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Chapter 3

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

in Foreign Comments
and Descriptions

by Volodymyr Sichynsky

published by
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Inc.
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!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 5

 p67  Chapter Four

Description of Ukraine
by Sieur de Beauplan

Among these descriptions and references to Ukraine first place must be given to the indefatigable French scientist, engineer and author, Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan.

He was the first scholar of the post-Renaissance Europe to regard Ukraine as an independent geographical and political unit, which possessed its own individual, natural, economic and cultural characteristics. His outstanding Description d'Ukraine may be called the first Ukrainian geography. His maps of Ukraine were models for western European cartography until the beginning of the XVIIIth century. Finally, it was de Beauplan who made the Ukrainian liberation struggle of the XVIIth century and the name of Ukraine known in Western World.

Unfortunately, little is known of de Beauplan's life. He was born in Normandy about 1600 and received his engineering education in the schools of France. It was in France also that he began his career as a military engineer.

In 1630 he was invited to Poland, where he joined the Polish army as a specialist in the construction of forts. In this capacity, he was dispatched to Ukraine, where he served with the Polish troops from 1630 to 1647.

During his seventeen years in Ukraine, de Beauplan continually worked on the surveying of the country and studied its geography in all its aspects. In spite of the fact that he served in the Polish army and more than once took part in battles with the Kozaks, he maintained close relations with the Ukrainian population and its armed forces, the Kozaks. As a result, he came to sympathize with their struggle for liberation and freedom.

De Beauplan's work on the cartography of Ukraine is copious and significant. He left ten maps of Ukraine: the "Large General  p68 Map" (1648); the "Small General Map" (1650); the "Map of Ukraine with her Neighboring Countries" (1660), six maps of separate parts of Ukraine, consisting of the provinces of Kiev, Podolia, Bratslav, Pokuttya and Volhynia, a detailed map of the Dnieper Rapids, and a special map of Ukraine of 1650, entitled, Delineatio specialis et accurata Ukrainae.

De Beauplan's "General Map of Ukraine" bears the title: Delineatio Generalis Camporum Desertorum vulgo Ukraina cum adjacentibus provinciis. On this map de Beauplan includes within the boundaries of Ukraine the districts of Chernihiv, Poltava, Zaporozhya, Kherson (without the Tartar Ochakiv), Kiev, Podolia, Pokuttya and Galicia, with the city of Lviv. The map therefore takes in all the Ukrainian lands from "the boundaries of Muscovy to the borders of Transylvania," as he himself emphasized.

[image ALT: A detailed map of Ukraine and bordering areas.]

 (p69)  6. The general map of Ukraine by Beauplan of 1648 [South is at the top]: Delineatio Generalis Camporum Desertorum vulgo Ukraina cum adjacentibus provinciis . . ."a

[A much larger version, in which the map details are fully readable,
opens here (11.5 MB).]

[image ALT: A zzz map of zzz.]

 (p75)  8. Middle stream of the Dnieper River on the map of Beauplan.

On some of the maps there is a scale of the Ukrainian, Polish and French miles and the Muscovite versty. The workman­ship and decoration of the maps are extraordinarily careful and artistic. They are adorned with typical Ukrainian figures, groups of Ukrainian soldiers and officers, fauna and flora, and the like.

[image ALT: A zzz map of zzz.]

 (p71)  7. Ukrainian Kozak officers. Engraving on the map of Beauplan.

As mentioned above, his maps of Ukraine were the models for all other maps of Ukraine, printed in the second half of the XVIIth century, and even well into the XVIIIth century. All the later changes in these maps concerned only topographical details and names, and did not affect the general appearance of the territory as a whole.

On these maps the name of Ukraine is given in several forms: Ukrania, Ucrainia, Ukran, Ukraina, Ucraine. In addition, very often the title Ukraine ou Pays de Cosaques, or some similar description, is found in other languages; in a few cases there is also the designation The Zaporozia Lands (Morden, Paris, 1700).

De Beauplan's basic work, Description d'Ukraine, is extraordinary in every respect. It was first published in French in Rouen in 1650 (according to some other historians, in 1649), and was reprinted three times, in 1651, 1660 and 1661. Its success was underscored shortly thereafter by its appearance in Latin,  p70 English and German versions. It was published also in the Polish and Russian languages in the XIXth century. The Ukrainian translation appeared comparatively late, due to the tsarist ban on the printing of Ukrainian books.

