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This webpage reproduces a chapter of

Treaty of Pereyaslav 1654
by Alexander Ohloblyn

published by
Canadian League for Ukraine's Liberation
Organization for Defense of Four Freedoms
for Ukraine

Toronto and New York,

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 2

 p9  I.

Causes of the Ukrainian-Muscovite Alliance

The great Ukrainian revolution of national liberation which began in 1648 brought about a complete change in the political picture of Eastern Europe. The brilliant victories of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky over the Poles at Zhovti Vody (May 6, 1648), Korsun (May 16, 1648) and Pylavtsi (September 13, 1648)1 dealt a severe blow to the Polish Commonwealth, not only militarily, but also politically and ideologically. They demolished the old idea of the Jagiellons which was based on the coexistence of three peoples — the Poles, the Lithuanians and the Ruthenians (Ukrainians and Byelorussians) — within one Commonwealth. The Ukrainian Cossacks, who as early as the end of the 16th century assumed their historical mission as the national spokesmen of the Ukrainian people, after 1648 became the dominant force in the Ukraine, the leading class of the Ukrainian people and the representatives of state authority on its territory.

The creation of the Ukrainian Cossack State as an heir of the old Rus (Kievan) Empire was the greatest political achievement of the Ukrainian people after long centuries of stateless existence and national oppression. This tremendous success placed on the shoulders of all classes of Ukrainian population and, especially on the Cossacks, the heavy burden of continued armed and political struggle against Poland and of building of a new state under extremely difficult international conditions in Eastern Europe and accompanied by great social and political changes in the Ukraine. Therefore the chief objective of Bohdan Khmelnytsky's activity was to maintain and expand the Ukrainian Cossack State, to defend it both militarily and by legal and political means, and to safeguard further development of the Ukrainian nation by extending Ukrainian state authority over all Ukrainian ethnic territories and by establishing Ukrainian political and economic influence in the whole area between the Baltic and Black Seas.

This extensive program demanded much time, work and  p10 blood. In the course of the following years the Ukrainians won many glorious victories and suffered many serious defeats. However, the most critical was probably the year 1653, "the year of the (Polish) King, adverse to me and all my plans," as B. Khmelnytsky characterized it.2 This year dealt heavy and painful blows and inflicted serious losses on the Hetman and the whole Ukraine.

In September, 1653, Tymish Khmelnytsky, the Hetman's eldest and favorite son and the mainstay of his political and dynastic plans, was killed during the siege of Sochava (Moldavia). Even more fatal to the Ukraine was the new betrayal (the third after Zboriv and Berestechko) by the Crimean Khan, an ally of Khmelnytsky. The Polish army headed by King Jan Kazimierz, besieged at Zhvanets (Podolia), was saved from inevitable capitulation by the shrewd moves of Polish diplomats who succeeded, by means of bribery and promises, in reaching an agreement with Khan Islam Girey and concluding a separate peace treaty with him, very onerous for Poland, but even more burdensome for the Ukraine. Poland refused to recognize Khmelnytsky as an equal partner in the negotiations and Ukrainian representatives were not admitted to the conference table. In vain did the Hetman protest and argue that "he, the Hetman, summoned the Khan for help against his enemy, the (Polish) King, and that he, the Hetman, ought to make peace with the King, and not he, the Khan". The Zhvanets agreement between Poland and the Crimea (December 15, 1653) formally provided for a renewal of the Zboriv treaty, but it permitted the Tartars to plunder the Ukrainian territory "as far as the Bar district" (in fact, the Tartar plunder and abduction of slaves spread over the whole of Podolia, Volhynia and even Polissia). What was most important, it once more isolated the Ukraine and exposed it to the danger of a new war, face-to‑face with Poland, without any ally. The Ukrainian territory was threatened with a general Polish offensive ("for the Pacification of the Ukraine") which was planned for the beginning of the next year — 1654.3

However, the difficulties were not limited to the military and strategic situation of the Ukraine. The country experienced an internal economic and political crisis. The six years of a desperate and exhausting war with Poland, the total mobilization of the Ukrainian population, Polish punitive expeditions,  p11 Tartar depredations and abductions and, finally, various natural calamities had seriously damaged the Ukrainian economy. Unfortunately, we have no detailed information as to the economic situation of the Ukraine in the time of Khmelnytsky. However, numerous droughts, bad harvests, epidemics and other calamities, the large-scale purchases of foodstuffs abroad (Muscovy),4 the destruction of many industrial enterprises (particularly mines5 and glassworks), and, most of all, the almost complete isolation of the Ukrainian economy from the markets of Central and Western Europe not only ruined the economic structure of the Ukraine, but also threatened to paralyze further military struggle for the independence of the Ukrainian State.

