chief deity, Perkunas, the god of thunder, was akin to the Ukrainian Perun. But differing from the Eastern Slavs, the Lithuanians possessed an influential body of Priests, who were held in great respect and exercised considerable power. This accounts for the fact that the Lithuanians retained their pagan religion as late as the end of the Fourteenth century.

The Ukrainian Chronicles of the Twelfth century relate numerous inroads of Lithuanians on the neighboring Polish and Ukrainian territories. They mention different "reges" and "duces" who led them, but without doubt, these were only local chieftains who did not unite the whole of Lithuania. In the beginning of the Thirteenth century different events were taking place which hastened the formation by the Lithuanians of a stronger organization than that of mere clans and tribes for the purpose of self-defence. There appeared in the west an enemy more aggressive than had ever been the Polish and Ukrainian Princes. This enemy was the German Knights  p95 of the Livonian Order. They obtained from Pope Innocent III a Bull for the crusade against the pagan Lithuanian tribe of Letgal (ancestors of the present‑day Letts). In 1230, the Teutonic Order of Knights came into existence for the same purpose of proceeding against the Lithuanian tribe of Pruss on the lower Vistula, and secured the protection of Pope Gregory IX. The Knights of the Livonian Order, who undertook the conversion of the pagan Letgals by fire and sword, had soon subdued them and separated them from the rest of the Lithuanian tribes. The Knights of the Teutonic Order had equal success with the Prussians (a Lithuanian tribe which later gave its name to the German province) and in a short time were in possession of their land. This danger brought about the organization of the rest of the Lithuanians into a strong state. This was accomplished by the Lithuanian Prince Mendovg in the first half of the Thirteenth century. He also took possession of several small White Russian Princedoms on the Nieman with a view to expansion towards the South-east, but his plans were interrupted by his death in 1263.

30. Ukraine Under the Lithuanian Princes.

A further strengthening of Lithuania took place under Prince Gedimin (1316‑1341) who founded a dynasty. He united the remaining Lithuanian tribes and annexed, partly by conquest, partly by means of dynastic alliances, further White Russian and Ukrainian territories. Thus, he married his eldest son Olgerd to a Princess of Vitebsk, and his second son Lubart to a Volynian Princess, creating a claim to the inheritance of those lands. His five daughters he gave in marriage to neighboring Polish and Ukrainian Princes, thus procuring for himself important alliances. Prince Gedimin transferred his capital to his newly founded town of Vilna on the River Viliya. Here, along with the pagan Lithuanian temples, he tolerated Christian Churches, both of the Greek-Orthodox and Roman Catholic Rites. On his death he left to his son  p96 Olgerd a strong State inspired by a power­ful spirit of expansion.

This expansion could not be opposed either by White Russia or the Ukraine, the former being divided into small Princedoms, and the Ukraine weakened by the Tatar invasion. The Galician-Volynian Kingdom was also too weak at that time, and nearing its end.

The Lithuanian conquest was not, however, dangerous to White Russia and the Ukraine. On the contrary, it provided protection against the Tatars. There was another very important circumstance which made the conquest extremely welcome to Slavic territories at that time. Already under Gedimin the Lithuanian element in the State was completely submerged by the Slavic, and the State was actually a Union of Lithuanians, White Russians and Ukrainians under the dynasty of Gedimin. The Lithuanians remained pagan, and the Lithuanian Princes, though married to Slavic Princesses had not yet openly accepted Christianity. During Gedimin's reign, the pressure of the German Knights of the Livonian and Teutonic Orders was very strong. This struggle became more intense under his son Olgerd. In order to be able to continue peaceful expansion towards the east, Olgerd (1341‑1377) left the defence of his western frontiers against the Germans to his brother, the war‑like Prince Keistut, who thus held the western provinces, whereas Olgerd, safely seated in Vilna, had a free hand for the building up of the State. He gradually and peacefully incorporated the Chernigov-Sieversk territory, putting his sons and daughters in the most important towns or even leaving Ukrainian Princes of the Rurik dynasty where they seemed to him to be useful. Kiev was occupied, as we have said, about 1360. At the same time the Princedom of Pereyaslav was annexed, and Olgerd's son Vladimir was set up as Prince of Kiev.