It is characteristic of the Russian government that it took all possible precautions to prevent the popularization of the Description d'Ukraine in Ukraine itself. When at last under the pressure of the scientific world the Russian government permitted the printing of the translations by W. Lyaskoronsky, de Beauplan's original title of Ukraine was changed to Yuzhnaya Rossiya (South Russia). It was printed in Kiev in 1901.

The Description d'Ukraine is extremely rich in material on the geography, history and ethnography of the land and the nation. It contains a wealth of information on the folk life, customs, social organization and the military grades of the Kozaks; also on the flora, fauna and climate, and on the crafts, industry and trade. The book contains various illustrations: a map of Ukraine, a plan of a Kozak encampment, Kozaks fording a river, and a Kozak boat.

In the preface to the third edition of the book, the editor gave some interesting details about other illustrations which were to have been printed in the book and with "represented the inhabitants, animals, plants, and other important and unusual articles of Ukraine." But after the death of the engraver Hondius (circa 1651), they were bought by the Polish King and never seen again. The greater part of the book is dedicated to the description of the organization and life of the Ukrainian army, its tactics, military ability and armament.

A full translation of de Beauplan's Description d'Ukraine into English appeared in A Collection of Voyages and Travels, by A. and J. Churchill, London 1744, Vol. I, p446‑486.

[image ALT: The title page of an 18c book, in an assortment of type, large, small, capitalized or not, italic, etc. It reads in full: « A Description of Ukraine, Containing Several Provinces of the Kingdom of Poland, Lying between the Confines of Muscovy, and the Borders of Transylvania. Together with their Customs, Manner of Life, and how they manage their Wars. Written in French by the Sieur De Beauplan. Printed for Henry Lintot; and John Osborn, at the the Golden-Bell in Paternoster Row. »]

 (p75)  9. Title page of A Description of Ukraine by Beauplan in the English translation of 1744.

The text of this first English translation is used here although it contains many archaisms and old grammatical forms. The full text of the title of the book reads: A Description of Ukraine, containing several Provinces of the Kingdom of Poland, Lying between the Confines of Muscovy, and the Borders of Transylvania.  p71 Together with their Customs, Manner of Life, and how they manage their Wars. Written in French by the Sieur De Beauplan.

In the preface to the book, we read:

"The Sieur De Beauplan, author of this small account, had a long time to make himself perfect in it, having served as he tells us, seventeen years in the Ukraine as ingineer to the king of Poland . . . He describes their persons, particularises much upon their manner of making war, which was his profession, sets down to a tittle the manner of the Cossacks making their irruptions into Turkey and Tartary by way of the Black Sea, describes the country, and particularly the river Boristhenes (Dnieper), with that exactness, as may be expected from a  p72 mathematician who had viewed all those parts, and made special observations, not only for his own curiosity, but to fulfil the Duty of his Imployment, which was to erect forts, and even build towns in convenient places . . ."

The book contains "A Map of Europe" by R. W. Seale. On this map, the name Ukrain is printed along the Dnieper River, while the eastern part of Ukraine, between the rivers Dnieper and Don, is marked Cosacks. The Muscovite territory is called Russia or Muscovy in Europe.

A Description of Ukraine by de Beauplan begins with a description of Kiev, capital of Ukraine:

Kiow, otherwise called Kiovia,​b was one of the ancientest cities in Europe, as may be seen still by the remains there of antiquity: as for instance, the height and breadth of its ramparts, the depth of its ditches, the ruins of churches, the old tombs of several kings found within them. Of the churches, only two remain as a memorial, which are those of S. Sophia and S. Michael: for of all the rest there is nothing left but ruins, as of that of S. Basil, whose walls are yet standing five or six feet high, with Greek inscriptions on them of above fourteen hundred years​c standing upon alabaster stones, but now almost worn out with age. Among the ruins of those churches are to be seen the tombs of several princes.

