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Chapter 5

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!


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Chapter 7

 p112  Chapter Six

The Period of Hetman Mazepa

Next to the era of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the period of Hetman Ivan Mazepa attracted most attention in foreign memoirs, reports, and official press and diplomatic accounts which more often than not commented on the Ukrainian state and the relation­ship between Ukraine and Muscovy. Ukrainian culture, especially Ukrainian art, evoked wide-spread interest on the part of foreigners; Ukrainian art at that time was in its "golden age" and was widely known in Western Europe. The Ukrainian art of this era was known as the "Ukrainian baroque" and was extensively imitated.

Western European literature on Ukraine at the end of the XVIIth century and the beginning of the XVIIIth century is so vast in quantity that we limit ourselves here to quoting only some paragraphs from the most important sources. Significantly, those foreigners who had the opportunity to see and talk to Hetman Mazepa, wrote about him in terms of recognition and esteem, depicting him as a man of great intelligence and erudition and with unusual perspicuity and knowledge of human psychology.

Baillet de la Neuville, a diplomatic agent of the French government in Moscow who spent over five months in the Muscovite capital, in his Memoirs About Moscow made very interesting comparisons between "Muscovy" and the "Muscovites" (as he called them) and Ukraine and the Ukrainians. Describing the rebellion of Golitsyn against Peter I in Moscow, he writes:

"During all that time the Hetmans were considered subordinate to the Muscovite Tsar, yet they never went to Moscow. But Golitsyn, under the pretext of presenting a decoration to the Hetman in the presence of the Tsar, but in reality with an entirely different purpose in mind, summoned Mazepa to Moscow  p113 with 500 of his higher officers. During the sojourn of Mazepa in Moscow I could not receive permission from the Muscovites to see him, and only a few times at night, in disguise, did I visit him."

De la Neuville on that occasion did not spare any epithets with respect to the Muscovites, terming them "true barbarians, distrustful, mendacious, cruel, debauchees, greedy and profit-lovers." He described Mazepa: "This prince is not handsome, but he is a highly educated man who speaks the Latin language fluently . . . He is by birth a Kozak."

Another French diplomat, Jean Baluse, was in Baturyn, Mazepa's capital, at the end of 1704. (His description of his trip to Baturyn was discovered by Elias Borschak, a Ukrainian scholar, in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris).​a Baluse writes:

"From Muscovy I went to Ukraine, the country of the Kozaks, where for a few days I was the guest of Prince Mazepa, who is the supreme authority in this country . . . On the frontier of Ukraine I was met by a Kozak guard of honor which conducted me with elaborate ceremony to the City of Baturyn, where Prince Mazepa resides in a castle."

Baluse underscores that Mazepa spoke Latin perfectly.

"His language is, in general, selected and ornate, although during conversations he usually keeps silent and listens to the others. At his court he has two German doctors, with whom he converses in their tongue; to the Italian masters of whom there are several in the castle, he speaks in the Italian language. I spoke with the master of Ukraine in the Latin language, inasmuch as he assured me that he was not very fluent in French, although in his youth he had visited Paris and southern France and had been at the reception in the Louvre upon the occasion of the celebration of the Pyrenean Peace (1659). I do not know whether this statement of his concealed a special motive, for I myself saw French and Dutch newspapers in his study."

He further writes of Mazepa:

He is held in great esteem in the Kozak country, where the people are generally freedom-loving and proud, and entertain  p114 no love for anyone who would dominate them. Mazepa succeeded in uniting the Kozaks around himself through rigid authority and his great military courage . . . Conversation with this Prince is extremely pleasant; he has had unusual experience in politics and, contrary to the Muscovites, follows developments in other countries. He showed me a collection of arms, one of the most beauti­ful I have ever seen in my life, and also a selected library, where Latin books abound. On several occasions I tried very assiduously to direct our conversation toward the present political situation, but I must confess I could find out nothing definite from this Prince. He belongs to that category of people who either prefer to keep completely silent or to talk and say nothing. But I hardly think that he likes the Muscovite Tsar, because he did not say a word against my complaints about Muscovite life. But in the case of the Polish Crown, Monsieur Mazepa did not hesitate to declare that it is heading, as did ancient Rome, toward decline. He spoke about the Swedish King with respect, but deems him too young. What was especially gratifying to me was his expression of esteem for the person of His Majesty (Louis XIV), about whom he put several inquiries to me and to whom he asked me to express sentiments of his esteem and recognition. This was not a routine courtesy typical of Monsieur Mazepa, but seemed to be quite genuine; in the salon in his castle where hang portraits of foreign rulers, a beauti­ful portrait of His Majesty (Louis XIV) occupies the most prominent place. In less prominent places I saw portraits of the Emperor, the Sultan, the Polish King and other rulers . . ."

The circumstances under which Hetman Ivan Mazepa was compelled to conduct his state politics in relation­ship to Moscow are best covered in a book in the Latin language, Diarium itineris in Moscoviam Perillustrisb by J. G. Korb, published in Vienna about 1700‑1701. The author was secretary of the legation of Emperor Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire to Moscow in the years 1698‑1699. Being an extremely observant traveler and diplomat, Korb succeeded in gathering much information on life in Muscovy: the system of government, army,  p116 administration, and the customs and characteristics of the Muscovite population. The book contains several references to the Ukrainian army and various military developments, and in addition priceless engravings of the fortifications, and cities on the shores of the Azov Sea.

[image ALT: Two images presented together. On the left, the title page of an early 18c book, much of the text of which is transcribed in the caption. On the right, a sketch plan of a square fort on the bank of a river: it is the fortress of the city of Azov on the Don.]

17.‑18. The title (cover) page of the book, Diarium itineris in Moscoviam Perillustris, by G. Korb, Vienna, 1701. — The City of Azov from Diarium.