This advance of Olgerd provoked a conflict with the Tatars who considered themselves over-lords of the Ukrainian territories. Olgerd took the field against them and defeated a Tatar army in the battle on the river Sini  p97 Vodi (Blue Waters) on the frontier of Volynia and Podolia in 1370. By this victory he secured not only the whole territory of Kiev but also Podolia.

For possession of Volynia Olgerd and his brother Lubart had to carry on a fierce struggle against the Polish King Casimir in which the Ukrainians sided with the Lithuanians, thus deciding the issue.

Thus Olgerd united in his hands all the White Russian and most of the Ukrainian lands. The chief cause of the Lithuanian success was, of course, their policy of not interfering with the existing order of things. The Lithuanian Princes not only left unaltered the system of dividing the lands among the members of the ruling house, but adopted it, and Olgerd divided his state among his sons giving portions to his brothers and nephews also. The laws of succession were even less settled here than in Ukraine. For instance, Olgerd designated as Great Prince of Lithuania, his youngest son, Yagailo. In order to maintain his rights Yagailo made war on his brothers, and on his uncle Keistut, whom he had slain, and continued the struggle with Keistut's son Vitovt, who fled to the Germans to seek help.

As has already been related, incorporation of the White Russian and Ukrainian territories was of a peaceful character. In most cases, the two sides made a treaty, the Prince of Lithuania promising "protection" to the Ukrainian Prince or community, who promised their "allegiance" in return. When in place of a Ukrainian Prince a member of the Lithuanian ruling house was put up, the relation­ship remained the same. The maintenance of the "old order" was a matter of principle. The Lithuanians had no fully developed machinery of state to impose on an annexed land, at the utmost they could provide a Prince, thus all the former administrative officials retained their offices. White Russian and Ukrainian military boyars entered the service of the Lithuanian Prince, and the White Russian and Ukrainian military forces strengthened his armies. The Lithuanians had no central organization to administer the annexed lands whose number  p98 increased rapidly. Very intricate local questions were dealt with by the Prince personally. He was therefore himself the link of union. In other matters the annexed lands enjoyed self-government and practical independence in local affairs. The superior culture of the White Russians and Ukrainians asserted itself, and had an unhindered influence on the Lithuanians. They took over everything from them, military, administrative and financial organizations as well as their judicial system. Now, even on Lithuanian territory, we meet Ukrainian offices of state and officials. The Ukrainian language became the court language of the Lithuanian Princes, and the Greek-Orthodox religion made headway at the court through marriage with Slavic Princesses. Olgerd himself, before his death, accepted Christianity according to the Orthodox Rite. Vilno in the Fourteenth century was not exclusively a Lithuanian town but the capital of the Lithuanian-White Russian and Ukrainian State. Ethnically, Lithuanians formed only one‑tenth part of its population.

The historic process of the development of the Ukrainians and White Russians found a new centre after the fall of Kiev. It might have been expected that the Lithuanian dynasty would play the same part as did the Scandinavian in the Tenth and Eleventh centuries, uniting and strengthening the Slavic element and becoming assimilated by it. The course of history, however, was quite different. At the end of the Fourteenth century an event took place which led the destiny of the Lithuanian, White Russian and Ukrainian State in quite another direction: this was the political Union of Lithuania with Poland.

31. Union of Lithuania and Poland.

This Union did not come unexpectedly; there were deep reasons for it in Poland as well as in Lithuania. Firstly, the two States were united by the common danger of the Germans. The struggle with the Knights of the Livonian and Teutonic Orders grew ever fiercer and compelled  p99 united action, both Poland and Lithuania being threatened, the former having been cut off from the Baltic by the Germans. Dynastic troubles in Poland provided a convenient motive for the nearer approach of the two States. After the death of the Polish King Louis, his only daughter, Jadwiga, heiress to the Polish Crown, was solicited in marriage by several candidates, among whom the Polish Nobles chose Yagailo (Jagello) as the candidate most likely to be advantageous with regard to the interests of Poland. On his side Yagailo was in need of support outside his own land against the lesser Lithuanian Princes, his brothers and relatives, who showed separatist tendencies; some wanted to be quite independent, others were drawn towards Moscow, others again, like his most power­ful cousin Vitovt, were allies of the Germans.

Poland's advantages in this Union were of a political and economic character. Pressed by the Germans from the west Poland was reduced to seeking for expansion in the east, that is in Lithuania, and especially in the fertile territories of the Ukraine.