"The churches of S. Sophia and S. Michael have been rebuilt after the ancient manner. That of S. Sophia makes a fine front, and looks graceful on every side, for the walls are adorn'd with several histories and Mosaick figures: which work is made of very small bits of several colours, shining like glass; and so well put together, that it is hard to discern whether it is painting or tapestry: the arch is made only with earthen pots fill'd and plaister'd all about. In this church are the tombs of several kings; and the Archimandrita or chief of all the monks resides there. S. Michael's church is called the Golden Roof, because it is cover'd with gilt plates. The body of S. Barbara is shewn there, said to be brought thither during the wars of Nicomedia.

 p73  "This antient city is seated on a plain that is at the top of a hill, which commands all the country on the one side, and the Borysthenes (Dnieper) on the other, that river running along the foot of the hill; between which and the water stands New Kiow, a town at present but little inhabited, there being not above five or six thousand people in it. It is about four miles in length along the Borysthenes, and three miles in breadth from the Borysthenes to the hill, being inclosed with a scurvy ditch twenty five foot wide. Its shape is triangular, encompassed with a wooden wall, and towers of the same materials. The castle stands on the ridge of a hill commanding the lower town, but commanded by Old Kiow."

In telling about the ten churches of the "Greek rite," the author continues:

"One of which is near the townhall, where is an University or Academy, call'd by them Bracka (Bratska) Cerkuils."

The author had in mind the famed Kiev Academy which had long remained a center of Ukrainian culture and religious life. About the Ukrainians and their army, the author writes:

". . . Brave people, known at present by the name of Zaporousky Cossacks, spread of late years into so many places along the Borysthenes, and the neighbouring parts, whose number at present amount to 120,000 disciplin'd men, and ready in less than eight days upon the least command they receive from the king, these are the people, who very often, and almost every year, make excursions upon the Euxine Sea (Black Sea), to the great detriment of the Turks. They have several times plunder'd the Crim Tartary, ravag'd Anatolia, sack'd Trebisond (Trabzon), and run to the mouth of the Black Sea, within three leagues of Constantinople, where they have put all to fire and sword, and then returned home with a rich booty, and some slaves, which are generally young children, whom they breed up to serve them, or present them to some lord of their country; for they keep none that are grown up, unless they think them rich enough to pay a good ransom. They are never more than between six and ten thousand men when they make their ravages, and cross the sea  p74 miraculously in piti­ful boats they make themselves, and of whose shape and structure I shall speak hereafter.

"Having mentioned the bravery of the Cossacks, it will not be amiss to give an account of their manners and employment. It is therefore to be understood, that among those people in general there are men expert in all sorts of trades necessary for human life, as house and ship-carpenters, cartrights, smiths, armourers, tanners, curriers, shoemakers, coopers, tailors. They are very expert at preparing of salt-peter, whereof there is great plenty in those parts, and make excellent cannon-powder. The women spin flax and wool, whereof they make cloth and stuffs for their own use. They all understand tilling, sowing, reaping, making of bread, dressing of meat, brewing of beer, making of hydromel, breha,​d aqua vitae, etc. There is no body among them, of what age, sex, or condition soever, that does not strive to outdo another in drinking, and carousing effectually; and no Christians trouble themselves less for t'morrow than they do.

"There is no doubt but all of them in general are capable of all arts; yet some are more expert than others in certain professions, and others there are more universally knowing than the common sort. In short, they are all ingenious enough, but they go no further than what is necessary, and profitable, particularly in country affairs.

"The land is so fruitful, it often produces such plenty of corn,º they know not what to do with it, because they have no navigable rivers that fall into the sea, except the Borysthenes, which is not navigable fifty leagues between Kiow or Kiovia, by reason of thirteen falls on it, the last of which is seven leagues distant from the first, which makes a good day's journey, as may be seen in the map.

"This is that hinders them carrying their corn to Constantinople; and is the cause of their sloth, and that they will not work but just when necessity obliges them, and that they have not wherewithal to buy what they stand in need of, chusing rather to borrow of the Turks, their good neighbours, than to take pains to earn it. So they have meat and drink, they are satisfied.  p75 MAP

 p76  "They are of the Greek church, which in their language they call Rus; have a great veneration for festivals, and fasting days, which take up to eight or nine months of the year, and consist in abstaining from flesh. They are so positive in this formality, that they believe their salvation depends on this distinction of meats: and I believe there is no nation in the world like this for liberty in drinking; for no sooner is one drunken fit off, but they take a hair of the same dog. But this is to be understood when they are at leisure; for whilst they are in war, or projecting some enterprise, they are extraordinarily sober. Nothing belonging to them is so coarse as their habit, for they are subtile and crafty, ingenious and free-hearted, without any design or thought of growing rich; but are great lovers of their liberty, without which they do not desire to live; and for this reason it is, they are so subject to revolt (against Poland) of the country, when they see themselves crush'd, so that they are scarcely seven or eight years without mutinying against them.