The above illustration is as printed (in which the little map of Azov has also been cropped and for some reason rotated). I've found better scans of each original image:

A larger version of the title page, in which the text is fully readable, opens here (815 kB).

A larger uncropped version of the map opens here (494 kB); in it the scale is given in French feet, and Korb further tells us that the heights are exaggerated by a factor of 2. The river is identified as the Tanais (Don).

But these rather objective observations and conclusions about Moscow were not pleasing to the Muscovite government, which made a strong protest to the Vienna court. This protest resulted in the banning of the book and prevented the issuance of a second edition. But this was not all. The Muscovite government dispatched several agents to Vienna, who bought up all the books and burnt them. This is why the first edition of Korb's Diarium has become a real bibliographical rarity.

Translations of Korb's book finally appeared in the XIXth century; it was translated into French in 1859 and into English in 1863.​c

The full title of the London (English) translation reads: Diary of an Austrian Secretary of Legation at the Court of Czar Peter the Great. Translated from the original Latin and edited by the Count MacDonnell. London 1863. In the chapter entitled "Of the Manners of the Muscovites," we read:​d

The whole Russianº race is rather in a state of slavery than of freedom. All, no matter what their rank may be, without any respect of persons, are oppressed with the harshest slavery. Those that are admitted to the dignity of the privy council, assume the lofty name of magnates, and come next in rank after their sovereign, have merely more splendid bonds of slavery; they are chained in golden fetters, being liable to all the more bitterness in that they strike the eye more insolently, and by their very flash upbraid the vileness of the lot in which they are held up before the world.

"He that should happen to subscribe his name in the positive degree to petitions or letters to the Czarº would be publicly tried for treason. Diminutives must be used. Thus, for example, one whose name may be James, should write himself little James (Jacobulum). For they deem it greatly derogatory to the supreme  p117 rank of majesty not to revere their sovereign with all respect by these humble diminutives of name. This was a crime imputed to the military engineer Laval, by which the Ministers contended that he had deserved the Czar'sº hatred; for that he ought to write and style himself the Grand Duke's cholop, or most abject and vilest slave, and acknowledge that all the goods and chattels he possessed were not his, but the Monarch's. And in this opinion they have a capital practical hand in their sovereign, who uses his native country and its inhabitants (patria civibusque) as if power absolute, unbounded, uncircumscribed by any law, lay open with him to dispose as freely of the property of private individuals, as if nature had produced everything for his sake alone. Let him trample upon these souls born for slavery, and let the Russiansº bear the lot that the gods have appointed.

The people are rude of letters, and wanting in that virtuous discipline by which the mind is cultivated. Few study polite manners or imitate them. John Barclay, in his Mirror of Souls, describes at length how this race, born for slavery, becomes ferocious at the least trace of liberty; placid if oppressed, and  p118 not refusing the yoke, they of their own accord confess themselves slaves of their prince. He has a right to their wealth, their bodies, and their lives. Humility more sordidly crouching the very Turks entertain not for their Ottoman sceptre. They esteem other races as well by their own character. Foreigners whom chance or choice has led into Muscovy they condemn to the same yoke, and will have them be slaves of the monarch. Should they catch and bring back any of them departing furtively, they punish them as runaways (ut fugitivos). As for the magnates, though they be slaves themselves, towards their inferiors and the plebeians, whom they usually call, out of scorn, black men and Christians, their arrogance is intolerable, and the vulgar dread their frown exceedingly.

Devoid of honest education, they esteem deceit to be the height of wisdom. They have no shame of lying, no blush for a detected fraud: to such a degree are the seeds of true virtue proscribed from that region, that vice itself obtains the reputation of virtue.

". . . In truth,º the nation (Muscovites) itself has such a dislike for liberty, that it seems to exclaim against a happiness for which it was not created, and is so inured to its slavish condition that it will scarcely endure the prudent and kindly solicitude of the Prince for his dominions and his subjects to be carried out to the full extent. . . . º The Muscovite tests friendship by its utility."

(Vol. II, p192 ff).

Korb devotes much space to the armed rebellion against Tsar Peter I in the years 1698‑1699. The author describes unbelievably cruel tortures and executions of soldiers in which the Tsar himself participated personally. About one such public execution, which took place on October 23, 1698, we read:

This differed considerably from those that preceded. The manner of it was quite different, and hardly credible. Three hundred and thirty at a time were led out together to the fatal axe's stroke, and embrued the whole plain with native but impious blood; for all the Boyars, Senators of the realm, Dumnoi, Diaks, and so forth, that were present at the council constituted against  p119 the rebel Streltsy, had been summoned by the Tsar's command to Bebraschentsko (Preobrazhenskoye), and enjoined to take upon themselves the hangman's office. Some struck the blow unsteadily, and with trembling hands assumed this new and unaccustomed task. The most unfortunate stroke among all the Boyars was given by him (Golitsyn) whose erring sword struck the back instead of the neck, and thus chopping the Streltsy almost in halves, would have roused him to desperation with pain, had not Alexasca reached the unhappy wretch a surer blow of an axe on the neck.

"Prince Romadonovsky, under whose command previous to the mutiny these four regiments were to have watched the turbulent gatherings in Poland on the frontier, beheaded, according to order, one out of each regiment. Lastly, to every Boyar a Strelitsyº was led up, whom he was to behead. The Czarº, in his saddle, looked on at the whole tragedy."

(Vol. II, p107).

In the account dated February 4, 1699, we read further:

 p120  "The officials of a certain Envoy, whose curiosity for sightseeing had led them to Bebraschentsko (Preobrazhenskoye), had inspected various prisons of the criminals, hastening whithersoever more atrocious howls betokened a tragedy of greater anguish. Already they had passed with horror through three, when howls more appalling and groans more horrible than they had yet heard stimulated them to examine what cruelty was going on in a fourth house. But hardly had they set foot within it than they were about withdrawIng again, being startled at the sight of the Czarº and the Boyars. Naryshkin, Romadonovsky and Tikhon Nikitich were the chief persons. As they were about retiring Naryshkin addressed them, inquiring who they were, and whence and why they had come there. They felt sore at being caught by foreigners in the performance of that office."

