Part Two

Mazepa goes over to the Swedes but fails to gain popular support (1708). His reputation, his true self and his overriding aim. - Mazepa and Palii in popular tradition. - Mazepa's apologia. - His relations with Leszczyński. - The war of manifestoes between Peter I and Mazepa. - Mazepa anathematized. - An even darker villain? - Religion as a weapon in the war of words between Peter I and Charles XII. - The Cossacks in Turkey. - Filip Orlik acclaimed hetman. Did he give away Constantin Brancovan? - Orlik's compact with Devlet Giray. - Their joint incursion into the Right Bank (1711). - Orlik's alliance with Ahmed III (1712). - Polish units re-enter the Right Bank, now claimed by the Turks for Orlik (1712). - The Turks relent (1714). - Orlik as national leader. - Parrallel events on the Right Bank: the Cossacks evacuated to the Left Bank and Russian troops withdrawn. - The question of the vacant zone along the Dnieper. - The starosties on the Right Bank held, as before, by the rich and powerful. - The outcome of the struggle. - Continuing unrest in Ukraine - the haidamaky.


On 8 November 1708 Mazepa went over to the Swedes. Prince Fedor Iu. Romodanovskii, the chief of the tsar's political police, evidently taken by surprise, fainted on hearing the news. But such hopes as Charles XII may have had of being presented by the hetman with an immediate numerical superiority over the Russians were quickly disappointed. Mazepa, although he had the support of three colonels and the quartermaster-general Ivan Lomykovs'kyi, was able to bring with him only between three and five thousand men instead of the expected 20,000. Many of those who originally accompanied Mazepa later went back to the Russians. However, in March of the following year Mazepa and the hetman of the Zaporozhian (Sich) Cossacks, Kost' Hordienko, pledged support to one another and Charles XII promised both leaders his protection until the liberation of Ukraine and the Zaporozh'e on condition that in return the local inhabitants keep to their quarters and deliver supplies to the Swedish army. The several thousand Zaporozhians who joined the Swedes were used for the construction of earthworks before Poltava, besieged by Charles XII from April 1709.

Peter I complained that by attracting the Swedes into Ukraine in the first place, Mazepa had enabled the hungry and exhausted Swedes to regain some of their strength, whereas if they had stayed in the region of Smolensk they would have been destroyed by the Russians. Instead, confusion had been sown in the tsar's army. But the position of Charles XII was far worse than that of the Russians; the latter-day Viking and his men were virtually stranded in the fertile but sparsely colonized and inhospitable steppe and about to be exposed to the rigours of an exceptionally severe winter before meeting their doom at Poltava in the summer of 1709. Mazepa and his Cossacks did not take part in the great battle and those on the opposite side were posted in outlying positions as a precaution against a Swedish retreat towards the west. Only Palii, restored to favour, was, according to the traditional belief taken up by Pushkin, present on the battlefield, infirm and supported by two Cossacks. The tsar had had him recalled from exile in November 1708; a year later he was back in Bela Tserkov. As colonel of a regiment of volunteers in the service of the new left-bank hetman, Ivan Skoropads'kyi, he resumed his nefarious practices which were cut short by his death early in 1710.

Mazepa's treason, one of the greatest fiascos in modern history, misfired because the traitor had taken for granted Swedish military superiority, spontaneous support from the left-bank Cossacks and the arrival, at the head of an army, of Leszczyński who, instead, lingered in Greater Poland. The dilatoriness of the commander of a Swedish corps, General E. D. von Krassow, in moving from Polish Prussia towards Ukraine was rivalled by the inertia of Jan Sapieha, Leszczyński's appointee as grand hetman of Lithuania, who did not budge from Brest. Moreover, when it came to the choice between loyalty to the Orthodox tsar on the one hand and on the other to the lordly Mazepa, the captor of Palii allied to the Lutheran Swedes and the Catholic Poles, the majority of the Cossacks opted for Muscovy as did the bulk of the civilian population. It was not long before, in many places, peasants and townspeople set about harassing the invader. The reprisals brought about by Mazepa's desertion destroyed a good part of the material base of Cossackdom. In November the Russians under Menshikov stormed Mazepa's fortified headquarters on the Left Bank at Baturyn, sacked it and wiped out the garrison; in May 1709 they destroyed the stronghold of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, the Sich, and massacred its defenders. The surviving Zaporozhians moved their headquarters to a new site on Tatar territory, Oleshky (on the Dnieper, not far from Kherson).

