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This webpage reproduces a section 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 1

 p5  Introduction

300 years ago — in January, 1654 — there opened at Pereyaslav the negotiations (completed in March of the same year in Moscow) between the Ukrainian State represented by Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and the Tsar of Muscovy, Alexei Mikhailovich. They resulted in what is known in history as the Pereyaslav Treaty.

This treaty determined for long decades and even centuries the relations between two states — the Ukraine and Muscovy — and between two peoples — the Ukrainians and the Russians. The consequences of the Pereyaslav agreement have influenced the life of those peoples and those states up to the present day. Moreover, in one or another way, they weigh heavily on the fate of Eastern Europe and even affect the rest of the world.

These facts awake a natural public interest in the Pereyaslav agreement of 1654 and oblige a historian to examine "sine ira et studio", the agreement itself as well as all the circumstances which brought it about, accompanied it and, eventually, determined its further fate.

It would be too much to say that Ukrainian, Russian and foreign historians were not interested in the Pereyaslav agreement. Scores of books have dealt with this question and it seems that all the details have been investigated thoroughly — as far, of course, as was possible by the condition of the sources which are at our disposal.

On the other hand, however, it would be probably difficult to find another question leading scholars to such diverse and even contrary conclusions as did the Pereyaslav agreement. There is not only a serious divergence of opinions between the Ukrainian and Russian historiography as far as the general appraisal of that agreement is concerned, but also individual scholars, whatever their nationality, disagree about its legal and political definition.

How can this situation be explained?

In the first place, the Pereyaslav problem is connected with the entire complex of Ukrainian-Russian relations during  p6 the three centuries of their history and the specific historical event which took place in 1654 at Pereyaslav and Moscow has often been overshadowed by these intricate, acute and painful conflicts.

It has also been caused by the fact that historians have at their disposal only a part of the documentary sources and what is of the utmost importance, all the documents dealing with the agreement itself (the record of the negotiations and the texts of the treaty) have been produced only by the Russian side. The few Ukrainian documents have reached us only in Muscovite translations, the accuracy of which cannot be ascertained. As far as the text of the treaty is concerned, not a single original document is extant either in the Ukraine or in Moscow and we have to rely on copies, rough copies and drafts, all drawn up in Moscow. It should also be added that even this limited number of sources has not been thoroughly studied, while some of them have been probably never completely disclosed. Things become even more complicated as a result of the fact that in 1659 a forged document was fabricated designed to serve the objectives of the Muscovite policy of that time. It was improperly named "The Articles of Bohdan Khmelnytsky" and the Muscovite government recognized it as the authentic text of the Pereyaslav Treaty of 1654.

It is pretty obvious that this state of affairs was extremely disadvantageous to both Ukrainian and Russian scholars.

Finally, the study of the Pereyaslav agreement was undoubtedly influenced by political factors, both Ukrainian and Russian. Moscow has always viewed the Pereyaslav agreement as the "reunion" of either two tribes of "one Russian people", or two "Russian" states, and has interpreted accordingly the Pereyaslav treaty of 1654.

The Ukrainian side was also unable to escape the influence of the political factor. The late Vyacheslav Lypynsky stressed with characteristic frankness and ability that "we have grown used to viewing the Pereyaslav agreement in the light of the Pereyaslav legend, which came into being later . . ., when the Cossack state was about to fall, and assumed its present ideological form only after the rout of Poltava and the final suppression of the aspirations of Ukrainian Cossack aristocracy for independence and statehood in the time of Mazepa". Comparing the Pereyaslav legend with its "spiritual sister" — the  p7 "Lublin legend" of 1569, Lypynsky observes that "the Pereyaslav legend played the same role in the history of the Ukrainian Cossack aristocracy in the Russian Empire", since it "saved the Ukrainian aristocracy ideologically and juridically, after the bankruptcy of its own state, from the position of a conquered, subjugated and subjected class in a foreign state. These legends in both cases enabled our aristocracy to enjoy all the rights and privileges of the aristocracy of the ruling nation since it ostensibly joined those states voluntarily, without any compulsion."1

There can be no doubt that a certain connection was bound to take place between the Ukrainian and the Muscovite version of the Pereyaslav legend, even if it did not exist at the beginning, and it could not fail to be reflected in historiography.

Those difficulties in the field of methodology, of the study of sources and of ideology have affected our historiography up to the present. In some respects — namely as far as sources are concerned — the position of Ukrainian historiography has become even more unfavorable, since the archival materials of the Pereyaslav agreement are now inaccessible.

On the other hand, however, Ukrainian historiography has succeeded, to a great extent, in ridding itself of the influence of Pereyaslav legend — even of the Ukrainian version. It is a long time since the Ukrainians have been able to see through the delusion of the Pereyaslav "unification" and now we have no difficulty in separating the Pereyaslav of 1654 from, let us say, the Pereyaslav of 19554. The tremendous achievements of Ukrainian historiography during the last decades in the study of the age of Khmelnytsky — the works of Mykhaylo Hrushevsky (esp. vol. VIII and IX of his monumental "History of the Ukraine‑Rus′"), Vyacheslav Lypynsky ("Ukraine at the Crossroads"), Ivan Krypyakevych ("Studies on the State of Bohdan Khmelnytsky"), Mykola Petrovsky ("Essays in Ukrainian History", 1930, and numerous articles published in 1920‑ies), Andriy Yakovliv (esp. his "Ukrainian-Muscovite Treaties in the XVIIth and XVIIIth c.") and other scholars,  p8 and, beyond the scope of Ukrainian historiography, the famous works of the Polish historian Ludwik Kubala — have opened a wide vista of the Ukrainian revolution of national liberation in the XVIIth c. and the building of the Ukrainian Cossack State which not only obliges but also enables the new generation of Ukrainian historians to examine and solve the problem of the Pereyaslav Treaty of 1654.

The purpose of this short essay is not so wide and ambitious. We only wish to outline a brief historical account of the Ukrainian-Muscovite agreement of 1654 — a survey of the circumstances which brought it about, of the negotiations through which it was arranged and of the treaty with which it was completed.

How did the Pereyaslav agreement of 1654 occur and what was its real meaning? These are the questions to be answered in this study.

The Author's Note:

1 V. Lypynsky, Ukraine at the Crossroads, 1657‑1659. Notes on the history of the building of the Ukrainian State in the 17th century, Kiev-Vienna, 1920, pp28‑29.

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Page updated: 4 Sep 22