"They are of a strong constitution, able to endure heat and cold, hunger and thirst; indefatigable in war, bold, resolute, or rather rash, not valuing their lives.

"They shew most valour and conduct when they fight in their tabors (camps), and covered with their carts (for they are very expert at their fire-arms, their usual weapons) and in defending strong places. At sea they are not bad, nor very good on horseback. I remember I have seen two hundred Polish horses rout two thousand of their best men; true it is, a hundred of these Cossacks, under the shelter of their tabors, do not fear a thousand Polanders, nor as many Tartars, and were they as brave on horseback as they are afoot, I should think them invincible. They are well clad, and make it appear when they have been plundering among their neighbours, for otherwise their garments are indifferent enough. Naturally they are very healthy, and free enough even from that distemper peculiar to Poland, which the physicians call blica; because all the hair of the head is sensible of it, tangles and clots together in a most unaccountable manner; the people of the country call it gosches.​e Few  p77 ILLUSTRATION  p78 there die of sickness, unless they be of a very great age, most of them dying in the bed of honour, being kill'd in war."

Speaking about the Ukrainian village, which was under the Polish nobility, de Beauplan writes:

"The peasants there are very miserable, being obliged to work three days a week, themselves and their horses, for their lord; and to pay proportionately to the land they hold, such a quantity of wheat, abundance of capons, pullets, hens and goslings; that is at Easter, Whitsontide and Christmas: beside all this, to carry wood for the said lord, and a thousand other jobs they ought not to do; besides the ready money they exact from them, as also the tithe of their sheep, swine, honey, and all sorts of fruit, and every third year the third beef. In short, they are obliged to give their masters what they please to demand; so that it is no wonder those wretches never lay aside anything, being under such hard circumstances. Yet this is not all, for their lords have an absolute power, not only over their goods, but their lives; so great is the prerogative of the Polish nobility (who live as if they were in heaven, and the peasants in purgatory) so that if it happens that those wretched peasants fall under the servitude of bad lords, they are in a worse condition than galley-slaves. This slavery makes many of them run away and the boldest of them fly to the Zaporozhe, which is the Cossacks place of retreat in the Borysthenes (Dnieper River), and after having pass'd some time there, and been once at sea, they are reputed Zaporozhsky Cossacks; and this sort of desertion much increases the number of their troops. This the present revolt sufficiently testifies; these Cossacks after the defeat of the Polanders, rising in rebellion to the number of 200,000; who being masters of the field, have possessed themselves of a country above a hundred and twenty leagues in length, and sixty in breadth. I had forgot to observe, that in time of peace, hunting and fishing are the usual employments of the Cossacks; and this is what I had to say in general of the manners and customs of these people."

 p79  De Beauplan's analysis of the military tactics of the Ukrainian Cossacks is especially noteworthy:

"It remains that we perform what we promised before which is how the Cossacks choose their general (Hetman), and also how they make their excursions, crossing all the Black Sea even to Anatolia, to make war upon the Turks. Thus it is they choose their general: when all the old colonels and ancient Cossacks, who are in esteem among them, are assembled together, every one gives his vote for the man he thinks fittest for the employment, and the one that has most voices carries it. If he that is chosen will not accept of the place, excusing himself as being incapable of it, or for want of experience, or his great age, that does him no good, for they make no other answer, but that he is not worthy of that honour, and immediately kill him upon the spot as a traitor; and it is they themselves that are treacherous in so doing, which you may remember I said they were when I spoke of their manners and frequent infidelity. If the Cossack elected accepts of the general­ship, he thanks the assembly for the honour done him, though unworthy and incapable of that post, yet protests he will do his utmost endeavours to become worthy to serve them either in general or in particular, and that his life shall be always exposed for the service of his brethren (so they call another:) having spoke these words, they all shout, Vivat, vivat, &c. Then they go in order to pay their respects to him, and the general gives them his hand, which is the manner of saluting one another among them. This is the manner of choosing their general, which is often done in the desert plains. They are very obedient to him, and in their language he is called Hetman. His power is absolute, and he can behead and impale those that are faulty. They are very severe, but do nothing without the council of war, which they call rada.º The general may fall into disgrace if he have not such conduct when he leads them out to war that no disaster will befall them, and if he does not appear brave and politick upon any unexpected or unlucky accidents; for if he commits any act of cowardice, they kill him as a traitor. Immediately they choose another among themselves in  p80 the usual manner, as was said before. It is a troublesome employment to lead and command them, and unfortunate to him it falls upon, for during seventeen years I served in the country, all that had this post died miserably.