Mazepa, having crossed into Ottoman territory after the defeat of the Swedes at Poltava, died at Bendery on the night of 2/3 October 1709. His end was not the tragic downfall of a noble and superior being but rather the lapse of a habitual double-dealer who slithered down the slope of deception into outright treason. Having ensnared Palii and duped Orlik and having previously deceived himself into believing that the Cossacks would follow him in a body, he abandoned the tsar and was later probably ready in turn to desert Charles XII. He lacked the makings of a national hero but in the course of time mythology invested him with the qualities in which he had been deficient - moral grandeur and political vision. A 'Mazepist' is not an inheritor of an honourable political tradition.

To pass moral judgement on Mazepa's actions is easy enough but there cannot be any single and correct interpretation of so complex and multi-faceted a personality, not least because the veil of poetic fiction conceals the real man. The choice of personae is wide: the Don Juan of the steppes (or rather of Volhynia) punished by a jealous husband, as first described by the diarist Jan Chryzostom Pasek; Horace Vernet's marble-limbed ephebe tied to the back of a grey stallion; Byron's venerable optimist and survivor - the outcast made king; Pushkin's vengeful patriot and senescent lover infatuated with the youthful Motrona Kochubei; the melancholy lost leader (or worse) of the Ukrainian folk ballad; the national idol of an extremist section of Ukrainian historiography. But outside the world of the imagination there existed the Ruthenian szlachcic Jan Mazepa Kołodynski (Koledyns'kyi), armorial bearings Kurcz, groom of King John Casimir's bedchamber, appointed nominal cupbearer (pocillator) of Chernigov in 1665, Volhynian landowner, Orthodox by religion, Polish-Ruthenian by culture (having been educated at the Kiev Academy and thereafter almost certainly by the Jesuits), equally fluent in speech and writing in Ruthenian, Russian, Polish and Latin. Such a profile is hardly compatible with the figure of the obedient and loyal subject of the tsar who inclined himself before Boris Mikhailov, a low-ranking Muscovite official. No, Mazepa has to be seen as a political homo duplex in whom contrary affinities and inclinations were constantly at odds. Even his Ruthenian inheritance was dual and reflected the political divisions then obtaining on the Right Bank. Ivan Mazepa's father, Adam Stefan (Stepan, d. 1665) had been an adherent of Khmel'nyts'kyi before, in 1658, he gave his support to Vyhovs'kyi and subsequently to the King and Republic; his wife and Ivan's mother, Maryna (d. 1707 or 1708) was born Mokievs'ka, members of her family had taken part in Khmel'nyts'kyi's insurrection. Some time after 1674 she took the veil and, as Mariia Magdalina, became in 1686 Mother Superior of the Monastery of the Ascension at Kiev and of another monastery at Glukhov in 1688. Her official position indicates a strong inclination towards Moscow but this did not prevent her from signing her name in Polish as well as in Ruthenian.

But the hetman of the Ukrainian Cossacks was no ordinary szlachcic. There is in the reservation for himself of a fiefdom in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, as the price for the reunification of Ukraine under Polish suzerainty and a Swedish guarantee, something of the arrogance of a Polish magnate. Indeed the bargain closely resembles that which was struck in 1655 by Janusz Radziwiłł (1612-1655), grand hetman of Lithuania and palatine of Vilno, with Charles X Gustavus of Sweden whereby the Grand Duchy was to be assigned to Sweden and Radziwiłł was to receive a vast tract of land and ducal status.

If a contemporary report is to be believed, the hetman's select mercenary regiments as well as his honourable bodyguard consisted entirely of Poles, the senior military commanders and officials close to him were his own relations, or of right-bank szlachta stock or sons of migrants from the Right Bank or foreigners. These allegations were apparently justified in so far as they concerned family or personal ties with Mazepa; the Poles in question could have been Ruthenians of the Orthodox persuasion but Polish speaking and writing. It is certain that the paternal family of Mazepa's nephew and intended successor, Andrii Voinarovs'kyi, were members of the Orthodox Volhynian szlachta. Orlik speaks of himself as a szlachcic (bearing the arms Nowina) and a newcomer to the Left Bank who never took an oath of allegiance to the tsar. In 1697 Mazepa was at pains to rebut some evidently damaging charges of tainted blood among members of his entourage; he let it be known that no man close to him was of the Liakh faith, all were Orthodox and there was not a single Pole among them. There was clearly no lack of ethnic consciousness in Ukraine at that time.

