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Chapter 7

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 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 9

 p123  Chapter VIII

 * * * *

(The numbers link directly to the sections.)

(37) West Ukrainian Territories Under Polish Rule. (38) Political and Economic Evolution. (39) Consequences of the Lublin Union to the East Ukrainian Lands and Their New Colonization.

 * * * *

37. West Ukrainian Territories Under Polish Rule. Seventeenth Century.

For the Ukrainians, one of the most important consequences of the Union of Lublin was that all the Ukrainian territories were re‑united under one State. Kiev, Sieversk, (beyond the Dnieper) Volynia and Podolia, formerly under Lithuanian rule, were united with Galicia and Kholm, which since the middle of the Fourteenth century, had been under the Polish crown. Notwithstanding certain differences of a political and social character they drew more closely together and exercised a mutual influence. Weakened and impoverished under more than two centuries of Polish administration, the Ukrainians of Galicia nevertheless preserved their national traditions. Supported materially and morally by the eastern Ukrainians, they very quickly succeeded in developing an active movement which soon led to a general renaissance of the Ukrainian people.

In order to understand the exact part played in Ukrainian history by Galicia and Kholm we must survey the conditions within these territories from the time of their annexation to Poland. As we have previously seen, Ukrainian-Polish rivalry with respect to these territories dates from the earliest dawn of Ukrainian history under Vladimir the Great. The relations of the Ukraine with Poland were sometimes peaceful, strengthened by dynastic connections and treaties, and sometimes hostile, expressing itself in wars and campaigns. Pressed from the north and west and cut off from the Baltic by the Germans, Poland sought an outlet in the east and south. In this direction it was able to take advantage of the weakening of the Ukraine by the Tatar invasion. Owing  p124 to the growth of the Lithuanian Princedom in the east, Poland's only hope of expansion was towards the south-east in Galicia, and we have seen that about the middle of the Fourteenth century Galicia became a Polish province. It was, therefore, towards these territories that the Poles directed their first efforts at expansion, their colonization and their political and religious penetration.

38. Political and Economic Evolution.

From the political point of view, Galicia in the Fourteenth century, though not behind Poland in cultural development, was certainly weaker in the matter of national resistance. The country, weakened by the strife of the boyars, suffered from the lack of a strongly concentrated power, and the masses of the population had become unaccustomed to taking an active part in political life. Galicia fell into the hands of a State that was politically consolidated, whose King knew what he wanted and whose aggressive policy certainly found an approving echo among the Polish population. When Silesian merchants now asked the Polish king's permission to continue to trade with the Ukraine, he declared, "I have got Rus with the help of my own people and the road to them belongs to no other than my own people".

In spite of the internal weakness of Galicia, the Polish government did not introduce any important changes for almost a century, and the land was administered according to the old laws and customs. The changes came gradually, as a consequence of the intensive colonization of Galicia by the Polish gentry, who at that time already played a very important political part in Poland, and enjoyed all sorts of privileges. According to the chief of these privileges, granted by the King in 1374, the Polish gentry were exempt from all taxation and duties, the land was assured to them as their private property, and the peasants on their estates were put under the jurisdiction of their landlords. It was natural that the Galician nobles should demand the same rights and privileges  p125 as were enjoyed by the Polish szlachta. In 1430, King Yagailo granted similar privileges to the Galician nobles, and these were confirmed by the next King Wladislaus.

Before these measures came into effect, certain changes took place in Galicia in consequence of the peculiar circumstances in which this kingdom came under the Polish crown. Immediately after the annexation, an extensive wave of colonization spread from Poland. Kings were very generous in granting land in Galicia, and the Polish gentry eagerly seized upon these rich and fertile lands, abandoning their meagre, barren, and sandy soil in Poland.

The Galician aristocracy, especially those amongst them who were against the union with Poland, lost their estates, which were confiscated by the Polish crown and given to the Poles. Those of the Galician boyars who still remained, were in the minority and soon absorbed by the Polish colonists. Families whose lands were confiscated either emigrated to Volynia and other Ukrainian territories or sank into the mass of the common population.

Official posts in the administration were systematically given to Poles, who deliberately or inadvertently introduced Polish ways and customs. The towns already populated by German colonists had their rights under "Magdeburg Law" confirmed by the Polish Kings, and new German settlers, mostly artisans, were invited and came from Germany in large numbers especially in the first two decades after the annexation.