"When they intend to go to sea, it is without the king's leave, but they take it of their general, and then they hold a rada, that is, a council, and choose a general to command them during that expedition, observing the same ceremonies we have mentioned in the election of their great general, but this now chosen is but for a time. Then they march to their Sczabenisza Worskowa (Arsenal), that is, their place of rendezvous, and there build boats about sixty foot long, ten or twelve foot wide, and twelve foot deep; these boats have no keel, but are built upon bottoms made of the wood of the willow about forty five foot in length, and raised with planks ten or twelve foot long, and about a foot broad, which they pin or nail one over another, like the common boats upon rivers, till they come to twelve foot in height, and sixty in length, stretching out in length and breadth the higher they go. This will be better understood by the rough draught I have inserted here. You may observe they have great bundles of large reeds put together as thick as a barrel end to end, and reaching the whole length of the vessel, well bound with bands made of lime or cherry tree; they build them as our carpenters do with ribs and cross-pieces, and then pitch them and have two rudders one at each end, as appears in the draught because the boats being so very long, they should lose much time in going about when they are forced to fly back.

"They have commonly ten or fifteen oars of a side, and row faster than the Turkish galleys: they have also one mast, which carries an ill‑shaped sail made use of only in very fair weather, for they had rather row when it blows hard. These vessels have no deck, and when they are full of water, the reeds above-mentioned tied quite round the boat, keep it from sinking. Their bisket is in a tun ten foot long, and four foot diameter, fast bound; and they take out the bisket at the bung. They have also a puncheon or half‑tun of boiled millet, and another of dough  p81 dissolved in water, which they eat mixed with the millet, and make great account of it; this serves for meat and drink, and tastes sourish; they call it salamakha, that is, a dainty food. For my part, I found no delicacy in it, and when I made use of it upon my voyages, it was for want of better. These people are very sober, and if there be a drunkard found among them, the general causes him to be turned out; therefore they are not permitted to carry any brandy, being very observant of sobriety in their expeditions and enterprizes.

"When they resolve to make war upon the Tartars in revenge for the mischiefs received from them, they take their opportunity in autumn. To this purpose they send all necessaries for their voyage and enterprize, and for the building of ships and other uses, to the Zaporozhe: then five or six hundred Cossacks all good able men well armed take the field, and repair to Zaporozhe to build their boats: sixty of them go about a boat, and finish it in a fortnight; for, as has been said, they are of all trades. Thus in three weeks time they make ready eighty or a hundred boats, such as I described above; between fifty and seventy men go aboard each vessel; with each of them two firelocks and a scymitar, carry four or five falconets upon the sides of the vessel, and provisions proper for them. They wear a shirt and drawers, have a shift, a piti­ful gown, a cap, six pounds of cannon powder, and ball enough for their small arms and falconets, and every one carries a quadrant. This is the flying army of the Cossacks on the Black Sea, able to terrify the best towns in Anatolia.