(Vol. I, p241).

Korb was puzzled by the judicial practices in Moscow and the "truth-telling by the Muscovites." By way of illustration, the author tells of an event which occurred on July 24, 1698 on a street in Moscow. It so happened that some sort of misunderstanding arose between the servants of the Minister and the Muscovites. Subsequently, the latter took the case to court, and for sums of money hired false witnesses, who testified to the effect that the servants of the Minister had attempted to kill the citizens of Moscow with their swords. He goes on to describe the "trial":

"One of the Muscovites went about showing his wounds, and having suborned witnesses at a cheap rate, contended that he bore the marks of a sword that had been drawn against him: the falsehood of which being evident to our eyes, we could not but marvel prodigiously at the corrupt morals of this people, and how their abominable custom of lying and perjury is allowed to go unpunished. Search for false witnesses where you will among the Muscovites, and you will find them. For fate hath instituted such a universal perversity of reasons in Muscovy, that it is very nearly the index of a superior intellect to be able to cheat."

(Vol. I, p135).

p121 Another similar case Korb registered under date of July 5‑6, 1699:

"A Russianº merchant claimed a debt of four roubles from a certain German for goods bought. When the German denied that he owed so much, the Russianº with much vociferation, several times most atrociously calling on all the powers celestial and infernal to witness, endeavoured to prove his claim. So the German appointed the Russianº arbiter on his proffered oath; who thereupon entering the nearest church, falsely made the requisite oath. In a short time after he himself confessed that the German did not owe him four roubles, but only two; that the other two were due to him by another; also a German and that he could claim them in turn. This is respect for an oath! This is piety towards God! The taking of whose name in vain is no scruple of conscience to this people."

(Vol. II, p23).

Writing about the Ukrainian troops, Korb ascribes to them the following characteristics:

"The Cossacks are a great element of strength for the Czars.º The Muscovites conciliate them with annual gifts, and study to keep them faithful with the fattest promises, lest they should take it into their heads to pass over to the Poles, and by their defection draw off the whole strength of the military power of Russia; for this stout race excels the Muscovites, both in the art of war and in bravery of soul."

(Vol. II, p165).

In addition, he reports on the war against Turkey conducted near the cities of Ochakov, Bilhorod (Akerman), Perekop and Tavan, underscoring that alongside the Muscovite troops there were also Ukrainian troops "under the command of the Cossack leader Mazepa." The author makes a definite distinction between the territory and country of Ukraine and that of Muscovy or Russia.

Important and extensive information about Hetman Ivan Mazepa is to be found also in the newspapers of the time. For instance in the election of 1704 of the Europaeische Fama, which was published in Leipzig and was widely read in the royal courts of Europe, there is an article about the Hetman, together  p122 with his portrait. About the Ukrainian army we read that "it is commanded by their leader Mazepa, who, thanks to his ability and great military genius, enjoys great fame in the world."

In a biography of the Hetman the paper reports that "he was born and reared among the Cossacks." In early youth he was at the Polish royal court, where he had an opportunity to observe the quarrels between the King and the nobility.

"Mazepa, being cunning, had a good opportunity to learn about very important functions of state, which lessons he was to apply in the future . . .

"It is known that Mazepa had occupied the post of a secret secretary and Kammerherr under the Cossack leader Ivan Samoylovych, a post which he occupied at the outset at the Polish court — such posts in this case being the most important to be held by any person. Mazepa was known not only for his intelligence, but also for his bravery in war; therefore, at the beginning he was a lieutenant-general, and subsequently, when Samoylovych had many reasons for his retirement, took his place as a leader. In this role (of Hetman) Mazepa tried to fortify the frontiers against the Tatars and built Samara (or Novoselytsya on the Samara River, a tributary of the Dnieper). Next year he was encircled near Perekop, but not over­powered. For although the Muscovite leader Golitsyn had under his command an army of more than 50,000 men, he let himself be persuaded by the Turks and French to commit an unheard of betrayal, thus not only wasting time and money before that city but in the retreat that followed the major part of his troops was destroyed in the deep steppes through a fire caused by himself; and the cunning Mazepa through his diplomatic ability succeeded in creating a split between Golitsyn and his men and evicting him from the country."

In the time of Mazepa there appeared in Western Europe a number of brochures, leaflets, theatrical pieces, dialogues and the like which satirized the Muscovite tyranny and derided the "reforms" of Peter I, his mania for grandeur and his sadistic disposition. In all these publications Russia is designated as  p123 Muscovy or Moscovia, while in contrast Ukraine and the Ukrainian Kozaks are depicted as a separate country and people.

One such pamphlet bears the title: Morphei Moscovitische Schau-Buehne, oder des traumenden Rationis Status Curiose und Politische Schwaetz-gesichter ueber den gegenwaertigen Statum Moscau. It was published in 1691 by a man who hid his identity under the pseudonym of "Freymund." The pamphlet depicts a large gathering of literary men of many nations in one of the hotels in Danzig, at which there are carried on discussions of Peter I, his policies and behavior.

Among the principal debaters are: a Polish nobleman, a Muscovite Boyar, a priest from Hungary, a Venetian merchant, and a Ukrainian Kozak, a young German with his tutor, and a "Ratio Status", an allegorical female figure that listens surreptitiously to the discussion. It seems that every one, with the exception of the Muscovite Boyar, denounces Peter I for his tyrannical brutality against his own people. The Muscovite is the only one to defend his Tsar's policies.

