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Chapter 4

This webpage reproduces a chapter of


Ukraine
in Foreign Comments
and Descriptions

by Volodymyr Sichynsky

published by
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Inc.
New York,
1953

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 6

 p89  Chapter Five

The Period of Bohdan Khmelnytsky
and his Successors


[image ALT: An oval-framed engraving of a sad-faced middle-aged man, half-length, wearing an elaborate silk uniform  partly covered by a tasseled cape and a turban-like cap topped by two large feathers. In his right hand he carries a mace, and his left hand grips the pommel of a sword. He is Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the 17c Ukrainian ruler.]

11. Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky.
Engr. by Hondius, Danzig, 1651.

The rise of the Ukrainian Kozak State caused many repercussions and comments in western Europe. It found its reflection particularly in the memoirs of the numerous travellers, who in great numbers visited Ukraine in that period. The Kozak resurgence, which "even shook the Polish throne," as one French author expressed it, and the great personality of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky himself naturally attracted the attention of neighbors near and far and especially of their diplomats, statesmen and writers. Not only were the foreigners interested in knowing more intimately the Ukrainian land and its political organization, but they endeavored to win the sympathy of the Kozaks and their leaders. As a result, the French, Italians, English, Germans, Danes, Swedes, Dutch and Syrians have left many descriptions and personal memoirs in which Ukraine is mentioned not only favorably but often with enthusiasm and admiration.

Of the various legates and ministers who went to see Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the one who has left the most interesting comments on Ukraine is Alberto Vimina, the Minister of the Venetian Republic, who visited Ukraine in 1650. He writes that the Ukrainian land in the Zaporozhe is so fertile that "not only could it be compared with the most fertile lands of Europe, but it could satisfy the requirements of the most exacting farmer."

Writing about the life of the Kozaks, Vimina comments:

"According to their appearance and manners the Kozaks seem to be simple, but the fact of the matter is that they are not simple and do not lack a keen sense of perception. This can be grasped by their conversation and their method of government."

p90 He says that the supreme organ of the state is the Rada (Council), at which the Hetman is always present. Vimina writes:

"In the Rada the Kozaks deliberate various matters, and support their viewpoints without any ostentation, aiming always at the improvement of the common lot. If they recognize that the viewpoints of others are better, they are not ashamed of their own and without stubbornness renounce such and support the one which they believe to be more correct. Hence I would say that this Republic could have been compared to the Spartan, if the Kozaks respected sobriety as highly as did the Spartans."

Further on Vimina says that the Kozaks do not enjoy full welfare and comfort because all their extra income is spent on liquor; and that generally they do not care about being rich but are satisfied with little, freedom being treasured above all.

Characterizing Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Vimina writes that he was

"of more than middle height, with wide bones and of a power­ful build. His utterances and his system of governing indicate that he possesses judicial thinking and a penetrating mind. In his manner he is gentle and unaffected, and thereby wins the love of the Kozaks; but on the other hand, he keeps them disciplined through severe requirements. To all who enter his room he extends his hand, and asks them to be seated if they are Kozaks."

The room of the Hetman was simply furnished in order that the duties of office be kept in mind and to discourage the growth of vanity.

"But the table of the Hetman is not poor with its choice and delectable food and drink celebrated throughout the land: horilka (aqua vitae), beer, honey. Wine, which is seldom drunk, is only served for outstanding foreigners. As I had occasion to experience myself, at table and at drinking, festivity and humor are not lacking. I could give a few examples of this, but in order to be brief I will mention but one. Once one of my officials boasted of the greatness and marvel of Venice, and the Kozaks drank in his words. After he had talked at length of the position,  p92 structures and wealth of the city and its size, the narrator added that the streets of the city are so wide that the citizens not infrequently are lost in them.

" 'Why, no!' interrupted one of the Kozaks. 'Don't pride yourself on your Venice. I will tell you that the same may happen to me in this crowded room; if I continue to sit a little longer behind this table, I will not be able to find the door to get back home!' "

The popularity of Ukraine at this time, even in western Europe, is indicated by the numerous pictures and engravings of a political and satirical nature on Ukraine which were circulated in the western European community.