"Thus provided, they run down the Borysthenes (Dnieper Riv.); the admiral carries his distinction upon the mast, and generally has the van, their boats keep so close that the oars almost clash. The Turk has commonly notice of their coming, and keeps several gallies ready at the mouth of the Borysthenes, where the gallies dare not go, having far'd ill there formerly, and think it enough to wait their coming out, in which they are always surprised: yet the Cossacks cannot slip by so swiftly but they are discovered, then all the country takes the alarm, and it runs as far as Constantinople. The grand seignior sends expresses  p82 all along the coast of Anatolia, Bulgaria, and Romania, that all people may be upon their guard, giving them notice that the Cossacks are at sea. But all this is to no purpose, for they make such use of their time, that in thirty‑six or forty hours time they are in Anatolia, where they land with every man his firelock, leaving but two men, and two boys to keep each boat: There they surprize towns, take, pillage, and burn them, and sometimes go a league up the country, but return immediately, and go aboard with their booty, hasting away to try their fortune in another place. If they find any Turkish gallies or other ships, they pursue, attack and make themselves masters of them, which they do in this manner: their boats are not above two foot and a half above water, and they discover a ship or galley before they themselves can be perceived by them. Then they strike their masts, observe how the enemy winds, and endeavour to have the sun upon their backs at night; then an hour before sun‑setting they row with all their might towards the ship or galley till they come within a league of it, for fear of losing sight of it, and so continue: Then about midnight (the signal being given) they pull up again amain towards the vessel, half the crew ready to fight, only expecting when they come together to board. Those in the ship or galley are astonished to be attacked by eighty or a hundred vessels, which fill them full of men, and in a moment bear all down; this done, they pillage what they find in silver, or goods of no great bulk, that cannot be spoil'd by the water, as also the brass guns, and what they think can serve them, then sink the vessel and men in it. This is the practice of the Cossacks: had they skill to manage a ship or galley, they might carry it away, but they have not that knack. When they are to return home, the guards are doubled upon the mouth of the Borysthenes: but tho' weak they laugh at that, for when they have been forced to fight, they have often lost many men, and the sea has swallowed some of their vessels, for they cannot be all so good, but some must fail. Therefore they land in a creek, three or four leagues east of Oczakow (Ochacov), where there is a valley very low, about a quarter of a league in length, the spring tides sometimes overflowing  p83 it half a foot deep, and is about three leagues over to the Borysthenes: there two or three hundred Cossacks draw their boats across one after another, and in two or three days they are in the Borysthenes with their booty. Thus they avoid fighting the gallies that keep the mouth of the river of Ochacov. To conclude, they return to their Karbenicza, where they share the spoil, as was said before. Besides this, they have another refuge; they return by the mouth of the Don, through a strait that lies between Taman and Kerch and run up the mouth to the river Mius, and as far as this river is navigable, from whence to Taczawoda is but a league, and Taczawoda falls into the Samara, which runs into the Dnieper a league above Kodac, as may be seen in the map. But they rarely return this way, because it is too long for them to return to Zaporozhe. Sometimes they go this way out to sea, when there is a great force at the mouth of the Borysthenes to obstruct their coming out, or that they have but twenty or twenty-five boats.

"When the gallies meet them at sea in the daytime, they set them hard with their guns, scattering them like so many rooks, sink several, and put them in such a consternation, that those who escape make haste to put in wheresoever they can. But when they fight with the gallies, they do not ply their oars, which are lashed to the side by withs; and when they have fired a musquet, their comrades give them another ready loaden to fire again and thus they ply it without ceasing, and effectually. The gallies are not able to board one of them, but their cannon does them much harm. Upon these occasions they commonly lose two‑thirds of their men, and seldom come off with half, but they bring rich booty, as Spanish pieces of eight, Arabian sequines, carpets, cloth of gold, cotton, silks, and other commodities of great value. Thus the Cossacks live, and these are their revenues; for as for trades they use none, but drinking and debauching among their friends when they return home.

"To proceed in the performance of what I promised, something must be said of the customs they observe in some of their marriages, and how they make love, which will seem odd and  p84 incredible to some persons. There, contrary to the practice of all other nations, the maids make love to those young men they take a liking to; and a certain superstition they have among them, and observe punctually, is the cause they seldom miss of their aim, and they are more sure to succeed than the men would be if application were made by them. This is the manner of it.