Whitworth, an English Minister to Moscow, in a report dated November 10, 1708, describes Ivan Mazepa as a man seventy years of age, very rich and without children. He is depicted as enjoying in full measure the confidence and respect of the Tsar and as one who ruled his flourishing country almost as a monarch. Whitworth makes the following observation:

"When we take all this into consideration, it becomes difficult to give a true picture of why at his advanced age the Hetman made a decision to go over into a new camp and subject himself to new activities."

Whitworth's words only emphasize the unselfishness and patriotism of Mazepa. He wanted to leave Ukraine forever free, and so he made an alliance with Charles XII of Sweden against Peter I.

This alliance of the Ukrainian Hetman Ivan Mazepa and King Charles XII of Sweden and the campaign of the united Swedish-Ukrainian forces against Peter I have been treated and interpreted by Russian historiography in a totally false and biased manner.

 p124  Following are the verdicts of eye‑witnesses and impartial reporters, mainly Western European diplomatic agents and observers, on Mazepa:

David Natan Siltman, a Swedish officer and participant in the campaign, in his Diary describes the meeting of the Ukrainian troops under the command of Hetman Mazepa with Charles XII. Under date of November 5, 1708, he writes:

"Mazepa marched in to the accompaniment of trumpets and drums; also Colonel Hielm received him not far from the quarters with music . . . In the morning (November 7) Mazepa arrived before the King in the general headquarters; he brought with him a great number of officers; some of them rode before him, others behind him. Immediately before Mazepa there rode an officer who carried a staff (bulava) decorated with precious stones and gold; a detachment of the Kozaks followed.

"In the King's headquarters he was received by Count Marshal von Dieben; Mazepa dined with the King, and at the table there were only seven of the most important Kozak officers. The Hetman was seated at the right of the King."

The author writes further that when the Swedish troops passed through the Ukrainian villages, "everywhere the peasants welcomed the King with bread, salt and fruits."

Describing the preparations for the battle of Poltava on June 17, 1709, the day on which King Charles was wounded, Siltman writes:

Hetman Mazepa was present and led his Kozaks, who, together with the Zaporozhians, held the enemy on the right and left flanks."

Another Swedish officer Petre writes that the Ukrainian Kozaks "had good wrought muskets," which they fired "from a sitting position at the enemy in the woods, inflicting considerable losses." The fact that the Ukrainians fired from a sitting position puzzled the Swedish officer a great deal, although he finally acknowledged that this system was not at all bad.

 p125  Another Swedish officer Weihe wrote not only about the military actions, but also dwelt upon the geographical conditions of Ukraine, its customs, economy, industry and the characteristics of the Ukrainians. He writes in his memoirs that Ukraine was unusually fertile and that

"benevolent nature has neglected nothing here which could be useful to the carefree and contented life of the inhabitants; they have salt and iron mines, and also glass-making plants, wherein they manufacture great quantities of glass in unlimited quantity . . . Oxen and sheep are of beauti­ful breed and size . . . The horses have great endurance and are favored more than any other animal because of their ra­cing speed. The Kozaks have a uniform pattern of life, and dress alike."

In describing the costume of the Ukrainians, Weihe devoted special attention to the attire of the Ukrainian women, which he found extremely picturesque. For instance, he writes that a woman's skirt is made of a thin woolen material of various colors, and is so fashioned that it fits tight around her body. Both Ukrainian men and women wear boots and "like to indulge in drinking." "Even prominent women," he writes, "do not hesitate to drink whiskey at the market, and it is not surprising that they have great inclination towards adventure."

Weihe characterizes Ukrainian Kozaks as good horsemen who are "equally good foot soldiers, and aim well with their muskets, and have therefore won a reputation as the best fighters."

Referring to the battle of Poltava, Weihe writes:

"Our Zaporozhians with their precise muskets inflicted heavy losses on the Muscovite infantry, so that the latter was forced to retreat through the marshes, which enabled the King to make a circle towards Poltava."

Immediately after the battle of Poltava, during which the King barely escaped capture by the Russians, Weihe continues:

"Strong detachments of the enemy dragoons appeared in the morning, but they did not dare to attack (the King's camp) so soon, as they were confronted by the Zaporozhian cavalry­men and infantry . . ."

 p126  Also during the crossing of the Dnieper River, continues Weihe, the Ukrainian Kozaks held back the Russian troops, thus enabling the Swedish army to escape complete destruction. (Karolinska Krigares Dagboeker, Lund 1907).

The daring courage of the Ukrainian troops during the crossing of the Swedish army over the Boh River is gloriously epitomized by Daniel Krman, a Slovak, who was an emissary of the Lutherans to the Swedish King. (His report appeared in the Hungarian language in 1894, in the collection: Monumenta Hungariae Historica.)

In describing Hetman Mazepa, Krman writes:

"He was a man of over seventy years of age, with a severe face and typical Kozak features, learned in the Latin, Polish and Ruthenian languages, and owner of great estates."

About Mazepa's joining with the Swedes, the author writes:

"He called in his colonels whom he considered the most trustworthy (about thirty in number) and presented them with the problem of what to do and with whom to ally themselves. The Tsar had violated many of their freedoms, was pla­cing Muscovite garrisons in Ukraine, every year confiscated a quantity of horses, withheld the Kozaks' pay, and had already taken three regiments from Ukraine in the last three years. On the other hand, the Swedish King lived far away and presented no danger to their freedoms, and their freedoms could be expected to be increased; he was extremely true to his royal word, and he would not desert them should they recognize his authority; to date he had always been victorious because behind him there stood justice and Divine assistance. The Hetman was close to his grave but he wished to make an effort yet and give of his blood for the good of his Ukraine. All present unanimously agreed to accept the Hetman's plan and swore to maintain secrecy."