Thus the ground was gradually prepared for the official union and the introduction of Polish laws and customs. This took place in 1443 when the administration and jurisprudence of the Ukrainian provinces of Galicia and Kholm were brought into line with the rest of Poland. The Ukrainian territory was divided into three provinces (Voevodstvo): Rus, comprising the territory of Lvov, Halich, Peremyshl (Przemysl), Sianik and Kholm; Western Podolia; and Belz, comprising Rava, Sokal, Zovkva, Kamianka Strumilova, Belz and Brody. The gentry in  p126 each voevodstvo obtained self-government according to the Polish model. The rights and privileges of the newly annexed gentry consisted in their rights being exempt from all taxation and duties, including foreign service, with the sole exception of military service for the defence of the frontiers. The gentry obtained special courts of law and the rights of representation in the Seim. Small local Seims were instituted for the discussion of questions to be considered in the chief Seim of the State.

In consequence of these measures, the Galician nobles were very soon absorbed into the mass of the Polish gentry, and only in remote corners of the land did they retain for a few centuries longer their religious and national distinctiveness.

At the same time as the Galician nobles profited from the annexation of Galicia, and so obtained a fully privileged position, the rights of the town population of Galicia were in contrast very much curtailed, Polish town life being very retrograde compared with contemporary European towns in Germany and France. In contradistinction to the privileged position of the landed gentry in Poland, the towns were weak and deprived of every right to participate in political life. The Polish gentry took full advantage of their privileges of free imports and exports, thus much injuring the commerce and industry of Polish towns. Burgesses were deprived of the right to own and cultivate land. They were not represented in the Seim and took no part whatever in political life. Though Polish kings retained the German model of the municipal self-government of towns introduced by the Ukrainian rulers of Galicia, it only led to the complete isolation of the town population within the walls of each separate town and entirely divided it from the surrounding country population. Ukrainian burgesses were also excluded from the advantages of self-government because, according to the Magdeburg Law only Roman Catholics were admitted to municipal functions. Thus the new German and Polish settlers in Ukrainian towns gradually seized the control of municipal institutions  p127 to their advantage and to the exclusion of the old Ukrainian population, which began to suffer under these restrictions.

The bulk of the population in Galicia, as elsewhere in the Ukraine, were free peasants who owned their land, and were economically an independent class. Besides, there existed different categories of half-free peasants who, having no land of their own, were bound to work as agricultural laborers for the landowner on whose land they lived. In consequence, they were limited in their freedom. There also existed a not numerous class of slaves. As we have already seen, the tendency was for the free peasants gradually to lose their freedom and be bound to the land by the gentry who appropriated the peasant's land as well as claiming their personal service, thus transforming them into serfs. The position of slaves on the contrary was improved, in the sense that they were put on the level with the former free peasants, their bondage thus becoming lighter. The old Ukrainian law admitting peasant landowner­ship conflicted with the Polish principle of leaving all the land in the hands of the privileged class of nobles with the king as first landowner in the State. To begin with, some compromise was made with the Ukrainian law, but in the end the Polish law was introduced and the peasants bound to the land. The Seim of 1505 confirmed the new order depriving the peasants of the land and enacting that they might not leave one landlord to go to another. Along with this, the peasants were removed from the general jurisdiction and put under the jurisdiction of their landlords. From records and documents of the Fifteenth and following centuries we can see that the peasants had to pay one tribute in kind to their landowner, and to work for a certain number of days on his land. At the beginning of the Sixteenth century the general custom was established of working two days in the week for the landlord. In the course of the Sixteenth century these duties increased. From contemporary records and documents we see that abuses and oppressions were frequent, and that the Polish government  p128 was powerless to bring any improvement into the position of the serfs.

The Union of Lublin in 1569, as we have seen, brought together most of the Ukrainian territories under the Polish crown: to Galicia, Kholm and Pidliasha were now added Podolia, Volynia, Kiev and the southern districts of Sieversk (present south Chernigov and Poltava provinces). Now, only the districts of Brest and Pinsk remained under the Lithuanian administration. The northern part of the Sieversk territory was annexed by Moscow, and the Carpathian Ukraine, after a short period under the rule of the Galician Kings, remained with Hungary. Thus, the chief Ukrainian territories with their historic centres were united under one rule, with the exception, however, of Chernigov which was surrendered to Poland by Moscow at the beginning of the Sixteenth century.

