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History - Cossack's Era

Cossack's Era

Ukrainian Prince Dmytro Bayda Vyshnevetsky, the founder of the Zaporozhian Sich in 1550, was chosen "Hetman" of the Cossaks and built a strong fortress on the Dnieper island of Khortytsia, where a garrison was located. This Hetman organized the Cossaks as a political power. He, for instance, waged a real war against the Tatars in 1556. The next winter th eKhan came with his army and besieged the Sich on Khortytsia, but he returned home with empty hands. The following summer he arrived with a still greater army and forced the Hetman to retreat from island, but in 1558 Prince dmytro Bayda Vyshnevetsky also fought the Turks in Wallachia and there he was captured by treachery and put to death in Constantinople.

During the 16th century Ukraine found itself constantly invaded by the Tatrs who had by now established their state in the Crimea. Every year they would make raids on Ukraine, destroying everything in their paths, murdering men, and taking womenand children into captivity. These children were converted to muslim faith and became "janisaries". Because of the vastness of the Polish kingdom, the King was doing little to defend this part of the country. As a result, some adventuresome men joined together into bands and moved to the steppes beyond the Dnieper River. Here they lived by hunting an fishhing. They also organized expeditions against the Tatars. To defend their outposts these freedom-loving men built fortresses, the most famous being Zaporizhia, which was located on an isla nd in the vicinity of the Dnieper Rapids.

They eventually developed a military system, with their own customs and traditions. Later, they were called "Cossacks". The Cossacks had their own government in which all matters were resolved by the Cossack Rada (council). This council also elected a Hetman (supreme chief) of the Cossaks into a real military organization was Dmytro Vyshnevetsky-Bayda.

The land - the Sich - the Cossacks settled they considered a self-ruling (autonomous Ukrainian territory) since the Polish king ignored their activities. The King did leave them in peace because they were protecting the southern border of his kingdom. Because of this lack of conern, the Cossacks continued to develop their traditions while the remainder of the people faced Polonization. The Cossacks gained in strength and military experience in their many wars with Turks and Tatars. they made campaigns to the Crimea, Asia, Minor and Costantinople, now the city of Istambul. During this time there were uprisings aginst the Poles. Christopher Kosynsky, Fedor Loboda and Severyn Nalevayko led these uprisings; however, they could not withstand the Polish advances, Nalevayko was captured by Poles, tortured and finally put to death.

Petro Konashevych Sahaydachny was born in Halych, educated in Ostroh and joined Cossacks at Zaporizhia, where he was elected Hetman. He made many campaigns to the Black Sea to the Turkish capital of Istambul, and in Asia Minor to the cities Sinop and Trapezunt. In 1621, the Cossacks defeated the Turks at Khotyn.

These constant attacks on the Turkish cities by the Cossacks finally forced the sultan to warn the Polish king that if these Cossacks were not subdued, drastic action would be taken. The Polish king feared the Sultan and tried to curb the power of the Cossacks. But the Cossacks had enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy for a long time and now were not willing to give in the Polish king. The Polish Crown tried to enforce its power and the Cossacks rebelled, so armed conflict broke out. The Cossacks, under the leadership of Hetman Samoylovich, defeated the Polish Army forcing the Poles to come to an agreement with the Cossacks. Then, in 1630, Hetman Taras Fedorovych again defeated the Poles at Pereyaslav. In 1635, Ivan Sulyma destroyed Kodak, a Polish fortress on the Dnieper River. Between 1637 and 1638, Pavluk, Hunia and Ostrianyn led a series of revolts against the Poles; however, these were unsuccessful. For all trouble they gave him, the Polish king limited the number of Cossacks to 6,000 men and forced their army under the jurisdiction of polish generals. for the next ten years the cossacks led many unsuccessful rebellions against the Poles.

Hoping to rid Ukraine of Polish domination, hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky mobilized the cossacks Host in 1648 and drove the Poles from Ukraine.