"The maid that is in love goes to the young man's father's house, at such a time as she judges she may find the father, mother, and gallant together. Coming into the room, she says, Pomagaboz (Pomahay Bozhe), that is, God bless you, the common salutation used at entering their houses. Having taken her place, she compliments him that has won her heart, and speaks to him in these words, Ivan, Fedir, Demitre, etc. (in short, she calls him by one of these names, which are most usual among them); perceiving a certain goodness in your countenance, which shews you will know how to rule and love your wife, and hoping from your virtue that you will be a good Dospodorge (Hospodare): These good qualities make me humbly beseech you to accept of me for your wife. Then she says as much to the father and mother, praying them to consent to the match. If they refuse her, or make some excuse, saying he is too young, and not fit to marriage, she answers, she will never depart till she has married him, as long as he and she live. These words being spoken, and the maid persisting, and positively asserting she will not depart the room till she has obtained her desire; after some weeks the father and mother are forced, not only to consent, but also to persuade their son to look favorably upon her, that is, as one that is to be his wife. The youth perceiving the maid fully bent upon loving him, begins to look upon her as one that is in time to be mistress of his inclinations, and therefore intreats his father and mother to give him leave to place affections upon that maid. And thus amorous maids in that country cannot miss of being soon provided, for by persisting they force the father, mother, and son, to comply with them; and this, as I said above, for fear of incurring God's wrath, and that some disaster may  p85 MAP  p86 not befall them; for to thrust the maid out would be an affront to all her kindred, who would resent it; and in this case they cannot use violence, without incurring, as I was saying, the indignation and punishment of the church, which is very severe in these affairs, imposing, when such a thing happens, penances and great fines, and declaring the family infamous. Being kept in awe by these superstitions, they, as near as may be, avoid the misfortunes they believe, as firmly as they do their articles of faith, will befal them, by refusing to give their sons to those maids that demand them. And this custom holds only among people of equal rank, for in that country the peasants are all rich alike, and there is but little difference as to their worth.

"Now I will speak of other unequal amours between a peasant and a gentlewoman, allowed by ancient custom and privilege kept up among them.

"It is the custom in all the villages of that country, for all the peasants, with their wives and children, to meet at the usual place of rendezvous, every Sunday and holiday after dinner. The place of rendezvous is the tavern, where they spend the rest of the day a merry making together; but only the men and women drink, while the youth spend their time in dancing to a douda, that is, a horn-pipe. The lord of the place is usually there with all his family to see them dance. Sometimes the lord makes them dance before his castle, which is the most usual place; and there he dances himself, with his wife and children. At that time the gentry and peasants mix together, and it is to be observed, that all the villages of Podolia and Ukraine are for the most part encompassed with underwoods, where there are lurking places for the peasants to retire in summer, when they are alarmed with the coming of the Tartars. These underwoods may be half a league over; and though the peasants are kept under like slaves, nevertheless they have this ancient right and privilege of conveying away, if they can, out of this dancing assembly, a young maiden gentlewoman, though she were their own lord's daughter, provided he does it so dexterously as to come off well, otherwise he is a lost man, and that he can fly into the neighbouring copses,  p87  where if he can lie hid for four and twenty hours, without being discovered, he is cleared of the rape committed; and if the maid he has stole will marry him, he cannot refuse her without losing his head; if not, he is acquitted of the crime, and cannot be punished; but if it happen that he is taken within the twenty-four hours, his head is immediately chopt off, without any form of law. Though I lived there seventeen years, I never heard that this was once done. I have seen the maids make love to the young men, and often succeed, as I said above; but this last practice is too dangerous, for a man must have good heels to carry away a maid by force, and run away with her in sight of a considerable company, without being overtaken; and it would be yet harder, unless the maid was consenting to it; besides that at present the peasants are more kept under than they were formerly, and the nobility is grown more haughty and imperious."

After describing the Ukrainian wedding, de Beauplan continues:

"I must add this one word more upon this subject, concerning the manners of their women, and allow them the honour of being chaste when fasting; but the liberty allowed them of drinking aqua vitae, and their liquor made of honey, would render them more easy of access, were it not for fear of publick shame, and the dishonour done to maids if they will marry, as has been shewn above, without having the tokens of their virginity."

In a chapter entitled "Strange Birds," we read:

"There are along this river birds that have such a large neck that within it there is as it were a pond, where they keep live fish, to eat when they have occasion. I have seen some of the same sort in the Indies. The other most remarkable birds there, and most numerous, are the cranes, of which there are vast multitudes. As for buffaloes, and other large creatures, they are on the frontiers of Muscovy; as are the white hares and wild cats. There are also in that country, but towards Wallachia, sheep with long wool, their tails shorter than usual, but much broader and triangular. The tails of some of them have weighed above ten pounds, generally it is above ten inches broad, and  p88 more in length ending in a point, all of it excellent fat. The great men of the country have fine horses spotted like leopards, beauti­ful to behold, which draw their coaches when they go to court.