Hand in hand with these leanings went Mazepa's predilection for the hierarchical and seigniorial character of the social organization of Poland-Lithuania and a distaste for the primitive instincts of the Cossack masses. His handling of home affairs shows a tendency to foster the development of a stratum corresponding to the szlachta and to reduce the peasantry to a state of subservience to the landowners like that which obtained in the Republic. The new and growing hereditary élite was encouraged to enclose land held in military tenure by ordinary Cossacks and to compel them to do boon work. At the same time, with the approval of the senior commanders and office holders, Mazepa hindered the peasants from evading the performance of their various obligations towards their masters by enrolling as Cossacks. These measures, as well as the monopolies of liquor, tobacco and tar farmed out to profiteering contractors made Mazepa thoroughly unpopular with masses on the Left Bank. It was with a view to restoring the good name of an independent hetmanate that the agreement concluded at Bendery in April 1710 between representatives of the Cossacks and their newly elected hetman in exile, Orlik, included a number of articles intended to right the wrongs and eradicate the abuses suffered by the common people. Mazepa's generosity to the Orthodox Church was praised but did not dispel the general impression, formulated by his successor on the Left Bank, Skoropads'kyi, admittedly after the event, that Mazepa had never been a 'true son of his fatherland'. But this is an unjust verdict. It cannot be denied that the arch-traitor's ultimate and overriding aim was the creation of a united and autonomous, if not independent, Ukraine. Pushkin, the poet-historian saw the point and made Mazepa declare to Mariia-Motrona: 'The time has come for Ukraine to be an independent state; I'll raise against Tsar Peter the gory standard of revolt.'

The conflict and contrast between Mazepa and Palii had long been a theme in Ukrainian popular prose and poetry. In the historical ballads Mazepa is cursed for having contrived the treacherous imprisonment and wrongful accusation of Palii while the latter is described as father - bat'ko - of the Cossacks and praised for having defended the people from the lords and oppressors. In the folk tale Palii appears as a noble figure, sometimes endowed with supernatural powers, a selfless defender of the national cause, the very opposite of Mazepa, an evil and demonic creature, inimical to the people and its interests. There may have been something legendary in Palii's 'war cry' of former days mentioned by Pushkin, for a folk ballad of uncertain date urges Palii to call together his troops and raid the land of the Liakhs. The Cossacks will start a fire, roast a Jew and light their pipes. Another ballad condemns Orlik, the cheat and bully, for having tempted the Zaporozhians to join Mazepa (which he never did), only to meet with a rebuff.

After his defection Mazepa, in a letter written to Ivan Skoropads'kyi, explained the reasons for his action: he and his associates had sought the protection of Charles XII in the hope that with his ever victorious army he would defend the Cossacks from Muscovite tyranny, liberate them and restore to them, indeed augment, their rights and privileges as he had promised to do in a written guarantee. The tsar, on the other hand, wanted to abolish the 'Zaporozhian host' (the traditional name by which the Cossacks were still known), to turn them into dragoons and foot soldiers and to enslave the people of Little Russia. Later, in his letters universal promulgated early in 1709, Mazepa accused the Russians of keeping their garrisons in Ukrainian towns, ostensibly for their own defence, but in reality so as to hold them in pawn, of bringing in their monopolistic public houses and, the gravest charge of all, of wanting to expel the Cossacks from their land and to replace them with Muscovites. The contents of Charles XII's manifesto of 7 November or perhaps, rather, 16 December, correspond to Mazepa's apologia: at the request of the hetman he had extended his protection to the wronged Little Russian people and would defend it and shield it until it had shaken off the Muscovite yoke and retained its former freedom. At the same time the Swedish king denied the existence of a treaty between himself and King Stanisław to the effect that Ukraine should be conquered by Poland or that Sweden should appropriate to itself any part of Poland-Lithuania. But, these assurances notwithstanding, the Swedes did not lose sight of their long-term military needs and later reserved the right to occupy, for the duration of the emergency, a number of important strategic points on the Left Bank: Mglin, Starodub, Baturyn, Hadiach, Poltava. It would not have been difficult, after the cessation of hostilities, to keep Swedish garrison there indefinitely.

That Mazepa was no less deeply committeed to Stanisław then he was to Charles XII is clear from his fulsome letter to Leszczyński of 16 December 1708, written in Polish. It is possible that this was a delayed response to Leszczyński's letters universal of 22 November 1707 in which he addressed the Cossacks as their true and hereditary master and appealed to them as would a gracious father to his errant children; calling on each and every one to throw off the yoke of an alien rule, regain their ancient rights and liberties and return to the hereditary obedience of the Kingdom of Poland, recalling to memory Ukraine of former days, flowing with milk and honey. The Cossacks should look for guidance to their hetman, Mazepa, and through him pay homage to Stanisław.