With respect to the attitude of the Ukrainian population to the Swedes and Mazepa the following note of Krman is indicative:

"On November 17 both armies (Swedish and Ukrainian) marched through Rayhorod and Lukniv. In the latter village the inhabitants came out and presented to the Hetman and the King  p127 salt and bread, fish, honey and cheese. The King was pleased with such a custom, graciously accepted the gifts, and before the eyes of the peasants ate the bread and partook of the other offerings."

The Slovak emissary writes that during the battle of Poltava the odds were heavily against the Swedish-Ukrainian forces: there were about 18,000 Swedish troops and 6,000 Ukrainian troops as against 50,000 Muscovite troops. In addition, he continues, the anti-Muscovite Swedish-Ukrainian allied troops had suffered from extreme cold and hunger which during the last winter had inflicted heavy losses upon the Swedes, and at the battle they were weakened by the heat and the lack of food supply during the battle of Poltava itself.

He says that during the crossing of the Swedish troops over the Boh River some 500 soldiers, including many Kozaks, were caught by the pursuing Russian troops. All died fighting rather than surrender, knowing that they would be tortured by their captors.

Krman also reports that after the battle of Poltava both Mazepa and King Charles found themselves in the city of Bendery (in present‑day Bessarabia); here on August 16 came Meyerfelt with terms of agreement from the Tsar, followed by Tsarist emissaries, "among whom was Skoropadsky, Colonel of Starodub, who had been appointed hetman in place of Mazepa." Skoropadsky, Krman writes, "tried to justify himself before Mazepa for his acceptance of the title of Hetman, which was proposed by the Tsar; he promised to be faithful to his Hetman and to bring to him (Mazepa) those Kozaks who had rebelled against him at a propitious moment."

The Poltava tragedy and the brutal and barbarous conduct of the Muscovite troops in Ukraine evoked a storm of indignation and condemnation in Western Europe.

For instance, Friedrich Christian Weber in his Memoirs, which appeared in French in 1720 in Frankfurt, wrote:

"The Muscovite General (Général Moscovite) Menshikov brought to Ukraine all the horrors of vengeance and war. All  p128 sympathizers with Mazepa were disgracefully tortured. Ukraine was flooded with blood (l'Ukraine est inondée de sang) and devastated by looting, and presents a frightful picture of the barbarity of the victors."

Discussing the cultural development and life of the Ukrainians, Weber comments on the son of Hetman Apostol:

"Although he never was abroad, he speaks fluently Latin, French, Italian, German, Russian and Polish, and knows how to build fortresses."

Of especial interest are the lengthy Memoirs of Jul Just, Danish envoy to Petersburg, who spent the years 1709‑1712 in Russia and made a trip through Ukraine in 1711. He described in great detail not only his itinerary throughout Ukraine, but made extensive comparisons between the Ukraine of the Mazepa era and Muscovy with respect to life, habits and culture. Although the Danish envoy was in Moscow as a minister of a friendly and allied power, his careful and keen conclusions are not in favor of Moscow.

Jul Just came to Moscow at a time when great "reforms" and the "Europeanization" of Russia by Peter I were being enforced. The author was quick to detect the superficiality of the grotesque "Europeanization:"

"Although at the present time the Russians in their conduct are trying to emulate in monkey fashion the other nations, and though they don French attire and in their external appearance they appear more civilized, inwardly, however, there sits a cholop (rude peasant, slave)

(— p259).

His experiences at the court of the Tsar were not of the most pleasant kind, to be sure. To a Westerner such as he, the "normal" behavior of the Muscovites was shocking and repulsive.

"When the Russians are enraged they call each other thieves and deceivers (moshenik), and one of the most practiced habits is to spit in one another's face."

Even among the highest Russian classes and particularly among the Tsar's attendants this uncivilized behavior was commonplace,  p130 as he witnessed at the reception of Tsar Peter at Narva.

"The Tsar's entourage behaved without conscience and shame; they shouted, whistled, belched, spat, berated each other, and even shamelessly spat in the faces of decent people."

The Danish envoy wrote sarcastically that

"in Russia for all diseases there are three doctors, used by both sick and healthy: the first doctor are the Moscow public baths; the second — whiskey or beer which all drink like water if they have the means, and the third — garlic, which the Russians use not only as seasoning for every meal, but eat it raw during the day."

The Russian officials, writes Just, are anything but honest:

"What good can one expect from those who openly proclaim that they are working for their own gain and comfort and pay no attention to whether foreigners talk well or ill of them."

After two years of life among the Russians, Just makes some practical conclusions on how to deal with the Russians:

"Sometimes in relations with the Russians strong language helps . . . Generally speaking, when dealing with the Russians, you must talk sharply and vulgarly to them: then they give in; when one behaves graciously with them, nothing is to be obtained from them."

Touching on public instruction in Russia, Just writes that the only school of the higher type in Muscovy was the "Patriarchal School" or gymnasium in Moscow. Its head or rector was Teofilakt Lopatynsky, who "was born and raised in Lviv" (Western Ukraine), and all its professors were either Ukrainians or Byelorussians, whom Just calls "orthodox from Poland." Even the students in the same school," he writes, "were Orthodox from Poland."

The cultural level of the top‑ranking Russian leaders and statesmen astonished the Danish envoy. He writes:

"Prince Menshikov, a figure second to the Tsar, could neither read nor write."

Chancellor Golovkin knew no language but Russian; not a single one of the Tsar's high dignitaries could speak Latin, with  p131 the exception of Musin-Pushkin, who was fluent in that language. Even Tsar Peter, whose "enlightenment" was widely known, spoke only one Western European language, namely Dutch, and even here, writes Just, who talked to him in that language, "the Tsar had difficulty in making himself understood."

Highly unbelievable, the author continues, was the taxation system in Russia:

There is not a single state income which is not monopolized and shared by the Tsar. Even saloons in Muscovy are kept by the Tsar and he derives profit from them. Every fisherman's net, which provides a livelihood for the poor, is taxed yearly."