For almost six years the Ukrainian people, led by Bohdan Khemelnytsky, were waging a Liberation War (1648-1654) against the rule of the Polish barons and gentry. At that time, feudal Poland occupied a large territory of ukraine subjecting its population to terror and national oppression, serfdom and persecution of Orthodox religion.

In 1648-1649, the army of peasants and Cossacks had inflicted several heavy defeats on the well trained Polish Royal Army near Zhovti Vody, Korsun, Pilyavtsi and Zboriv. The Vatican City State and the Royal governments of France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, England, the Netherlands, and some other countries that attentively followed the events in Ukraine, doubled their attention. Meanwhile, the opponents had been preparing for the decisive battle. In the spring of 1651, King Jan Kazimierz led his 200 thousandstong army, including 40 thousand German mercenaries, to Ukraine. Near Berestechko his forces were countered by about a 140 thousand-strong army of peasants and Cossacks, and warriors of the Crimean Khan who at that time was allied with the Cossacks.

Seeking allies in order to buy time to consolidate Cossacks sovereignty, Khmelnytsky concluded a mutual assistance past with the Muscovites in 1654 and began to build a nation-state. The Czar, however, interpreted the treaty as an invitation to rule and before long, the Muscovite army was in Ukraine, ostensibly to protect the fledging state from Poles.

Fearing further Muscovite enchroachment, Hetman Ivan Vyhovsky, Khemlnytsky successor, initiated negotiations with the Poles. The result was the Union of Hadiach in 1658 which provided for the reconstriction of the Polish state into a federation of three autonomous nations: Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. When the Muscovites protested, Vyhovsky went to war, defeating the Czar's armies at the Battle of Konotop in 1659; Vyhovsky's victory was short lived. Unable to accept a union with Catholic Poland, a group of Cossack officers deposed Vyhovsky and proceeded to come to terms with the Orthodox Muscovites. In 1667, the Muscovites betrayed their Cossack partners and concluded a separate treaty with the Poles. meeting at Andrusovo, the Poles and Muscovites agreed to partition Ukraine along the Dnieper River.

One final Cossack attempt to free Ukraine of Muscovite control was made by Hetman Ivan Mazepa. Concluding a secret alliance with Charles XII of Sweeden, Mazepa's Cossacks joined the Sweedes in their military effort to check Muscovite expansionism. Ukrainian aspirations were crushed when the combined Swedish-Ukrainian forces were defeated at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, sealing the fate of left-bank Ukraine for the next two hundred years. Significantly, it was only after the victory at Poltava that the Muscovites preempted the name Rus and began to call themselves "Russians".

Life for Ukrainians under the Russains proved to be as difficult as it was under the Poles. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was officially absorbed by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1686.

Despite these measures, the Ukrainian national spirit remained alive and in time gave birth to a literary and national revival. The literary revival began in 1798, when Ivan Kotliarevsky published Eneida, an adapatation of of Virgil's Aeneid in which the heroes are wandering Ukrainian Cossacks. The height of the Ukrainian literary renaissance was reached during the 19th century in the works of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine's poet laureate. Born a serf, Shevchenko was a poet of people, a genius who was able to capture the true sentiment of the Ukrainian nation and to translate it into literary excellence.

Severely condemning the Russian czars for their treatment of his people, Shevchenko often thought of the freedom enjoyed by Americans as a result of the War of Independence. Reflecting on the events of 1776, Shevchenko wrote:

When will we have a Washington
With a new and righteous law?
One day we shall have him".

After Shevchenko's works became widely read, the Ukrainian literary revival could not be stopped. His call for freedom was repeated by many other writers, most notably Lesia Ukrainka and Ivan Franko of western Ukraine. Fearful lest the Ukrainian people begin to assert their independence in an organized manner, the Russain Minister of the Interior denied the existence of a separate Ukrainian people, declaring that Ukrainians were really "Little Russians" with language that was actually a Russian "dialect". In 1876, Czar Alexander II issued a proclamation prohibiting the publication of all books and materials in the Ukrainian language.