As an example, we might mention an engraving made in 1650 in the Dutch city of Delft by an unknown engraver. Entitled Foreign-European and also French-Dutch Meeting, the engraving is a political caricature of the helplessness of Christian Europe in the face of Turkey, and shows the unreliability and duplicity of some countries. Beside the figures which symbolize Spain, England, Sweden, France, Germany, Poland and Muscovy, there is a figure of a Kozak, representing Ukraine (No. 9). Under this Kozak is an inscription in Dutch: "My heart inside wants to break," and in the text under the same number runs the verse:

"The Kozak is extremely angry, his heart wants to break

"With great hatred (toward Turkey) he sharpens his sword anew . . .

"Ukraine trembles and thunders . . ."


[image ALT: zzz.]

12. The "European Assembly" with the participation of Ukraine ("Die Ucraine zitternd bebt"). A Dutch engraving of 1650, in the City of Delft.

[A larger version, in which the text is more or less readable,
opens here (2.1 MB).]

In the same engraving Muscovy is depicted as a conniving power which is trying to instigate and inflame Turkey against Europe (Ich will das Feuer schueren).

One of the most vivid descriptions of Ukraine of that time is the Diary of Travel by Paul of Aleppo of Syria, who was secretary to the Patriarch Macarius III of Antioch and who travelled through Ukraine in the years 1654 and 1656. (The English translation of Paul of Aleppo's Diary (The Travels of Macarius, London 1936, 1946) is shortened and inaccurate. It lacks the most pertinent and interesting references to Ukraine which were  p94 in the original. The chapter on Ukraine is entitled "Little Russia," a name which was given by the London translator, as Paul of Aleppo called Ukraine the "Land of the Kozaks.") He refers to Ukraine as a "beauti­ful country, teeming with inhabitants and castles, as a ripe apple is full of pits."

Paul of Aleppo first set foot on Ukrainian soil at Rashkiv on the Dniester, and was immediately impressed by the level of Ukrainian culture:

"Beginning with this city, that is, throughout the whole of the Kozak land, we noted a beauti­ful trait which aroused our interest: they all almost without exception, even their wives and daughters, know how to read and know the order of the mass and the church song. In addition, the priests instruct orphans and do not permit them to roam on the streets . . . In the Kozak Land, in every city and every village there are shelters for the poor and the orphans. Whoever enters there gives them alms, not as in Moldavia or Wallachia, where the poor and orphans wander into churches and disturb people in their prayers."

(Part IV, Chap. I.)

Paul of Aleppo also directed his attention to the beauti­ful buildings in all the cities and towns. He was surprised to find public baths, large clocks on the towers of belfries and water fountains in the public squares.

On June 24 his entourage arrived at Kiev and was lodged in a building which the monks of the Pechersky Monastery (Lavra) occupied in that city. Kiev and a hundred other towns were ancient fiefs of this famous monastery. Two days later they visited it. Of this visit Paul of Aleppo wrote:

"This Monastery of the Caves is the glory of the Kozak country. In it are twenty-three churches. Till a year ago there were nearly five hundred monks there, but three hundred of them died in the plague . . . In the Monastery all the table service which they set before us was of silver. It should be noted that in every large Monastery and in the episcopal palaces, some of the great officials attend as retinue and are called 'Servants of the Monastery.' And when the Bishop or Archimandrite drives out in his  p95 coach, they go before and behind on handsome horses, richly clad and armed. In every apartment of these dignitaries, and even in the cells of the priests and monks, there are valuable arms in great numbers . . . On the 27th we went to visit their Church of the Adoration of the Cross, where are to be found thousands of bodies of holy hermits. We were shown the caves excavated to a great depth into the mountain, and were conducted to the cave wherein had lived Saints Anthony and Theodosius. We made our reverences to their heads, which were placed here in separate glass vessels. In Kiev, near the Cathedral of St. Sophia is an excellent printing press, serving for all this country. It publishes all the church books with a surprising print of various forms and colors and also drawings on large sheets of the remarkable objects of the land, ikons of the saints, learned studies, etc. Here we printed, as other patriarchs had done before us, a complete set of Indulgences, with the signature of the Patriarch in red ink and adorned with the picture of St. Peter the Apostle, in three sizes — for the grandees, the common men, and the women . . ."

(Book IV, 16)

Leaving Kiev on July 10th they journeyed through inundations and fogs, deserts and river, to Pryluky, where they were lodged in a large mansion with pleasant balconies overlooking a great lake. But alas! There "was no sleep to be had at this season, for the bugs and gnats were more numerous than the particles (motes) in the air, there being a succession of lakes and pools from one end of this country to the other."