Just emphasized the corruption in the courts in Muscovy:

"In Muscovy the law is by‑passed at every step and cases are tried outside the courts. Every court case can be bought off by paying to Menshikov ten, twenty or thirty thousand roubles, from which the Tsar is given his own share.' "

After reading this part of Just's Memoirs in which he describes Muscovy so vividly, one highly appreciates his description of Ukraine.

On seeing the Ukrainian villages and towns for the first time, the envoy was pleasantly surprised by their neatness and orderliness. He writes that

the Kozaks, being a freedom-loving people, are dissatisfied by the appointment by the Tsar of Russian commanders for their garrisons. And considering themselves a free people, they are resent­ful in that they are compelled to serve the Tsar and execute his orders."

In Ukraine, Just was received in the residence of Hetman Ivan Skoropadsky by Vice-hetman Andry Martynovych inasmuch as the Hetman himself was away at war with his 30,000 Kozak troops. For the first time the Danish envoy uses the word "splendid" in connection with his receptions. Commenting on the people of Ukraine, he continues:

"The inhabitants of Kozak Ukraine live in prosperity and often sing. They sell and buy all sorts of merchandise without paying taxes, and can choose whatever handicraft is to their liking  p132 and trade with whatever they want. They are subject to only a small taxation to the Hetman."

The prices of products, he writes, were very reasonable, and such articles as flour, fish, salt, whiskey, and tobacco were extremely cheap and of good quality. Just emphasizes the fact that during his whole trip through Ukraine he was welcomed and feted not only in the cities and towns, but in the villages as well, something he did not experience in Muscovy.

"The inhabitants of the Chernihiv province," writes Just, "as well as the entire population of Kozak Ukraine, are known for their politeness and cleanliness, dressing neatly and keeping their homes immaculately clean."

Elsewhere in his book he says that the Ukrainian Kozaks "in all respects are cleaner and more polite than the Muscovites."

Just was also impressed by the neatness of the Ukrainian towns and cities:

"Korolevets is a big town . . . The streets are beauti­ful, such as I never saw in Russia; the buildings are stately, strong and clean and are along the streets as in Denmark, and not as in Russia, where they are hidden in courtyards. Prior to Mass all bells peal in three tunes just as in our country, and during Mass itself the bells ring quietly and at longer intervals not as in Russia where they ring loudly and haphazardly . . .

Nizhyn is a great commercial city, fortified by a strong wall. In the city there are two beauti­ful octagonal churches of marvelous architecture."

The Danish envoy visited many Ukrainian dignitaries, such as the General Judge, the Metropolitan of Kiev and others, all of whom he found to be extremely learned and educated. He writes that not only did these command the Latin language, but that the ordinary monks of the Pecherska Lavra of Kiev spoke fluently with him in Latin. He was greatly surprised to see the Ukrainian peasants in many villages going to church with prayer books, indicating that they were literate.

In Podolia, which Just calls "Polish Ukraine," he saw wide-spread devastation as a result of war, particularly in the city of  p133 Nemyriv, but adds that in this city "the meanest building was much cleaner than the most sumptuous palace in Moscow" (p246). He was greatly impressed with the beauty of the city of Lviv, where he found that the "men don Polish attire, while the women French." Just noticed that in Lviv the Ukrainian women in the main showed few traces of Polish influence.

[image ALT: A handsome engraving of a large fortress, shaped roughly like an arrowhead, on a spur of land between two rivers (which are in fact one and the same river, that describes a tight loop offscreen top. It is the fortress-castle of Kamianets Podilskyi in Ukraine.]

16. The Castle of Kamenets in Podolia.
Engraving from La Galerie agréable du Monde, 1699.

The illustration above is a substitute for the printed image, which was very inferior.
It is a crop of the full original engraving, showing the entire city (537 kB).]

His comments on the internal intervention of the Russians in the affairs of the cities of Galicia (Western Ukraine) are worthy of attention inasmuch as they depict the indignation of the Ukrainian population against the Muscovite "liberators," an indignation which was the greater because the Swedes "behaved politely, while the Russians conducted themselves in the most vulgar fashion." Although the Russians came to Galicia as "liberators," they imposed heavy taxes upon the population and after receiving them, they openly resorted to looting and stealing.

Just left Ukraine via the city of Yaroslav and by barge went down the River San to Warsaw. In the town of Uliyaniv on the San, Just went to the Ukrainian church, the last Ukrainian church he visited before departing for Denmark.

Some interesting comments on Hetman Mazepa and his political actions were made by Maximilian Emmanuel, Duke of Wuertemberg, in his report entitled Relatione. He took part in the campaign of Charles XII of Sweden in Ukraine and was an eye‑witness of the battle of Poltava. These comments are exceptionally interesting as an account of the events between Poltava and Bendery.

As to the aspirations of the Ukrainians under Mazepa the Duke of Wuertemberg wrote:

They want to be a free people not subjected either by Poland or Moscow; therefore, they always fight for their privileges and rights, and this was the reason that Mazepa selected the Swedish side, as their country was burdened by all sorts of rationing, and appropriations (Oneribus und Quartieren, p420)."

The Relatione also mentions that on September 27, 1708 King Charles of Sweden issued a manifesto to the population of Ukraine in the Latin language, in which he explained the purpose  p134 of his march against Moscow. The next day, September 28, 1708, over 8,000 Ukrainian Kozaks went over to the Swedes.

After the battle of Poltava, both King Charles and Hetman Mazepa found themselves in the city of Bendery. Peter I sent an emissary to the Turkish Sultan to Constantinople to convince the Sultan to arrest Mazepa and extradite him. The Duke of Wuertemberg writes of the event:

"Charles XII found out that the Tsar sent a delegation to the Turkish Sultan with a plea that the Kozak leader Mazepa, known in their language as Hetman, should not be granted the right of asylum, but that he be returned together with his nephew Voynarovsky."