This was the ground on which the fatigue and dissatisfaction of the broad masses of the population developed. They were exhausted and discouraged by the long and seemingly hopeless war. Particularly, the migration of the Ukrainian population to the east and south-east assumed wide proportions which were dangerous to the new state. The population from the northern regions and from Poltava province went to work in the apiaries around Putyvl, the potash boileries of the Sievsk and Trubchevsk districts and the saltworks of the Donets region (Bakhmut and Tor);6 the border towns of Muscovy were filled with Cossacks who did not wish to serve in the army and were looking for another occupation. Even more important were mass migrations from the Right Bank Ukraine to the vast and quieter steppes of the Slobozhan­shchyna and the Donets region.7 In vain did the Ukrainian government try to stop this migration. There is no denying that the Ukrainian colonization of the vast areas of the Slobozhan­shchyna and the Donets region played an important part in the ethnic and territorial expansion of the Ukrainian people. However, M. Hrushevsky observed, not without reason, that "the cause of the independent Ukraine was lost at the expense of its territorial expansion", for "the incorporation of Ukraine with Muscovy and later compromises with Poland and Muscovy were prejudiced to a certain extent by this migration."8

Under such unfavorable circumstances, the internal conditions — both social and political — inevitably became more acute. Although the "Cossack sword" destroyed the authority of the Polish nobility over the Ukrainian peasantry, the foundations  p12 of the social and economic order remained unchanged. In addition to this, the renewal of the hereditary rights of the gentry and the statute labor of the peasants according to the agreements of Zboriv and Bila Tserkva, as well as the active support of the Cossack authorities in enforcing those rights and obligations, roused general protests not only among the common people but also among the Cossacks. These protests frequently developed into bloody riots and even uprisings directed against both the gentry and the Cossack authority. These events reverberated also in the Zaporizhia ("Land beyond the cataracts"), where the spirit of opposition to the policy of the Hetman government continued to subsist (the uprising of Khudoliy in 1650 etc.).

Even more fraught with danger was the political opposition among the Cossack elders. It is true, the Ukrainian Cossack State was already in existence; the Cossack organization embraced all branches of administration, legislation, jurisdiction, and economy. The whole Dnieper Ukraine recognized the authority of the Cossack Army and its Hetman — "our Sovereign, His Lordship Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Hetman of the Cossack Army" (1651),9 as he was usually called by local Cossack officials, "Sovereign and Hetman of Great Russia" (1650), as he was pompously named by the representatives of the Orthodox patriarchs of the East.10

[image ALT: An engraving of a man of middle age wearing an elaborate tasseled cape and a fur-trimmed cloth cap with two large feathers. In his right hand he holds a mace topped with a large jeweled ball. He has a long drooping moustache and a somber air about him. Below it, a signature, transcribed in my caption. He is Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the 17c Hetman of Ukraine.]

 (p3)  The signature appears to be that of the Hetman himself (compare his undoubted signature on the letter to Frederick William Elector of Brandenburg), although it is in Polish rather than Latin; it reads