Paul of Aleppo was immensely impressed by the fact that the population of Ukraine was literate, and that its upper strata were highly educated. He wrote that "among the monastic leaders (in Kiev's Pecherska Lavra) there are highly educated people, orators, who know logic and philosophy and who dwell on deep questions."

The Kiev women, according to Paul of Aleppo, are beauti­fully attired and are preoccupied with their own affairs, "and no one on the streets looks upon them with an impudent eye." (Book IV, 20).

 p96  He paid special attention to Ukrainian architecture. He was greatly interested not only in church architecture, but in the secular buildings and in the defensive forts as well.

"We had occasion to visit the majestic churches . . . with richly decorated windows which filled our hearts with joy; all have been built since the coming to power of Hetman Zenovy Khmelnytsky."

In all cities and towns he saw "huge, beauti­ful and splendid" churches. Of St. Sophia he wrote:

"The human mind is incapable of grasping these multicolored mosaics of marble, their unity and the harmonious system of the various parts of the church; its innumerable tall columns, its tall domes, and the vastness of the church itself, which has many porticos and naves."

He declared that the ikonostas of St. Sophia

"is beauti­ful and huge; it is new, so immensely big that the spectator cannot stop marveling. No one has talent enough to describe it, so beauti­ful are its various carvings and gildings."

(Book IV, 19).

In reference to his trip through the Ukrainian countryside, he wrote:

"The route through Ukraine led in most part through orchards, of which there is no end, and through fields of all kinds of wheat which grows as tall as a human being and looks like an ocean without any shores. What a blessed land! What a blessed people!"

By way of the city of Putyvl, Paul of Aleppo together with the Patriarch travelled to Moscow where they stayed almost two years. He describes his sojourn in Moscow in the most unfavorable terms, despite the fact that the Patriarch received many gifts there. He says that the Muscovites,

"are all of them, from the highest to the lowest, of a silent disposition, suspicious . . . They will not tell anything to a foreigner . . . either good or bad, of their own affairs. The life of the Muscovites is so constricted that no foreigner can bear with this, and one comes to feel imprisoned himself."

(Book VI, 14).

He generalizes of his stay in Moscow:

 p97  "Mirth and laughter became completely alien to us, because the suspicious Muscovites constantly spied on us and reported on us. May God save us and liberate us from them!"

It was with great relief that Paul of Aleppo and his party returned to Ukraine. After their last bivouac on the Dnieper before reaching Kiev, he wrote that they reached Kiev on June 28 (1656),

"thankful to be in the country of the Kozaks, for during those two years we spent in Muscovy, a padlock had been set on our hearts, and we were in the extremity of narrowness and constraint of our minds, for in that country (Muscovy) no person can feel anything of freedom or cheerfulness, except possibly the native population. The country of the Kozaks (Ukraine), on the other hand, was like our own country to us, and its inhabitants were to us good friends and fellows like unto ourselves."

(Book XII, 16).

While at Kiev the Patriarch assisted at several services in the Cathedral, the Pechersky Monastery and various other monasteries. The citizens flocked around them wherever they went, "filling not only the rooms and the courtyards of our house, but also the street outside from morning to evening; and we could not find room for all the loaves given us."

The travellers left Kiev on July 14, again crossed the Dnieper, and after a journey of ninety miles reached Cherkassy, where the traders fitted out vessels for the Black Sea. "In this town the Kozaks first made themselves conspicuous" . . . Another thirty miles brought them to the city of Chyhyryn, where Hetman Khmelnytsky resided.

"His secretary, along with a large troop of soldiers, came out to meet us and escorted us into the main avenue, which resembled a large river of sand. On Sunday, July 27th, we celebrated mass in their Church of the Assumption, a large wooden building, one of five churches which the city possesses. The Hetman lives in Chyhyryn, a frontier town facing towards the Tartar, between whom and the Kozaks is a distance of uninhabited wilds of five or six days' journey.

 p98  "On August 2 we departed; and after passing over a long bridge over lakes, islands and rivers, came to a town called Subotiv, where Timoty, the Hetman's deceased Son, used to live . . . On Sunday, August 3, after matins, we performed in her (the widow's) presence a memorial service for her husband in the large new Church of St. Michael, where his tomb is located . . ."

