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This webpage reproduces a section of

Survey of Ukrainian Historiography
By Dmytro Doroshenko

published by
The Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences
in the U. S., Inc.,

The text is in the public domain.

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 p104  Historical Themes
in Ukrainian Literature of the XVIII Century

Interest in the past of one's country and the feeling for historical tradition going back to ancient times and expressing the continuity of national life, was reflected in the Ukrainian literature of the eighteenth century. Historical themes are equally present in the scholastic works of the so‑called Kievan school, in the anonymous popular poetic works, and in the first works of modern Ukrainian literature. There is no time here to dwell on all of them; we should like to mention only the drama Vladimir by Teofan Prokopovych (1705), dedicated to Mazepa, with all its apo­theosis of Volodymyr the Great, and the play Milost' Bozhiya Ukrayinu Osvobodivshaya (The Liberation of Ukraine by the Grace of God) (1728) by Teofan Trofymovych,  p105 which glorifies Bohdan Khmelnytsky. We should like to consider in some detail a lesser known work of the eighteenth century. It is a versified history of the Ukraine, Geroichni stikhi o slavnykh voennykh deistviyakh voisk zaporozhskikh, vkratse z raznysh gistorii prostorechno sochinenny. Pisany zhe goda 1784 (Heroic Verse About Glorious Military Deeds of the Zaporozhian Host, From Various Histories, Briefly Composed in the Year 1784). A note "written on August 21, 1784, in the Uman region" was appended to the end of the work.

The author was a monk, familiar with historical sources and relying on Old Chronicles, Baronius, and Polish and Ukrainian Chronicles. The aim of the author is to glorify Zaporozhe; he carefully avoids anything that might cast a shadow on "Cossack glory." He dedicates his work to the Zaporozhian Host in the final "Dedication":

By those who treasure the past of their country, a truthful description of the glorious deeds of their ancestors, which not only tells of their honor and qualities but also serves as an example for others, will be welcomed. There are many instances of brave peoples, the Greeks, the Romans, and others, who regarded their histories as guides to action. In this, you the Slaveno-Russian people of the Zaporozhian Host must follow them, yet there is no need for you to borrow foreign models of bravery and virtue. For these, select them from your own ancestors whom I have described in my work [. . .]

According to the author, the Slavs are descended from Japhet [. . .] When the Crimea was occupied by the Turks and Kiev came under Polish rule, then the Cossacks (whom he calls at first Kozars) organized the defense of the Ukraine. They were very brave, yet their masters, the Poles, did not appreciate their services, which were rendered not only in the defense of the Ukraine, but of the Polish kingdom too, and they treated them badly. When the Poles introduced the Church Union in the Ukraine, the Cossacks rose under the leader­ship of Khmelnytsky, whom the author compares to Moses. "Your mother country, Ukraine," cried Khmelnytsky to the Cossacks, "asks your help. It is time to saddle the horses and to defend our faith with the sword." There follows a detailed and dramatic account of the  p106 Cossack wars against the Poles. Khmelnytsky's fame spread all over the world, from the Turkish Sultan to the kings of Sweden and Hungary, yet he decided to accept the suzerainty of the Russian tsars. The story ends with a panegyric in honor of the Zaporozhians.

It is possible that these verses were composed earlier than 1784, since Empress Anna (1730‑1740) is mentioned at the very end of the book, and the Zaporozhian Sich, the object of glorification, did not exist in 1784. It is possible that this work was written soon after 1734, when the Zaporozhians left Tatar protection and the Turko-Russian war was beginning. These "heroic verses" were published by N. V. in Kievskaya Starina, 1891, I, under the title 'Pamyatnik ukrainskoi literatury kontsa XVIII veka" (A Monument of Ukrainian Literature of the End of the Eighteenth Century).

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Page updated: 29 Jun 22