Bohdan Chmielnicki
Hetman Wojska Zaporowskaº

However, the Ukrainian Cossack State came into being through revolution and, though it was already gaining international recognition (particularly from the Ottoman Empire whose Sultan accepted it under his protection in 1651), its fate depended to a great extent upon the military successes of the Cossacks. The very authority of the Hetman, who changed his position from that of the leader of the Cossack Army to that of the ruler of the Ukrainian State, was not yet legally enacted and met with considerable opposition, particularly among the Cossack elders, to say nothing of the gentry and high clergy. Khmelnytsky had to deal with that opposition from the first months of the uprising; its power and its dangerous ambition increased in proportion to the intensification of social discrepancies and the deterioration of the military situation of the country. This opposition was even more dangerous because it originated not with the Polonophile camp (it had been smashed in the first years of the revolution), but among those comrades- p13 in‑arms of Khmelnytsky who had shouldered the burden of the first years of the struggle and now looked with misgivings and fear at the increase of the Hetman's authority. The opposition of the elders to the policy of Khmelnytsky was intensified after the Zboriv agreement, at the beginning of 1650 (colonels Matviy Hladky of Myrhorod, Danylo Nechay of Bratslav, and others). In March, 1651, the Swedish envoy, Johann Mayer, allegedly heard some of the elders (Nechay, Hladky and others) make the following remark to Khmelnytsky: "Look, Khmelnytsky: the Polish King is our King and master and will remain our lord and King, while you never will be a king and will remain our brother and comrade."11

The Moldavian policy of the Hetman was particularly unpopular with the Cossack elders. When Khmelnytsky went in 1653 to the rescue of his son Tymish, the colonels declared that they "should not defend a foreign country (Moldavia) and leave our own without protection". The indignant Hetman "drew his sword and slashed the left arm of Colonel Yessko of Cherkassy".12 Only the rank-and‑file Cossacks to whom the Hetman appealed supported him, saying: "Our Lord Hetman, be it according to your will, all of us are ready to follow you."13

The Polish government was evidently well informed about these events and tried, for its part to strengthen this opposition. It was not without reason that even after the Pereyaslav agreement Pavlo Olekshych, a Polish informer, wrote to Colonel Ivan Bohun that "Khmelnytsky, who used to be your comrade, has now become your master" (March 16, 1654).14

Until that time Khmelnytsky coped success­fully with this opposition. However, even while struggling against it, he could not ignore it, especially during the critical time of the struggle with Poland (the second half of 1653).

The main problem with which the Ukrainian government had to deal was that of Ukrainian-Polish relations, to wit, the problem of final victory over Poland. No compromise was possible: "two walls will collide — one will fall in, another will remain standing" — those words, uttered by Bohdan as early as 1649,15 had now an ominous meaning. At one time he believed that "Poland would perish and Rus would rule before long, in this very year" (1649).16

However, the experience of six years of difficult struggle  p14 convinced the Hetman that the Polish Commonwealth could not be conquered with one blow, the more so since the international situation of Poland, unfavorable before 1648, had now improved. The young Ukrainian state needed power­ful and concentrated support from without. Both military and political help was required since the political support of Turkey was inadequate and military aid from the Crimea proved to be extremely precarious and even harmful to the Ukraine.

Thus the problem of the Ukrainian-Muscovite alliance assumes a special significance in the military and political plans of Khmelnytsky.

This problem was not a new one. In the very first months of the uprising Khmelnytsky turned his attention toward Muscovy. The Hetman knew that a treaty of defensive alliance was in existence between Poland and Muscovy (it had been concluded by Adam Kysil in Moscow in 1647). This treaty was directed against the Crimea; however, since the beginning of 1648, the Crimea had been an ally of Ukraine, and thus the Polish-Muscovite agreement could also be used as a weapon against the Ukrainian revolution. As early as December, 1647, when the news came of the threat of a Tatar invasion and a tense situation in the Ukraine, the Polish government demanded that Moscow honor the treaty (casus foederis) and a Muscovite army of 40,000 men was concentrated near Putyvl to protect the Muscovite frontier. The Don Cossacks refused to help Khmelnytsky, pleading the Tsar's prohibition.17 True, Moscow did not intervene in the Ukrainian-Polish war, but it was prevented from doing so by internal disorders inside the Muscovite State and, above all, by Khmelnytsky's victories over the Poles in 1648.