(Book XII, 18).

After traveling sixty additional miles the travellers reached Lysyanka where, at the request of the sotnik of the town, Kyr Macarius dedicated a new convent which he had built in the suburb. Thence they travelled to Uman; where on August 12 the Polkovnyk escorted them to the Tabor, an encampment of Kozaks that was being formed not far from the city, for news had reached the town that the Khan was preparing to march against them, and they were making ready to receive him with great alacrity and exultation.

"On our arrival at the Tabor, and immediately after the Patriarch had blessed the troops and prayed over them, they fired all their muskets, and reared their horses three times. They escorted us on our way with banners and troops; we passed by towns which the Poles and Tartars had burned and depopulated the year before. On August 18 we left the Kozaks, who, at parting again fired their guns."

(Book XII, 18).

An interesting book from the viewpoint of Ukrainian-Russian relations was the Relation by A. Meyerberg, minister of Emperor Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire at the Muscovite court in 1661. The book was written in 1654, the year of the Treaty of Pereyaslav between Ukraine and Muscovy, a date which began a new and unhappy era in the modern history of the Ukrainian people. On that date the Russian tsars began the steady and systematic encroachment upon Ukraine which ultimately led to total enslavement. Meyerberg was especially acrid in characterizing the Muscovites as people without honor and trust, whose word could not be relied upon. He writes:

"The talk of the hosts (Muscovites) is that of people who have had no schooling or up‑bringing; it is conspicuous in its  p99 vulgarity, and is, in fact, offensive to a decent man. Quarrels, merriment about base things and impudent boasting which not infrequently harms the good name of others — are a substantial part of the talk and humor . . . The Muscovites know how to lie with unbelievable impudence and without shame . . . Ministers of foreign states should not expect truth from the tsarist representatives, because the latter collect all possible techniques of cunning in order to deceive them, or in substituting lies for truth, they endeavor to keep secret that which they ought to talk about, and thus weaken the force of all decisions taken during the meetings . . . Merchants and artisans are also unusually mendacious, and thieves who profit by thievery and cunning are common, as courts do not punish for such (for thievery and cheating)" . . .

(Vol. I, p116).

There is little mention of Ukraine in Meyerberg's book; what information appears is taken from Polish sources. He refers only to the origin of the Ukrainian Kozaks (Cosacorum Ortus) saying that they "once were farmers and lived in the neighborhood of Kiev, but subsequently settled in the Zaporozhe; they are known for their bravery and for their tireless and success­ful war against Poland that forced her to restore their independence." (Vol. II p48).

Some interesting information on the Ukraine of the Khmelnytsky period is to be found in the memoirs of K. J. Hildebrandt, a member of the Swedish delegation to Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky that visited Ukraine in 1656‑1657. He describes in great detail his arrival in Chyhyryn and his welcome by the Hetman. Hildebrandt reports that a formal Swedish-Ukrainian treaty could not be concluded, because the Hetman and the Council of Officers insisted that the Swedish king recognize "for them (the Ukrainian Kozak State) the right to the whole of old Ukraine or Roxolania (Totius Ukrainae Antiquae vel Roxolaniae) where the Greek religion and their language was and still is used —- up to the Vistula."

In reporting on the life of the Ukrainians, Hildebrandt touches upon the clothes and habits of the Ukrainian women. He writes  p100 that in winter time they wear a long fur coat, without any covering, while the lower part of their bodies is covered with an apron, made out of wool and interwoven with white thread; they wear high boots, while their heads are covered with white kerchiefs, also of wool; they are girded so tightly that the form of their bodies is well marked; they wear blouses decorated with embroidery. They dance well, usually following the steps of the man, and they dance gracefully and with a gay heart. He adds that the "Kozak women are brave, drink well, attend to the serving and very often order their men to work."

Special attention was paid by the Swedish minister to the fortifications of the cities and the military strength of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. The very "first Kozak town," Kosnytsi, which Hildebrandt entered, impressed him:

"Here we found very well built fortifications." Going on to Chyhyryn, the capital of the Kozak State, he wrote of the Ukrainian villages: "Although small and insignificant as settlements seem to be, nevertheless in each of them there was a company of troops (eine Campagnie) which came out to greet us with their banner. They even went over to the Transylvanian Prince George Rakoczi II, united with his army and joined the Swedes against the Poles."