"The greatest inconvenience in that country of Ukraine is the want of salt, and to supply that they have it brought from Pocoutya, a country belonging to Poland, on the frontiers of Transylvania, above eighty or a hundred leagues in length, as will appear in the map. In that country all the wells are of salt-water, which they boil, as we do white salt, and make little cakes an inch thick and two inches long, giving three hundred of them for a penny. This salt is very pleasant to eat, but does not salt so much as ours. They make another sort of elder and oak, which is good to eat with bread, they call this salt Kolomey."

[image ALT: A detailed map of Ukraine and bordering areas.]

 (p85)  10. Map of Ukraine by Sanson, reproduced in Rome in 1678: Ucraina o Paese de Cosacchi"f

[A larger version, in which many map details are readable,
opens here (1.2 MB).]

Thayer's Notes:

a The map printed in Sichynsky's book, which I reproduce above, is essentially unreadable, even when magnified. It was clearly taken from some other print source: blurry and not properly rescreened. The "much larger version" I provide for readability in my caption above is from the Library of Congress's exemplar G7100 1648 .B4, beauti­fully converted here to jpg format, with complete accuracy, by the good folks at Convertio.

Normally, in cases like this — see for example elsewhere in Sichynsky's book — I just replace the poor printed image by the better one. Here I haven't done so, because in fact the two maps are slightly different: the two differences easily noticed are that the printed map spills over the right-hand frame, and the region in the upper right corner (SW) is labelled "Wallachiae Pars" in the printed map, and in the Library of Congress map "Moldaviae Pars".

Colored exemplars of Hondius' map also exist:

[image ALT: A detailed map of Ukraine and bordering areas.]

[A much larger version, in which many map details are readable,
opens here (6.1 MB).]

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b Beauplan's French text as printed has Kiſovia (Kisovia); Churchill's translation corrects to Kiovia. But Beauplan's maps, at least once, have Kiiovia — which hews more closely to the Ukrainian pronunciation: I suspect Beauplan's printer hypercorrected Beauplan, taking the unpalatable second i in his manuscript for a long s, ſ.

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c The statement is found in the opening paragraph of Beauplan's original text, p1: "S. Basile duquel se voit encor des murailles de cinq à six pieds de hauteur, auec des inscriptions Grecques de plus de 1400. ans, sur des Albastres, mais qui sont presque effacées à cause de leur antiquité". It certainly would seem that the inference that these are Christian inscriptions cannot be taken as accurate: Kiev was not founded until the fifth century at the earliest, more probably the sixth or seventh; and for several hundred years after that, it was still pagan. I trust Beauplan to have seen these apparently unreadable inscriptions himself, but either they were not 1400 years old (and in that case may well have been Christian), or they had originally stood somewhere in the ancient Greek colonies on the north shore of the Black Sea and been transported to Kiev at a later date. Occam's razor though very strongly suggests "1400 years" is just plain wrong; it would be interesting to determine how Beauplan came to arrive at his dating.

As for "alabaster", if Beauplan was being precise — after all, he was a construction engineer — calcite alabaster must be meant. More loosely, and by my lights more plausibly, he may be referring to ordinary white marble.

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d So Churchill's translation, following Beauplan's French. Properly, braha (брага), a raw alcohol, a sort of moonshine, often from barley malt.

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e Beauplan: Blica and Goschés.

Modern Ukrainian, госте́ць, modern Polish goźdźce: Beauplan's transliteration is the best possible in French of that period.

The ailment itself is plica polonica, more sensitively if less frequently plica neuropathica: it is either a disease, possibly of neurological etiology, or a condition originating in poor hygiene — opinions have differed widely. See Plica Polonica Through the Centuries the Most "Horrible, Incurable, and Unsightly", a rather thorough scholar­ly article by a neurologist, from both a medical and a historical perspective. (If that page disappears from the Web, as so often happens these days, I've kept a copy.)

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f This is just a stray map, presumably offered as a sample of a typical map of the 17c after Beauplan. The French mapmaker Guillaume Sanson is never mentioned by Sichynsky.

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Page updated: 22 Aug 22