The main task of Khmelnytsky at that time was to prevent a common Muscovite-Polish action. Therefore in the summer of 1648 he asked Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich not to help Poland, but to profit by the opportunity and retake Smolensk or lay his claim to the Polish throne, then vacant after the death of King Wladyslaw IV.18 Later Khmelnytsky took measures to induce Moscow to give Ukraine active support against Poland. This help became necessary at the beginning of 1649, in connection with Khmelnytsky's ambitious plans to restore the old Rus State embracing the whole Ukrainian ethnic territory.  p15 They were revealed in an outspoken and determined way to the Polish embassy headed by Adam Kysil at Pereyaslav in February, 1649.19 At the beginning of that year Syluan Muzhylovsky, Ukrainian envoy to Moscow, suggested to the Muscovite government the occupation of the northern region of the Ukraine since "the people in those towns are living in freedom and the land belongs to them, the Cossacks, and not to the Poles or the Lithuanians".20 Making this suggestion to Moscow, the Ukrainian government aimed not only at protecting the Ukraine from the north (Lithuania), but also at breaking the Muscovite-Polish alliance and involving Moscow in the Ukrainian-Polish conflict. As a minimum performance in return for this concession, Muzhylovsky asked for the diplomatic intervention by the Muscovite government, and the protection of the rights of the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine and the whole Polish Commonwealth.21

However, Moscow did not help the Ukraine. Numerous attempts by Khmelnytsky in the following years to persuade Moscow to take a stand against Poland proved futile. The Muscovite government used as an excuse the "permanent peace" with Poland and limited itself to general assurances, vague promises and some privileges for Ukrainian commerce in which Muscovy itself was interested, especially as far as its border districts were concerned. The Muscovite government viewed with apprehension the victories of the Ukrainian revolution and the growth of the new Cossack state. The former frightened Moscow because of its social radicalism while the latter endangered Muscovite claims to the "heritage" of the Kievan State. Being preoccupied with its internal affairs, Moscow did not wish and was unable to turn against Poland, although it was apprehensive of the possibility of a Polish-Ukrainian agreement or a common action by the Crimea and Ukraine against Muscovy which might prove very dangerous to its security. Khmelnytsky was well aware of these fears and more than once played this card during the Ukrainian-Muscovite negotiations.

The accounts of Muscovite envoys and various agents (both laymen and clergymen) in the Ukraine as well as the dispatches of Muscovite governors of the frontier areas in 1649‑1651 report many threatening statements made by the Hetman and rumors directed against Moscow which were  p16 current among the broad masses of the Ukrainian population. After the Zboriv agreement with Poland (August 8, 1649), Khmelnytsky, dissatisfied with Moscow's failure to help him in the war against Poland, told the Muscovite envoy that "he, the Hetman, was now going to wage war against Muscovite Tsardom" and would "smash everything — the Muscovite towns and Moscow itself, and even he who sits in Moscow (i.e. the Tsar) would not evade him."22

However, even later Khmelnytsky did not lose hope that Moscow would eventually help him and threatened it with war when his expectations did not materialize. "Nobody annoyed me as much as the Tsar of Muscovy," the Hetman used to say in the autumn of 1650 during official banquets and intimate talks, in the presence of Arseny Sukhanov, a Muscovite abbot, and Greek clergymen. "If the Tsar does not accept us under his protection . . . what will happen to him if I conclude alliance with the Turks, Tartars, Wallachians, Moldavians, Hungarians and lay waste his country like Wallachia?" (The Hetman referred to his recent expedition into Moldavia).23

A similar statement was made by the Hetman in 1651, during a new war with Poland. He swore before an icon and in the presence of the Muscovite envoy, Nestor, that he would go to war against Moscow and "devastate it more terribly than Lithuania."24

Khmelnytsky probably had some designs against Moscow. The Crimean Khan (and, possibly, also Turkey) continually persuaded him to make war on Muscovy. Poland, too, turned the Hetman's attention in the same direction. The Greek clergy, who took a rather hostile attitude toward Moscow's claims to the role of the "Third Rome", supported these anti-Muscovite feelings of Khmelnytsky.25 It was obviously in connection with these plans that the Hetman granted friendly reception and shelter to the junior clerk Timothey Akundinov, a pretender to the Muscovite throne who claimed to be a son of the late Tsar Vasily Shuisky, and refused to extradite him to Moscow notwithstanding all the persuasions and demands of the Muscovite government.26