Generally, Hildebrandt underscores the great hospitality of the Ukrainians, even in the villages: "The inhabitants of every place brought us chickens, eggs, white bread, whiskey, beer, honey, and hay for the horses. Ukraine is a beauti­ful land, rich in all sorts of wheat."

Speaking about the Ukrainian Kozaks, the member of the Swedish delegation wrote that they are

"brave and clever soldiers . . . Especially their Chancellor Vyhovsky (der damahlige Canzler Herr Johan Wyhovsky), who subsequently became Hetman, praised the Zaporozhian Kozaks for their intrepidity . . ."

Regarding their relation­ship with the Poles, the author writes:

"Their sternness has expressed itself in war with the Poles over the faith. Constantly pressing against the enemy, they (the Kozaks) burned and mercilessly destroyed them, saying that  p101 the Poles behave in their country far more cruelly, not sparing even the small children."

Hildebrandt emphasizes the knowledge of foreign languages among the Ukrainians. For instance, he writes that with both Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and his Chancellor he conversed in Latin, with one of his escorts, a Kozak officer, in French.

The Swedish legate describes in detail the reception of his minister, Gothard Welling, by Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky:

"As soon as His Excellency Minister Welling entered the city of Chyhyryn, he was offered a special dwelling, where he could reside with his people and keep his horses. In addition, the Hetman ordered food supplies provided for the Minister, as well as fodder for the horses. All this cost nothing. On January 17 (1657) the Minister was invited to an audience. The Hetman sent him a beauti­ful bay horse, with a small saddle embroidered in gold."

In the audience hall,

"after an exchange of greetings and the termination of the conference which was conducted in the Latin language, a special reception followed . . ."

"Behind the table there sat the Hetman, flanked by the Minister and a Scottish merchant who had arrived at the same time with a letter from the Swedish king. Furthermore, there was the Chancellor Vyhovsky with a few senators. The wife of the Hetman sat for a few minutes near the Hetman . . . The next day a special reception was given the Minister by Chancellor Vyhovsky."

The Swedish Minister Gothard Welling himself, in his Relation, gives detailed information on his talks with the General Secretary, Vyhovsky, which attest to the independent policy of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky with respect to Moscow. Minister Welling told Vyhovsky, among other things:

"That His Royal Highness (the Swedish King) had been without cause insulted by the Muscovites and had suffered tremendous damages, and what would they (the Kozaks) gain by sitting still and letting such go by. Chancellor Vyhovsky picked up the statement, expressed great regret that the King had been  p102 so unjustly treated, swore good faith and wanted to show him letters in which he had done his utmost to dissuade the Muscovite tsar from his designs. But the tsar not only did not want to listen, but was displeased with the Kozaks because they would not help him in the war against the King. And now, having seen that the war was not going so well as he had imagined, and having become fearful that the Kozaks also may stand against him, the tsar not so long before my arrival sent a letter to the Hetman, making excuses for his truce with the Poles. He wants to break it, as it does not please the Hetman, and generally, he is ready to do everything that the Hetman wants. In reply to this the Hetman said that the tsar had not listened to him and had begun an unjust war against the Swedish King. He admonished the Great Prince of Moscow to see to it that the war with the Swedish King be terminated as soon as possible, and warned that he (the Hetman) was a friend of the Swedish King, and as long as he lived he would undertake nothing against the Swedish King."

In the concluding talks the

"Ukrainian government assured the Swedish Minister that it would call upon the Muscovite prince to abstain from any steps whatsoever against the Swedish King, and for the damages done to provide redress and restitution, for otherwise the Hetman would find other means. He had already ordered his Colonel Antony Zhdanovych, that in case some Muscovites were found in Poland, they be treated as enemies."

These Swedish state documents also prove that despite the fact that the Muscovite princes already had begun the use of the title "Tsar" in the era of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the Ukrainian Kozak state and its government under the Hetman did not recognize these titles of the Muscovite princes.

The extent that the Ukrainian government regarded itself independent of Moscow is shown by the negotiations between it, and Franc Sebesi, Minister of Prince George Rakoczi of Transylvania. During these negotiations the Ukrainian government requested an oath from the Transylvanian prince. The latter  p103 replied that it was not customary for princes and kings to give their personal oath, to which the Ukrainian government replied that "princes change and a treaty cannot last until it is assured by the country as a whole."