The preliminary negotiations of Yagailo with the Polish nobles brought about in 1385 the so‑called Union of Krevo, according to which Yagailo was to accept Christianity according to the Roman Catholic Rite, to be elected King of Poland and to be married to Jadwiga. Further, he was to promise to baptise all his pagan subjects, help to recover from the Germans territories lost by both Poland and Lithuania, and to surrender to the Polish Crown all his Lithuanian, White Russian and Ukrainian lands.

Only the first three points of the Treaty of Krevo were at first carried out. In 1386 Yagailo was elected King of Poland, was baptised and married to Jadwiga. He also subsequently introduced the Roman Catholic religion as the official religion in Lithuania, but great difficulty appeared to stand in the way of the projected Union of the two States. Chief among them was the dissatisfaction and unwillingness of the Lithuanians as well as of the  p100 Ukrainians and White Russians. This difficulty was very cleverly used by Vitovt. He forced Yagailo, now King of Poland, to recognize him as Great Prince of Lithuania, so that not until Vitovt's death could Yagailo again be Prince of Lithuania. Thus the Union of Krevo remained a personal Union only, and the whole of Lithuanian policy during the next forty years revolved around the person of Prince Vitovt (1386‑1430).

Vitovt was an able politician and a very good soldier. His skilful and success­ful policy assured him European prestige. He continued Olgerd's task of uniting under the Lithuanian Crown all White Russia and almost all the Ukrainian lands with the single exception of Galicia. His State reached in the south to the shores of the Black Sea. Profiting by disorders in the Tatar horde, he extorted from the Khan Tokhtamish a formal retraction of his rights on Ukrainian territories. He had built a fortress of St. John (Ivanhorod) at the mouth of the Dnieper. Another fortress on the Black Sea was built in Bilhorod (present Akerman), and in Khadjibey (present Odessa) a port was built from whence Ukrainian grain was shipped to Byzantium.

Vitovt's expansion to the south was, however, checked by the defeat of his army by the Tatars in 1399 on the River Vorskla (near Poltava). Here perished the flower of the Lithuanian and Ukrainian knights. This moment was taken advantage of by the Poles, who again pressed the Union on Vitovt. The Lithuanian Princes and boyars were compelled to promise to take no other Prince but Yagailo in case of Vitovt's death, the Poles having also promised that in the case of Yagailo's death, Vitovt should be their King. An alliance of mutual aid was also concluded.

This renewed alliance of Lithuanian and Polish military forces enabled them to deal a great blow to the Germans. In the well-known Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg) in 1410 the united armies of Yagailo and Vitovt composed of Ukrainian and White Russian forces defeated the Knights of the Teutonic Order and broke their power  p101 for ever. Vitovt, however, kept up his friendly relations with the Germans, wishing to have a check on Polish aspirations. He continued his independent policy in Lithuania with the object of proclaiming himself King of Lithuania. The Poles renewed their efforts to give more substance to the Union and brought about a new meeting in Horodlo in 1413, where some new points were added to the existing treaty, the chief being that Lithuanian nobles of the Roman Catholic faith should receive the same rights and privileges in Poland as Polish nobles.

Vitovt was one of the most power­ful princes of his time in Europe. His only daughter, Sophia, was married to the Great Prince Vasili of Moscow. His nephew, Sigismund, occupied the throne of Bohemia. Shortly before his death he decided to carry out his plan of declaring himself King of Lithuania. The coronation was fixed for the year 1429 in Lutsk in Volynia, where a brilliant assembly was invited, including Emperor Sigismund, the King of Denmark, Yagailo, Prince Vasili of Moscow, Ambassadors of the Byzantine Emperor and others. The crown alone did not arrive in time, being intercepted by the Poles. The coronation was put off till the next year in Vilna, but Vitovt died in 1430 before it could take place.