Moscow continued to bide its time and watched closely all developments in the Ukraine. As the famous Russian historian, V. Kluchevsky, puts it, "for six years Moscow watched attentively, with immovable curiosity, how the cause of Khmelnytsky,  p17 damaged by the Tartars at Zboriv and Berestechko, was about to fall; how the Ukraine was laid waste by its allies, the Tartars, and the savage, inhuman, intestine war. Finally, when the Ukraine was utterly ruined, it was accepted under (Moscow's) 'exalted arm' so that the ruling classes of the Ukraine, the rebels against Poland, might grudgingly become the subjects of Moscow."27 Quoting this passage, M. Hrushevsky makes the following remark: "The whole course of East European history could have taken a different and more auspicious turn if the Ukraine had entered into political union with Moscow at the beginning of its struggle with Poland, while still full of strength, with a population who had not yet lost faith in their leaders and in their cause, while still able to oppose Moscow, to assert itself and not to allow itself to be degraded to the position of a province. Muscovite politicians allowed the Ukrainian Cossacks and Poland — either unintentionally or on purpose — to struggle against each other and reach the point of almost complete mutual destruction, as was distinctly revealed during the last campaign (of 1653 — A. O.), so that (Moscow) might intervene, with its power still unspent, in the struggle between the exhausted adversaries and accept the Cossacks not as an equal ally, but as a subordinate who could be degraded to the position of a servant, a subject, a 'kholop' (serf)."28

Moscow was meanwhile very interested in an alliance with the Ukraine. First of all, this alliance safeguarded the military interests of the Muscovite State. The Ukrainian army which numbered over 300,000 experienced, battle-hardened soldiers,29 was a first‑class military force, one of the best on the European continent and undoubtedly having no match as far as Eastern Europe was concerned. The Ukrainian-Polish union was dangerous to Muscovy, as was proved by the experience of the Moscow expedition led by Prince Wladyslaw and Hetman Petro Konashevych-Sahaydachny in 1618. Even more fraught with danger was a Ukrainian-Crimean and, to be sure, Ukrainian-Turkish alliance. On the other hand, Moscow's alliance with Ukraine not only secured the southern frontier of Muscovy, but also opened the road toward the south, in the direction of the Black Sea.

In addition, an alliance with Ukraine enabled Moscow to achieve its traditional political objectives in the West. The  p18 ancient struggle between Muscovy and the Polish-Lithuanian State for the domination of Eastern Europe could not be decided without the participation of Ukraine. The acquisition of the Kievan "inheritance" and the further realization of the Muscovite ambitions to become the "Third Rome" were impossible without the conquest of the Ukraine and the subjection of the Ukrainian Cossack State to the political ascendancy of Moscow.

Moscow also had certain economic interests in the Ukraine, particularly in the Black Sea commerce and in the use of southward and westward transit routes through the Ukraine.

Moscow was also interested in an alliance with the Ukraine for security considerations. The Muscovite government was aware of the fact that the social upheaval in the Ukraine constituted a danger to the system of serfdom in Muscovy. Moscow was afraid lest the idea of social freedom, popular in the Ukraine, should reach Muscovite territory. It was only jointly with the Ukrainian authorities that the Muscovite government could regulate Ukrainian colonization in the Slobozhan­shchyna and the Donets region. Moscow also needed the assistance of the Ukrainian government in tracking down and sending back numerous Muscovite refugees (mostly peasants-serfs).

Finally, few of the more prominent representatives of Moscow society were aware of the cultural superiority of the Ukraine, particularly of the importance of the educational and scientific center at Kiev (the Mohyla College); they were inclined to enlist its help in the interests of Moscow and, what was even more important, to subject it to their control.

In any case, Moscow needed an alliance with the Ukraine. The events of 1653 convinced the Muscovite government that it was high time to act and that no further delay was possible. Ukraine, exhausted by war and revolution, was facing the mortal peril of a Polish invasion. It was obvious that Ukraine's freedom of choice was limited to two possibilities: either complete subordination to Poland or dependence upon Turkey. The first choice was self-evident and Khmelnytsky warned Moscow that he might decide in favor of the latter course. Both possibilities were unacceptable to Moscow. Thus, when the last attempt at diplomatic intervention the Muscovite embassy of Prince B. Repnin-Obolensky to Poland in 1653 proposing Moscow's  p19 mediation in settling the Ukrainian-Polish conflict according to the provisions of the Zboriv agreement, at the cost of some insignificant Muscovite concessions to Poland) had failed, Moscow finally made up its mind. On October 1, 1653, the Zemsky Sobor (National Assembly), convoked in Moscow, decided to accept Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and the whole Cossack Army with their towns and lands, according to their request, "under the exalted arm of the Sovereign."30 This was the Muscovite formula for accepting Khmelnytsky's proposal to conclude a military and political alliance between the Ukraine and Muscovy.