Under date of June 28, 1656 Sebesi recorded the talk of Vyhovsky with a Muscovite legate:

"The Muscovite minister demanded to know how it came about that without the knowledge of the Tsar a treaty was signed with the Swedes and the Transylvanian Prince, and why it was that the Hetman never gets in touch personally with the Tsar, but sends common Kozaks to Moscow. Vyhovsky replied that as the Tsar was in his own land, so the Hetman in his own country is a prince or a king, having acquired control of his country with his sword and liberated it from the yoke. If you wish, preserve our friendship and live with us on good terms; if not — we shall fight and bring against you Tartars, Swedes and Hungarians."

On September 1, the Kozak legates went to Rakoczi, and held official talks with him. The Kozaks promised that they would provide him with as many troops as he desired, but in exchange they demand the whole of Ukraine "up to the Vistula River," and were ready to break with Moscow because they had enough legitimate reasons for so doing (Transylvania, II, 164‑166).

Franc Sebesi visited Ukraine a second time as a member of the Swedish delegation under the leader­ship of Liliencrone, royal counsellor. Sebesi was in Chyhyryn from June 20 to August 16, 1657, and in his Memoirs reports that the Ukrainian central government, and particularly Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky, vigilantly guarded against the Western Ukrainian lands going into "foreign hands," even if they should be those of the most trusted allies. Sebesi writes that Minister Welling had told the Hetman that the Swedish King was desirous of having Kamenets in Podolia, Lemberg (Lviv) and Bar, and it was only after much reassurance by Sebesi that this did not correspond to the true desires of the Swedish King that Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky finally calmed down.

 p104  "The Hetman was also angered by the Swedish King that he should dare call the Muscovite prince (Muskoviae dux) . . . Again he repeated that he favored the Swedes rather than Moscow. In the presence of his son, he declared:

'When I will be ready to die, I will order my son always to maintain a treaty with the Swedish King.' "

The period of Hetman Khmelnytsky preoccupied the Western European historians and writers for several years after the death of the great Hetman. Among those who wrote about the relations of Ukraine (under Khmelnytsky) with Muscovy was Prof. Ch. Stiedius of Breslau University. His book is entitled Report on Present Conditions in the Muscovite State (Frankfurt, 1706). He wrote of Khmelnytsky:

"To Khmelnytsky, leader of the insurgent troops, an assurance was made (on the part of Moscow) that he would be given the whole of the Right-Bank Dnieper Ukraine and that he would be made Prince of Kiev, but he soon realized that he had been deceived and came to know that the Muscovites adhere to their own interests, not to his."

There are several works of an encyclopedic character, particularly texts of geography, wherein Ukraine is mentioned, especially as to the period of Hetman Khmelnytsky. Among such is Le Nouveau Théâtre du Monde, by Bussengolt, first published in Paris in 1677. The note about Ukraine reads:

"Ukraine is situated between Moscovia and Transylvania. Kiou, (Kiev), the principal city of this great country, belongs to the most ancient cities of Europe, which is attested to by wide walls remaining to this day, deep moats, ruins and churches and ancient graves of numerous kings . . ."

This and other information were taken from de Beauplan's Description d'Ukraine.

There are a few interesting memoirs and books, pertaining to the second half of the XVIIth century, which describe Ukraine during the reigns of Hetmans Vyhovsky and Samoylovych.

Among them is the book of Ulrich Werdum, who travelled extensively in Poland and Ukraine in the years 1670‑1672. His  p106 comments on Ukrainian life and culture are particularly interesting as compared with those that he made with respect to the Poles. About the latter he wrote:

"The Poles are not lacking in politeness and intelligence; but they are light-hearted and fickle. When they have an interest in something and are on the weaker side, they act very humbly and peacefully, but when they meet a weaker party and master the situation, they immediately become proud, conceited and cruel; they either serve servilely or rule proudly, a character described by Livy. In everyday life and in social conversation they use more compliments and flatteries than any other people . . . As a whole, however, the Polish people are neglect­ful and lazy, they till only the most necessary parcels of land, while the rest lie fallow . . ."