Vitovt's death freed the hands of the Polish politicians, but the idea of Lithuanian independence was by now so deeply rooted that it was impossible to overlook the forty years of Vitovt's rule. He fortified the State, and made the power of the Prince almost absolute. Former half-independent lesser princes were reduced to obedience and considered themselves as official servants of the State. Those of them that were more ambitious and independent were replaced by Vitovt's lieutenants. To the separate lands, however, Vitovt left their privileges of autonomy. He even sanctioned them by numerous charters, confirming the rights of the Orthodox Church and of the Clergy, and securing local jurisdiction generally. The tendency of his rule was to preserve the old traditions in the annexed lands in order to attach them to the Lithuanian crown. Local government was concentrated  p102 in the hands of the local nobility. Law was administered by the voevods and starosts against whose decisions the population could appeal to the Prince himself. Personal freedom was guaranteed, imprisonment without trial was illegal.

In spite of this, antagonism existed within the Lithuanian State between the Lithuanian and Slavic (White Russian and Ukrainian) nobles, which was kept up by the Poles to serve their own interests. The chief cause of this hostility was religious differences. The Lithuanians were forced by the Union of Krevo to accept the Roman Catholic Faith and on this difference Polish policy played, as for instance in the question of privileges given to Roman Catholics by the Union of Horodlo in 1413. Lithuania over-looked and under-estimated this religious antagonism. He would have found in his Orthodox White Russian and Ukrainian nobles more support for his policy of independence than in his Lithuanian subjects, who having the same Roman Catholic Faith as the Poles were more easily and indeed very soon assimilated by the Poles.

After Vitovt's death, the Lithuanians refused to have Yagailo as their Prince as agreed in the treaty with Poland and preferred his younger brother, Svidrigailo, as their Prince. Yagailo was compelled to recognize him. Svidrigailo was not a good politician and rather an unlucky general. The Lithuanian nobles were soon dissatisfied with him and put forward Vitovt's younger brother, Sigismund. Unluckily, Svidrigailo sought support from the Ukrainian and White Russian nobles, where Sigismund attached himself to the Lithuanians and was also supported by Yagailo and the Poles. It came to open civil war in which Svidrigailo lost a decisive battle near Vilkomir in 1435, where forty‑two Ukrainian princes were taken prisoner and the army utterly routed. The Poles were triumphant at this success, but the civil war continued, and both princes lost their lives. Svidrigailo in 1439 and Sigismund in 1440, and for the actual union they had to wait another thirty years.

 p103  After Yagailo's death the Polish crown was given to his eldest son, Vladislav, but the Lithuanians elected another prince to the Lithuanian throne, Casimir, Vladislav's younger brother. Thus the Polish and Lithuanian thrones were occupied by different rulers, though brothers. Practically, the Union did not exist.

Casimir was a clever politician. He set himself to temporize with the Ukrainians, and put Prince Olelko, Olgerd's grandson in Kiev, and the young Svidrigailo in Volynia. When, after his brother Vladislav's death in the battle against the Turks in Varna, Casimir was also elected to the Polish throne, he confirmed certain rights and privileges of the Ukrainian princes and nobles.

Once Casimir felt secure on his two thrones, he ceased to consider his Ukrainian and White-Russian subjects. After the death of Prince Simeon of Kiev, the Ukrainian Princedom of Kiev was abolished and a Lithuanian who was also a Roman Catholic was established in Kiev as Casimir's lieutenant. Ukrainian opposition reared its head. Ukrainian princes began clandestine negotiations with Moscow, promising Moscow lands in White Russia in return for help against the Lithuanians and Poles. This conspiracy was discovered, and its leader, Prince Mikhailo Ololkovich, great-grandson of Olgerd, was beheaded. This, however, did not stop the conspirators, but merely showed them the way to Moscow.

In the meantime, when Gedimin and Olgerd were uniting round Vilna the Ukrainian and White-Russian lands broken by the Tatar invasion, there grew up in the north-east a centre amidst the mass of small Great-Russian princedoms, round which the Great-Russian lands were soon united. This was the Princedom of Moscow. By means of marriages, diplomacy, guile and often of crime, the Princes of Moscow annexed a number of lesser Princedoms about Moscow. After having incorporated a few of the more important, such as Tver, Rostov, Riazan, and the Republic of Novgorod, the Moscovian Princes directed their attention to the south, and were  p104 about to annex Great-Russian Princedoms lying on the frontier of the Ukrainian territories of Sieversk. It was here that they met with the Lithuanians.