The Tsar, says the Duke, wanted to have the Hetman as soon as possible and expressed his belief that the "just Sultan" would not give him (Mazepa) shelter, inasmuch as the Tsar and the newly-elected Hetman promise the Sultan to "be a good and faithful neighbor."

"Although this plea," we read in the Relatione, "did not seem too unjust, nevertheless it did not find any approval at the Turkish court. There they did not consider this plea strong enough to warrant the extradition of a person who had fervently fought for the freedom, customs and rights of his people and who had suffered so much from persecution and torture only because he, together with his fellow citizens, had refused to submit to the Muscovite yoke and had been compelled to flee and to seek protection first with the Swedish King, and now with Turkey."

Hence the Muscovite emissaries were refused Mazepa and sent back the following reply:

"It would not be in accordance with Turkish laws to refuse asylum to a man who seeks it justly."

The Relatione adds: "The magnanimity of the Sultan was especially to be commended since he did not take advantage of a splendid opportunity to avenge himself on the Hetman."

Apparently, the author had in mind the former struggles of Mazepa with the Turks and the Crimean Tatars.

 p135  After the death of Mazepa, Pylyp Orlyk, one of his closest political advisers and counsellors, became the Hetman of Ukraine in exile. He went to Sweden where he enjoyed privileges as an outstanding political exile.

A. De Monti, French Ambassador to Warsaw, in an official report to Premier Fleury dated November 9, 1729, writes of Orlyk:

"The Kozak Hetman Orlyk, who served under the flag of the famous Hetman Mazepa, Hetman of Ukraine, as general commissioner and secretary, a post which is considered by the Kozaks first after that of the Hetman, was elected the Kozak Hetman after the death of Mazepa in Bendery. Pylyp Orlyk, together with 7,000 to 8,000 Kozak troops, remained loyal to His Majesty King Charles XII. After the pressure exerted by the Turks upon the person of the Swedish King, the Kozaks passed under the protection of the Porte, but Hetman Orlyk went with the King to Sweden, where he enjoyed all the privileges and prerogatives of a 'chief of an allied army,' and where he found, together with his family, support even after the death of the King himself . . . We know Hetman Orlyk as a man of great hostility towards the Muscovites, a man intelligent and courageous and extremely well liked by the Kozaks in Ukraine, from whom the Tsar took away almost all their ancient rights and freedoms. But the Kozaks, despite the fact that 18,000 Muscovite dragoons keep Ukraine under a heavy oppression and serfdom, only seek an opportunity to rise against the oppressor and to recover their ancient freedom."

(Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris.)

A review of the history of Ukraine under Hetman Mazepa as recorded by Western diplomats and observers would not be complete without mentioning François Voltaire, the great French writer and historian. In 1731 in Rouen he published his brilliant work, Histoire de Charles XII, which had some 100 editions up to the end of the XIXth century; and there are some 20 English translations of it. In this work the two pages devoted to Ukraine and the personality of Hetman Mazepa greatly contributed  p136 to the popularization of the name of this great Ukrainian leader in Western Europe.

To what extent Voltaire himself was interested in the problem of Ukraine is revealed by his letter written to Choiseul dated December 16, 1767:

"Whatever one may say, I have devoted much labor to writing the history of Charles XII . . . One must take into consideration that I was the first to write about it. The case of Ukraine, for instance. We knew only the book of de Beauplan, but this book was written by a man favorably disposed towards the Poles. In the meanwhile Ukraine under Hetman Khmelnytsky became almost an independent state, and later on was in alliance with Muscovy . . . I have collected much material about Mazepa."

(The letter was found by Elias Borschak, Ukrainian historian,
in the Bibliothèque Chantilly in Paris.)​e

The passage on Ukraine in Voltaire's book reads:

The Ukrania is the country of the Cossacks, between lesser Tartary, Poland, and Muscovy. This country extends about a hundred French leagues from south to north, and almost as many from east to west. It is divided into two nearly equal parts by the Borysthenes, which crosses from north-west to south-west; the chief town is Baturyn, on the little river Seym. The northernmost part of Ukrania is under cultivation, and rich; the southernmost part, in the forty-eighth degree, is one of the most fertile and at the same time the most deserted districts in the world; bad management quite counteracts its natural advantages.

[image ALT: An 18c political map of all of Europe, from Iceland and Spain to Asiatic Russia and Syria.]

19. Map of Europe in the book: Churchill: A Collection of Voyages, 1744. The Ukrainian territory is marked: Ukrain-Cosacks.

I found no readable substitute for this printed map,
but an enlarged crop of the area of Ukraine may be of interest.

"The inhabitants of those parts, which border on lesser Tartary, neither plant nor sow lest the Tartars of Budziac, Perecop and Moldavia, who are all brigands, should carry off their harvests.

"Ukrania has always aspired to liberty (freedom); but being surrounded by Muscovy, the dominions of the Grand-Seignior, and Poland, it has been obliged to seek for a protector (who is, of course, a master) in one of those States. The country at first put itself under the protection of the Poles, who treated it too much as a subject-state; then they appealed to the Muscovites,  p137 who governed them with despotic sway. At first the Ukrainians had the privilege of choosing a prince, called general (Hetman), but soon they were deprived of this privilege, and their general was nominated by the court of Moscow.