In describing various Polish meals, Werdum continues:

"After very salty and peppery meals, the Poles enjoy sampling liquor. Drinking is widespread here in the upper and lower strata, with both men and women, as nowhere in the world. They especially like vodka, which they call in Polish goralka, and in the Ruthenian horylka, and in their Latin crematum.​a With the consuming of a large quantity of liquor, fights are frequently provoked, whereby the saber of necessity goes into action. They use it to cut each other's chest and faces, which dueling they consider a defense of their honor, and those who are marked with scars on their faces are considered outstanding heroes, as with the practice with both the Goths and the Sarmatians a thousand years ago . . . The entire mode of living of the Polish people is extremely crude and barbarous."

About the Ukrainians, Werdum wrote:

"One can find much kindness in both words and gestures in Ukraine, particularly in the women, to which contributes the Ruthenian language (Ukrainian) for its pronunciation is not as hard as that of the Polish. They say that in Lemberg (Lviv) there live as beauti­ful, delicate and flirtatious women as can be found anywhere in the world. I met one such beauti­ful woman, who, when I tried to purchase some wares from her, rendered  p107 me a polite compliment in the Latin language, and expressed herself in a very charming way . . . In Ukraine both men and women wear bay coats which they make themselves out of wool. The nobility and merchants wear coats of the same material, but of a blue color. The peasant-Kozaks in the summer wear light coats of white, while in the winter they dress in sheepskin coats, extending from the neck to the feet, and embroidered on the back with red, yellow and bay colored leather fringes which look very attractive . . . In summertime they wear only shirts. The peasant women's blouses are made of a rough fabric, while the city women and the prosperous ones wear blouses made of embroidered silk which are designed to fit very snugly. Around the neck and at the waist the blouse is gathered, and like the coat, is trimmed with fancy embroideries. As far as the covering of their heads is concerned, it is marked by elaborate elegance. In summer time the head of a young girl is adorned with flowers and green wreaths, which in winter are replaced by wax wreaths. The women also wear rings and big earrings, and strands of beads made of crystal, glass, copper and the like, according to whim and means . . . The Polish peasants are not so well dressed, and there is little difference between the people of the villages and of the cities."

Werdum was astonished at the hygienic care of children in Ukraine:

"In Ukraine, the infants are bathed twice a day in warm water until they are one year of age; they are put in the water so that only their heads stick out . . . They believe that this helps infants to grow."

Patrick Gordon (1635‑1699), a Scot who was a general in the Russian army, wrote a book which contains several references to Ukraine. Entitled Passages from the Diary, the book was published in 1684 in England. Gordon commanded the Russian troops which were engaged against the Zaporozhian Kozaks in 1677, and at one time commanded a Russian regiment which was stationed in Kiev. But with the passage of time Gordon became a sympathizer with Ukraine and made friends with many Kozak officers. The most interesting part of Gordon's Diary  p108 telling of his sojourn in Ukraine in the years 1678‑1683 was allegedly lost in Petersburg. It is not improbable that the Russian government conveniently destroyed this part of the book, as it was the policy of Moscow to keep the Western world in the dark as to what it was doing in Ukraine.

His book was also translated into German in 1849, and into Russian in 1891, 1892 and 1916. In 1932 in London, Sophie Buxhoeveden wrote a book about Patrick Gordon, entitled A Cavalier in Moscovy,º which was based almost exclusively on the Russian sources. This explains why the name "Ukraine," which appeared in the book of Gordon, was replaced with that of "Little Russia." Not only did she not mention Gordon's visit to Hetman Samoylovych, but she omitted most of his references to Ukraine.

In his Diary we read about his visit to Hetman Samoylovych in Baturyn:

"On March 23 in the morning, which was Palm Sunday, I was invited to come and see Hetman Samoylovych with whom I had long talks. We discussed very thoroughly the Muscovites and other state matters. Afterwards the Hetman sent me home with most cordial expressions and dispatched to my quarters all sorts of foods and provisions."

Gordon writes that in Koselets,

"I was very cordially entered by my old friends, the Ukrainian Colonels Hryhoriy Koropchynsky and Konstantin Solonyna; each of them presented me with a hunting rifle."

Gordon's Diary, moreover, contains a great deal of information about Hetman Samoylovych, his sons, Ivan Mazepa and other prominent Kozak officers. He also gives various episodes from life in Ukraine and the development of military events, particularly the movements of the Polish and Ukrainian troops in the Right-Bank Ukraine (the territory west of the Dnieper River) and the military activities of Colonel Paliy at Bila Tserkva and Nemyriv.