After having annexed almost all the Great-Russian territories, Ivan III called "The Great", Prince of Moscow, advanced his claims to White Russian and Ukrainian territories as being hereditary appanages of the House of Rurik. He began to use, instead of his title of Prince of Moscow, the title of "Lord of all Russia". Strictly speaking, from a dynastic point of view, as opposed to that of the Lithuanian Princes, his claims were not devoid of right, the Moscovian branch being a descendant of the Ukrainian dynasty of Yaroslav the Wise, but equally so were quite a number of lesser princes whose smaller princedoms Moscovian Princes had annexed by the above mentioned means. As regards the dynastic rights of the Lithuanian Prince, the Prince of Moscow was a formidable rival.

During the rule of Vitovt, lesser Great-Russian princes sought help in Lithuania against the aggression of Moscow. Now, on the contrary, lesser Ukrainian Princes from Chernigov-Sieversk began to prefer the overlord­ship of Moscow, and during the last two decades of the Fifteenth century quite a number of them applied of the Moscow for protection against Lithuania. This was, of course, on account of the danger of the Roman Catholic Church of Poland, and the pressure of Poland for union with Lithuania. The Orthodox religion was no longer safe in Lithuania, whereas Moscow was of the same Faith. A conflict of the two growing powers, Lithuania and Moscow, was now ripe, especially as new measures against the Orthodox Ukrainians and White Russians were started in Lithuania, which more and more fell under Polish influence. Notwithstanding the marriage of the Lithuanian Great Prince Alexander with the Princess Helena, daughter of Ivan III of Moscow, war broke out in 1501. The Lithuanians were beaten and Moscow occupied the territory of Sieversk and a part of White Russia. In the meantime, a revolt broke out  p105 in Lithuania with a Ukrainian Prince Mikhailo Hlinski at its head. The revolt was put down and Hlinski found refuge in Moscow. The war lasted with intervals until 1514 when Moscow took Smolensk.

The victory of Moscow over Lithuania gave strength to the party which advocated a complete Union of Lithuania and Poland. A new danger in south Ukraine also contributed greatly to bring about the union of the two States.

The Golden Horde of the Tatars broke up in the first half of the Fifteenth century, and part of it settled in the Crimea with the war‑like dynasty of Menhli-Hirey at its head. The Crimean Horde accepted the overlord­ship of Lithuania and even protected the Ukrainian territories against the eastern Tatars. Everything, however, was changed with the coming of the Turks to Europe. The Turkish fleet made its appearance in 1475 near the shores of the Crimea, and the Crimean Khan Menhli-Hirey became a vassal of the Turks. This had fatal consequences for Ukraine. The weak Lithuanian Government did not understand how to keep an ally. Menhli-Hirey accepted overtures from the Moscovian princes and became their ally. In the interests of Ivan III Menhli-Hirey invaded Ukraine in 1484. Kiev was taken and plundered as terribly as at the time of the Khan Batu. The gold chalices of St. Sophia in Kiev were sent by Menhli-Hirey to his ally Ivan III of Moscow. The territory of Kiev was devastated and masses of the population were dragged to Crimea as prisoners.

This invasion was only a prelude to numerous others which occurred regularly nearly every summer. The Lithuanian Government, weak and harassed by the war with Moscow, was powerless to defend Ukrainian territory. The defence of the country was taken by the population itself into their own hands. These efforts at self-defence gradually created out of the midst of the peaceful population a special military class known in Ukrainian history under the name of Cossacks, who undertook for centuries the defence of the Ukraine against the  p106 Tatars and the Turks. The Turks settled on the Bosporus and became over­lords of the Tatars and used them according to the words of the Lithuanian chronicler of the Sixteenth century, "as the hunter uses a pack of hounds, letting them loose on the unhappy land to ruin it and to drag the people into slavery".

The Lithuanian Government was unable to deal with the Crimean Horde and was powerless to organize the defence of the State, and therefore sought help in the close union with Poland. The long reign of Sigismund I (1506‑1548) who was both King of Poland and Prince of Lithuania strengthened the idea of the Union, though the Lithuanian, Ukrainian and White-Russian aristocracy continued jealously to guard their independence. On the other hand, the lesser nobles who began to take a more active part in the government, looked forward to a complete union in the hope of having organized state protection from Poland against the Tatars, and also with the object of gaining more political influence in the government through privileges possessed by the Polish lesser nobles where the aristocracy was not so power­ful as in Lithuania. It was practically the lesser Lithuanian nobles that carried through the Union.