"The office was then filled by a Pole called Mazeppa, born in the palatinate of Podolia. He had been brought up as page to King John Casimir, and had gotten a little learning at his Court. On the discovery of an intrigue with the wife of a Polish nobleman the latter had him tied, stark naked, to a wild horse, and set him free in that state.​f The horse, which had been brought from Ukrania, returned to its own country, carrying Mazeppa with him half dead from hunger and fatigue. Some of the peasants gave him relief, and he stayed a long time among them, and distinguished himself in several attempts against the Tartars. The superiority of his intelligence made him a person of consideration in the eyes of the Cossacks, and as his reputation daily increased the Tsar was forced to make him Prince of Ukrania.

"One day, as he was sitting at table with the Tsar at Moscow, the emperor proposed to him to drill Cossacks, and render them more dependent. Mazeppa replied that the situation of Ukrania, and the genius of the nation, were insuperable obstacles to such a scheme. The Tsar, who began to be overheated with wine, and who had not always the command of his passions, called him a traitor, and threatened to have him empaled.

"Mazeppa, on his return to Ukraine, formed the design of a revolt; and the execution of it was greatly facilitated by the Swedish army, which soon after appeared on his frontiers. He resolved to render himself independent, and to erect Ukrania and some other ruins of the Russian empire into a power­ful kingdom. He was a man of great courage, of considerable enterprise, most painstaking, though he was advanced in years.

"He made a secret league with the King of Sweden, to hasten the Tsar's downfall and gain something himself out of it. He gave him a rendezvous near the river Desna; Mazeppa promised to meet him there with 30,000 men, ammunition and provisions, and all his treasure, which was immense. The Swedish army was  p138 therefore ordered to march towards that part of the country, to the great regret of the officers, who knew nothing of the King's treaty with the Cossacks.

"Charles XII sent orders to Loevenhaupt to bring his troops and provisions with all haste to Ukrania, where he intended passing the winter, that, having subdued that country, he might conquer Muscovy the following spring; meanwhile he advanced towards the river Desna, which flows in the Borysthenes (Dnieper River) at Kiouw (Kiev) . . .

"They then marched for twelve days in this painful and laborious fashion till they had eaten the little biscuit they had left, and so they arrived, spent with hunger and fatigue, on the banks of the Desna, where Mazeppa was to meet them. Instead of the Prince, however, they found a body of Muscovites advancing towards them on the other side of the river. The King was much astonished, and decided to cross the Desna and attack the enemy . . .

"The band of Muscovites, which arrived at the same time, were only 8,000 so that their resistance was feeble, and this obstacle was also overcome.

"Charles advanced further into this desolate country, uncertain of his route and of Mazeppa's fidelity; at last the latter appeared, but rather as a fugitive than as a strong ally. The Muscovites had discovered and prevented his plan: they had fallen upon the Cossacks and cut them in pieces, his chief friends were taken red‑handed, and thirty of them had been broken on the wheel. His towns were reduced to ashes, his treasures plundered, and the provisions he was preparing for the King of Sweden seized. He himself escaped with difficulty, accompanied by 6,000 men, and some horses laden with gold and silver. But he held out to the King the hope that he would be of some service from his knowledge of this unknown country, and by the affection of the natives, who enraged at the Muscovites, came in troops to the camp, and brought provisions."

[image ALT: A 17c political map of what is now mostly Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia.]

15. Ukraine on a Dutch map of the end of the XVII Century:
Ukranie of 'T Land der Cosacken.
(Found in the Baworowski Library of Lviv)

[A larger version, more easily readable, opens here (532 kB).]

Thayer's Notes:

a As not infrequently in my Ukrainian history pages, I am indebted to historical researcher Oleksii Cherednichenko for a sharp corrective. He writes:

It's not widely known even in Ukraine itself, but the vast majority of the primary sources allegedly discovered by Il'ko ("Elias" in the text) Borshchak never existed to begin with. He just invented them. This is also true for both instances where Sichynsky refers to him. The first one is the purported letter by Jean Baluse (see p111 of a long article entirely devoted to Borshchak's falsifications).

[decorative delimiter]

b The title of the book is properly Diarium Itineris in Moscoviam: "Diary of a Trip to Muscovy"; what follows on the title page, in the best and most prolix fulsomeness of book titles of the period, is

. . .

Perillustris ac Magnifici Domini
Ignatii Christophori
Nobilis Domini
de Guarient, & Rall,
Sacri Romani Imperii, & Regni Hungariae
Equitis, Sacrae Caesareae Majestatis Consiliarii
Augustissimo, & Invictissimo Romanorum
Leopoldo I

. . .

(and 7 or 14 more lines of this stuff, depending on what you wish to include in the "title")

in which "Perillustris" has nothing to do with "Diarium Itineris in Moscoviam", but kicks off the name and titulature of Korb's boss:

". . . Of the Illustrious and Magnificent Lord Ignatz Christoph, Noble Sire de Guarient & Rall, Knight of the Holy Roman Empire & of the Kingdom of Hungary, Diplomatic-Military Counselor of His Sacred Caesarian Majesty, from the Most August & Most (sic!) Unconquered Emperor of the Romans Leopold I . . ."

[decorative delimiter]

c Online at Archive.Org: Vol. I Vol. II

[decorative delimiter]

d Sichynsky has edited MacDonnell's text, substituting "Muscovitian" for "Russian" for example. Where it matters, including the punctuation, I restore here the original text, but pass over Sichynsky's liberties with the spelling of proper names.

[decorative delimiter]

e Once again, see my note above, I have to thank Mr. Cherednichenko for alerting me that we almost certainly have another spurious document by Borschak: in "Voltaire on Mazepa and Early Eighteenth Century Ukraine", Thomas Prymak writes — and I quote him directly for those with no access to — "I was not able to find this letter in Voltaire's Correspondence, ed. Theodore Besterman, vol. LXVII (Geneva, 1961), which covers this period, or in later volumes of this work." (p22, note 51).

[decorative delimiter]

f A pity to spoil a good story, but it's probably only a legend: see the article Mazepa, Ivan at the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine.

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Page updated: 13 Nov 23