The Author's Notes:

 (p90)  1 All dates are given according to the old style.

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2 V. Lypynsky, Ukraine at the Crossroads, p27.

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3 M. Hrushevsky, History of Ukraine‑Rus, vol. IX, part II, Kiev, 1931, pp689‑720; V. Lypynsky, op. cit., p27. See also O. Pritsak, The Truce of Zhvanets According to Turkish Croniclerº Naima'u. — Bulletin of the UVAN, No. 11‑12, 1947, pp15‑18.

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4 M. Hrushevsky, History of Ukraine‑Rus, vol. VIII, part III. Kiev-Vienna, 1922, p248; vol. IX, 2, p697.

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5 See our article "Iron Industry in the Right Bank Ukraine at the Epoch of Khmelnytsky". — Memoires of the Shevchenko Scientific Society, vol. 156, Munich, 1948, pp129‑134.

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6 See our article "The Archives of the Bakhmut and Tor Salt-works." — Arkhivna Sprava, IX‑X, Kharkiv.

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7 See V. Yurkevych, Ukrainian Emigration to the East and the Settlement of the Slobid­shchyna in the Time of B. Khmelnytsky, Kiev, 1931.

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8 M. Hrushevsky, History of the Ukraine‑Rus, vol. VIII, part 2, Kiev-Vienna, 1922, p78.

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9 M. Hrushevsky, History of the Ukraine‑Rus, vol. IX, part I, Kiev, 1928, pp270‑271 and vol. IX, 2, p1544. Many documentary materials in vol. III of the "Acts (Documents) of South and West Russian History" and in vol. II of the "Documents of the Muscovite State."

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10 M. Hrushevsky, History, IX, 1, p121.

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11 Ibid., p158; V. Lypynsky, 269‑270. This refers to the notorious plot of M. Hladky who was executed at the beginning of 1652 together with the colonels Lukian Mozyra of Korsun and Adam Khmieletsky of Pavoloch (ibid.).

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12 Yessko (Yassko) — Yakiv Parkhomenko, colonel of Cherkassy.

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13 M. Hrushevsky, History, IX, 2, p600. In 1653, there was executed Colonel Mykola Fedorovych, acting commander-in‑chief of the Cossack troops in Moldavia (V. Lypynsky, 270).

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14 M. Hrushevsky, History, IX, 2, p833.

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15 Ibid., VIII, 3, 175.

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16 Ibid., 144.

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17 Ibid., 7‑8, 26.

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18 Ibid., 112. See V. Lypynsky, 190.

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 (p91)  19 M. Hrushevsky, History, VIII, 3, 146.

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20 Ibid., 137.

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21 Ibid.

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22 Ibid., 243. The Cossacks told the Muscovites: "We shall go to war against you with the Crimeans. There will be a great war between you and ourselves because you did not help us against the Poles" (ibid.).

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23 Ibid.IX, 1, 122. See ibid., 111, 120.

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24 Ibid., 255‑256. "And other Ukrainians," a Muscovite informer reported, "when they get drunk in the inns, say . . . that they will make war upon your (the Tsar's) border towns and wear the coats of the Russians". (ibid., 157, footnote 2).

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25 Ibid. See O. Ohloblyn, Muscovite Theory of the Third Rome in the 16th and 17th cents., Munich, 1951, pp38‑41.

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26 M. Hrushevsky, History, IX, 1, 111‑124.

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27 V. Kluchevksy, A Course in Russian History, vol. III, p150; quoted after Hrushevsky, op. cit., IX, 2, p760.

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28 M. Hrushevsky, History, IX, 2, p760.

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29 I. Krypyakevych, Studies on the State of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, pp148‑149 (reprint from the Memoires of the Shevchenko Scientific Society).

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30 M. Hrushevsky, History, IX, 2, pp610‑649, 1529‑1536.

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