As we said, all the Ukrainian lands were divided into provinces (voevodstvo). These were Belz, Rus, Podolia, Braslav, Kiev and Volynia. The nobles of each voevodstvo had a local Seim and sent representatives to the Seim in Warsaw. The voevodstvo of Braslav, Volynia and Kiev were left under the Lithuanian Statute, and retained the Ukrainian language in the civil administration and in the courts, but in spite of these concessions to old Ukrainian tradition, the way was open to Polish influence in all spheres of political and national life, and this led to the evergrowing polonization of the Ukrainian nobles.

39. Consequences of the Lublin Union to the East Ukrainian Lands and Their New Colonization.

One of the most important consequences of the Lublin Union to the Ukraine was the now comparative safety of the southern and south-eastern borders against the Tatars. The Ukrainian population of these territories, driven back during the new invasions of the Crimean Horde at the end of the Fifteenth century, was now able to recover the vast tracts of the steppe to the south and south-east of Kiev, especially beyond the Dnieper. These territories, partly abandoned at the time of the first great  p129 invasion of Batu in the middle of the Thirteenth century were partly recovered under Lithuanian protection, only to be again abandoned in consequence of these renewed invasions of the Crimean Tatars.

The most densely populated Ukrainian territory at the end of the Sixteenth century was Volynia. In 1629 it had a population of over 600,000 and was more densely populated than contemporary Prussia, Scotland or Denmark. The bulk of the population consisted of peasants living on the land and working for about 250 noble families. About thirteen of these families owned more than one half of Volynia. These were the oldest and most power­ful of the Ukrainian Nobles, being mostly descended from local sovereign princely houses, such as the Princes of Ostrozhsky, Lubomir, Korets, Vishnevets, Zbaraz and others. They were completely polonized in the course of centuries and lost to the Ukraine.

Comparatively densely populated was the northern part of the province of Kiev. Kiev itself was well fortified thus rendering trade and industry possible, in spite of the dangerous proximity of the Tatars. To the south, on the right bank of the Dnieper were also a few fortified towns, such as Kaniv and Cherkassy which soon became centres of Cossack organization.

Territories beyond the Dnieper, the former princedom of Pereyaslav, and the southern part of the princedom of Chernigov were now for purposes of administration included in the voevodstvo of Kiev, especially its districts of Kaniv and Cherkassy. Recovered by the Lithuanian princes and even formally surrendered by the Great Tatar Horde to Vitovt, these territories had been practically re‑populated. Under the Lithuanian dynasty of the Olelkovich in Kiev, during the Fifteenth century, the left bank of the Dnieper was populated and cultivated as far as the river Oskol, a tributary of the Desna, in the east, and the river Samara, a tributary of the Dnieper, in the south. After the successive invasions of the Crimean Khan Mengli Gerei at the end of the Fifteenth century, this territory was again almost deserted by the population.  p130 These vast tracts of land beyond the Dnieper, now known under the name of the "Wild Steppe" though unsafe for habitation, were extremely fertile and abounded in game, fish and every kind of natural wealth attractive to the adventurous population of the borderland, especially of Kaniv, Cherkassy and Kiev, who sometimes ventured very far from the fortified towns for hunting, fishing and primitive beekeeping. We shall see that Cossack military organizations were started in connection with this kind of enterprise from which certain monasteries profited as well as the administrative authorities. There is also evidence of a permanent population remaining in some parts of the former Pereyaslav Princedom accustomed to a precarious and insecure existence, always ready to take cover at the approach of the enemy, reappearing when the danger was over for the time being.

The north-eastern part of the Ukrainian territories, the former princedom of Sieversk and Chernigov, being too distant to be in constant danger from the inroads of the Crimean Tatars during the Lithuanian period, was more densely populated, especially to the north of the rivers Desna and the Seym; the southern zone bounded only by the Pereyaslav territory was more or less deserted and served the population beyond the Desna as a land of adventure in the same way as the Poltava and Pereyaslav territories served the population of Kaniv and Cherkassy districts. At the beginning of the Sixteenth century most of the former Chernigov princedom was surrendered by the Lithuanian princes to Moscow, only a narrow strip of land along the left bank of the Dnieper and the region of the lower Desna remaining under Lithuanian rule.