During the reign of Sigismund II (1548‑1572) a new war against Moscow broke out for the possession of Livonia (Latvia). The whole burden of this war fell on Lithuania, especially on the White Russian territories. The lesser nobles of this territory made petition after petition to the King-Prince pressing for Union. They were supported by the Ukrainian nobles of Volynia, who were harassed by the Tatars. The King was childless and after his death new elections would have to be undertaken to fill both the Lithuanian and the Polish thrones, and there was no certainty that one and the same person would be elected. The king himself was very much in favor of the Union, and convoked the Polish and Lithuanian Seim (Parliament) in Lublin in 1569. The Polish representatives introduced their plan for the complete incorporation of Lithuania by Poland, in face of which  p107 even those of the Lithuanian aristocracy who were in principle not adverse to Union had to be on their defence. The sittings of the Seim lasted through several months, and some of them were very boisterous and dramatic. The King, in order to pacify the Ukrainian nobles, who were all of the Orthodox religion, issued a series of privileges for them, securing their rights in Volynia, Kiev and Podolia. Against those who still resisted the Union, repressive measures were taken. At last the King and the Polish nobles succeeded in over-ruling the opponents of the Union and the Treaty of Lublin was concluded in 1569.

This document, of the greatest importance in the history of the four peoples, Poles, Lithuanians, White Russians and Ukrainians, was drawn up on the following lines: 1. The Polish Kingdom and the Lithuanian Princedom were to form one State. 2. The King of Poland and the Great Prince of Lithuania was to be one and the same person elected by the united Polish and Lithuanian Seim and Senate. 3. On coronation the King was to take an oath to both States. 4. There was to be a united Seim and a Senate for both States. 5. A common foreign policy was to be pursued. 6. A common mint and coinage was to be established. 7. Rights for Polish nobles to acquire lands in Lithuania were laid down and similar rights for Lithuanian nobles in Polish territory. There remained separate: 1. State coat of arms and the seal. 2. Ministers of State. 3. Army. 4. Finance. 5. Legislation. 6. Administration.

The special rights of the newly united Ukrainian provinces were guaranteed by separate charters. The Ukrainian nobles of Kiev, Volynia and Podolia were united in rights with those of Poland without any difference on account of religion. Local administration and functioning of the courts in the Ukrainian language, preserved under Lithuanian rule by the codex called "The Lithuanian Statute", were to remain untouched. Posts of state officials, both clerical and secular, in the Ukraine were to be occupied only by natives of the territory.

 p108  The Union of the Ukrainian territories, formerly under Lithuania, with Poland gave to this latter a considerable preponderance in this strange mixture of unions, federations and special privileges, a sort of compromise of various national and state interests. Poland thus became the greatest State in the east of Europe with the exception of Moscow, which, still increasing in power, now practically stood outside the sphere of European life. The rich Ukrainian territories were thinly populated, especially those beyond the Dnieper and gave wide scope for expansion and colonization. The international importance of Poland was now considerably increased by the new forces and means acquired from the Union. On the other hand, the annexation of the Ukrainian territories brought with it new and considerable difficulties to Poland. The relations with Lithuania were also anything but smooth, especially at the beginning.

The artificial and unwieldy state organization created by the Union was very soon to be felt. First of all, it proved to be almost impossible to transform the united Polish-Lithuanian Seim into any sort of manageable and working body. It was impossible for the Polish Seim to absorb the Lithuanian which had its own traditions, and the Lithuanian wing at once formed an unmanageable opposition making endless protestations and misusing the "veto". Especially difficult were the periods of interregnum when the Lithuanian Seim practically ruled the country. This united Seim was more a Congress than a real Parliament.

From the moment of the Union of Lublin the history of Lithuania no longer claims our special attention, as only small districts of Ukrainian territory remained under Lithuanian rule, that of Brest and of Pinsk. The bulk of the Ukraine now formed part of the Polish Realm.

Thayer's Note:

a The legate's name — most commonly, Giovanni da Pian del Carpine — is seen in several variants. The Latin text of his Historia Mongalorum in Pullé's 1913 critical edition with an exhaustive commentary (in Italian), is online at Archive.Org. Rockhill's English translation (1900), appended to William of Rubruck's Journey to the Eastern Parts of the World is also online, as is A. I. Malein's Russian translation (1911).

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Page updated: 12 May 22