Under the date of July 9, 1684, Gordon recorded the conduct of the Russian troops in Ukraine:

 p110  "These soldiers (Muscovite) came from Orel . . . They said that they had been sent without a penny by the Moscow command with an order to occupy both banks of the Dnieper River in order to impede the crossing of people fleeing to the Zaporozhian troops and to cut off the line of supplies, and also to prevent the Zaporozhians from trading on the Dnieper in fish or anything else, which understandably could not please these Kozaks."

Another Western European who reported events in Ukraine of that time was the Dutch emissary in Ukraine, Johan Wilhelm von Keller, in 1677‑1679. In several letters which he dispatched to his government he reported the events of 1679 in Ukraine with much detail and keen observation. For instance, in one of the letters, he wrote that the largest Ukrainian city, Kiev, "has now become like a maiden whose hand is being sought by the Tartars, Turks and the local cavaliers (Muscovites), and on both sides swords are being readied."

[image ALT: zzz.]

13. A part of a Dutch map by De Witte which encompasses Ukrania.
Amsterdam, the 60′‑80′ of the XVIIth century.

Von Keller wrote that the Zaporozhian Kozaks "were the flower of the Kozak nation, and therefore their favors are being sought by both Turkey and Moscovia" (letter of June 18, 1679).

Still another Westerner, A. Tyler, in a book about the Ukrainian Kozaks published in Edinburgh in 1685, writes:

"Ukraine is a country populated by the freedom-loving nation of Kozaks . . . The Kozaks of Ukraine love their liberty intensely and do not tolerate any yoke."

In the second half of the XVIIth century, there appeared several tourist guides and booklets for travelers which very often give some general information on Ukraine and its people.

One such guide, published in Augsburg in 1687, contains details on Ukraine. Entitled Cyaneae,​b the guide reads:

"On the Dnieper, on its numerous islands, live the Kozaks, who also have settlements and houses and lands in the Kiev and Bratslav provinces. They are of the Greek religion, excellent soldiers, who have caused Turkey much trouble in the Black Sea . . . They are afraid of nothing, and often risk their lives . . .  p111 During the reign of King Stefan their outstanding leader and hero was Pidkova. He inflicted enormous damages on his enemies. The Kozaks use small boats, with a capacity of 60 persons and food supplies for this number, and raid the Black Sea, not infrequently seizing towns and villages near Constantinople."

The guide states that Bohdan Khmelnytsky was

"an experienced and learned soldier. After the victory at Korsun he united the peasants and Tartars in an uprising against the Poles and put 200,000 troops in the field."

In describing various cities of Ukraine, Cyaneae reports:

"Up northward on the Dniester River in Podolia there are strong cities and castles, among the strongest is Kamenets, also called Podilsky."

The city was built on rocks and encircled by the Smotrych River. The entrance to the city was by a single bridge, defended by a strong fortress, also built on rocks. Cyaneae cites a well-known legend that when in 1621 a Turkish sultan approached the castle with his troops, he asked the people:

"Who fortified Kamenets that it is unconquerable?"

"God built it up," was the answer.

"Let God also conquer it," replied the Sultan and ordered a retreat from the city's walls.


[image ALT: An oval-framed engraving of zzz. He is Petro Doroshenko, a 17c ruler of Ukraine.]

14. Hetman Petro Doroshenko.
A Flemish engraving of the late XVIIth century.

The caption reads:
Petrus Doroszenco, Cossacorum Zaporoviensium Generalis.


Thayer's Notes:

a All three words are semantic cognates, as is brandy: from roots meaning "to burn".

[decorative delimiter]

b The Cyaneae in Antiquity, also known as the Symplegades, were dangerous islands of uncertain location and confused identity despite being very frequently referred to by many authors, for which see "The Symplegades and the Planctae" (AJP 8:433‑440). The seemingly odd title of the guide is in fact explained by its full title: Cyaneae. Oder die am Bosphoro Thracico, ligende hohe Stein-Klippen. Von welchen zu sehen seyn, gegen Mittag das Vor‑Meer Propontis, mitternachts das Schwartze-Meer, Pontus Euxinus, mit denenselben umbligenden Ländern, wie auch den Insulen Cypern und Candien. It is a guide to the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, with information about some of the surrounding lands.


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Page updated: 27 Aug 22