These thinly populated territories beyond the Dnieper, the southern part of the Kiev province and eastern Podolia have the richest soil in Europe as well as a mild climate and are extremely well suited to agriculture. From the dawn of Ukrainian history, countless generations have fought for centuries with Asiatic nomads for the possession of these vast territories. Their definite recovery  p131 by the Ukrainian population took place under peculiar and unfavorable conditions.

According to the Lublin Union all Polish subjects obtained the right to the possession of lands in the former Lithuanian provinces, thus not only the Ukrainian and Lithuanian nobles but also the Polish szlachta purchased or received from the King grants of sometimes very extensive estates. After the death of the last Polish King of the house of Yagailo, the new Polish King, Stephen Bathory, of Hungarian origin and his successor, Sigismund III of the Vasa family, freely distributed Ukrainian lands to their adherents who helped them to obtain the Polish crown. By the decision of 1590 the Polish Seim gave to the King an unlimited right to dispose of these free Ukrainian lands and the new owners were expected themselves to provide for the defence of their possession against the Tatars which they did by militarizing and organizing the local population and the new settlers.

The sparse local population of these areas, as well as those peasants who returned there, now found themselves in the power of the new landowners; and according to the form of social order which had been generally introduced, became bound to them as serfs. The bondage however, on these lands was at first very light. Indeed, in order to attract a new population and retain the existing one, landowners and the government at first gave all sorts of liberties and privileges to them, especially as it was they who were to constitute the military defence of their own homes and fields against the inroads of the Tatars. Most of the new settlers came from the bordering zones of Kiev, Podolia and Chernigov territories, people who were already familiar with the conditions and the constant danger from the nomads. There are historical evidences also of colonists coming from Volynia, Galicia, Kholm and Sieversk, the names given to new settlements often being those of their old homes. These new settlers undoubtedly belonged to more adventurous and intrepid elements of the community, who preferred freedom and a life full of danger and hardship to the settled and  p132 regular conditions of the serfs. Together with the local population, accustomed to a free though precarious existence, they formed that independent, daring and freedom-loving Ukrainian population which refused to accept at that time the social dependence which the nobles tried to introduce but were unable to enforce in face of the danger from the nomads.

Economic conditions in Europe about the second half of the Sixteenth century were extremely favorable to the extension of agricultural enterprise in these hitherto unused vast areas of fertile land. Owing to economic changes in Europe and, in particular, to the failure about that time of agriculture in Spain, the demand of certain lands, such as France, Italy, and even Spain, for agricultural products turned the attention of buyers to Eastern Europe and to Poland, in the same way as in the Fifteenth century the destruction of forests in Western and Central Europe led to a demand for timber from Poland and Lithuania. Like timber, agricultural products were brought down the rivers to the ports of the Baltic, chiefly that of Danzig, and shipped mostly on Dutch ships. The prices for grain and other agricultural products rose rapidly, thus rendering agriculture extremely profitable and encouraging intensive cultivation in the already existing estates in Ukraine, especially the exploitation of these vast newly-recovered areas of the south-east.

In the course of a few decades following the Union of Lublin, the re‑population of these territories that only recently were called the "Wild Steppe" was almost accomplished. A continuous stream of Ukrainian peasants advanced far east and south, in comparative safety only; but feeling themselves free, they displayed great energy and initiative in dominating the uncultivated spaces, and adapting them to agriculture. The land was now in the possession of some twenty families of Polish and Ukrainian magnates, who built towns, castles, and fortress which were designed to hold the Tatars in check. The new settlers, besides laboring on the land, were called to defend it. They were often mobilized and organized in  p133 military units, and being accustomed to carry arms they developed a military spirit of discipline. The defence of the land was the chief aim of the authorities and the landowners, but it was also the chief aim and duty of every new individual settler-peasant. It was these peculiar circumstances which developed the class of population in the Ukraine that was destined to play such an important part in the political and national development of the Ukraine. These were the Ukrainian Cossacks.

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