Next it was the turn of Tsar Peter. In his manifesto of 1 February 1709 he exposed as mendacious a manifesto promulgated by Mazepa (but no longer extant) in which, according to the tsar, he had declared the purpose of his change of front to have been 'freedom' in the sense that Little Russia should not be 'Ours' or Polish but become free and independent. If it is true that Mazepa had spoken so frankly about his motives, it is likely that he soon regretted having openly set himself an impossible task. Independence for Ukraine may have been his ideal; in a piece of verse written probably three decades earlier he (or possibly another author) deplored the lack of unity among the Cossacks, some of whom sided with the 'pagan' Turks, others served the Liakhs, others still bowed the knee to Muscovy instead of striking at the (unnamed) enemy. But reality was different, the hetman of Ukraine was perforce a client and could not exist without a patron.

In addition to the manifestoes just mentioned several more such pieces were promulgated, six by Tsar Peter, several by Mazepa, one by Skoropads'kyi (probably written by a member of the tsar's entourage) and two by the bishops who had excommunicated Mazepa, all couched in the most virulent language. These verbal skirmishes were fought over a vast area of controversial subjects more or less closely connected with Mazepa's act of treason. Its condemnation by the tsar sheds much light on the assailant.

If there was anything that Tsar Peter I feared and detested it was sedition and revolt such as he had experienced on the part of the Moscow musketeers (strel'tsy) in 1682 and in 1698, the rebellions at Astrakhan (1705-1706) and most recently (1707-1708) on the Don under Bulavin and among the Bashkirs. All were suppressed with varying degrees of brutality. The Ukrainian Cossacks by contrast, under the strict command of Mazepa had served the tsar loyally for twenty years and Mazepa himself, even though at intervals denounced as a secret sympathizer with the Republic, was not considered capable of going over to the Swedes. Whether to reward him or to keep his loyalty the tsar had adorned him with honours and showered him with largesse, his treachery and ingratitude were an insult, worse than that - anathema!

Steps were taken at once to keep Ukraine under control and to prevent further defections. Ivan Skoropads'kyi, colonel of the Cossacks of Starodub, known to be compliant, was elected hetman under Russian invigilation on 17 November and six days later, no doubt on instructions from the tsar, Ioann (Maksymovych), archbishop of Chernigov and Zakharii (Kornylovych), bishop of Pereiaslav, cursed and excommunicated Mazepa even though, whilst committing a crime against the state, he had not sinned against God. But this to Tsar Peter's mind was an artificial distinction. Mazepa's physical being was dealt with in a cruel and grotesque ceremony of execution in effigy and outlawry. A formal ceremony of excommunication by the ecclesiastical hierarchy took place later in Moscow and Mazepa joined the infamous company of three criminals of state: Grigorii Otrep'ev (d. 1606) - the 'False Dimitri', Timofei Ankudinov (d. 1653) - the self-styled son of Tsar Vasilii Shuiskii and Stepan Razin (d. 1671), the leader of the Cossack rebellion on the Volga. One would have thought that the disgrace of Mazepa, his civil death and exclusion from the Church were final and irrevocable. Yet so grave and uncertain was the military situation and so much was at stake that both the tsar and Mazepa were ready to think again. If the letter from Golovkin to Mazepa of 27 January 1709 is authentic, then it would appear that the deposed hetman had found scope for a piece of even darker villainy at which Tsar Peter was willing to connive. In return for a pardon and restoration to his former office and to the tsar's favour Mazepa was to kidnap a certain 'principal personage' or, if that were to prove impossible, some other person of high standing. This could only have meant Charles XII or a member of his entourage. But nothing further was heard of this scheme.

Mazepa's association with the Lutheran Swedes and the Papistic Poles gave the tsar the opportunity of scaring the devoutly Orthodox Ukrainians with the prospect of their churches being handed over to the Lutherans or the Uniates. The point is hammered home in the manifestoes again and again. The Uniate threat did not need any elaboration as the proselytizing activities of the Greek and Roman Catholic clergy and szlachta were well known; the Lutheran danger, though nil, received a semblance of credibility from the sacrilegious acts recently committed by the Swedish troops in the churches of White Russia - dogs brought in during services, chalices stolen and used as drinking vessels, icons stripped of their silver mounts. The tsar also accused the Swedes of having carried out forced conversions to Lutheranism of the Orthodox inhabitants of Ingria and Karelia and also of having recently been responsible for the reconversion to Lutheranism of Catholic churches in Silesia and Poland. (The charge was valid as far as Silesia, but not Poland, was concerned.)

Charles XII in turn accused the tsar not only of tolerating the presence of Jesuits in Moscow (as was the case) but also of negotiating with the Pope the extirpation of Orthodoxy in Russia. This absurd charge was connected with the diplomatic mission to Rome of Prince Boris A. Kurakin between April and October 1707. Its main object - which was achieved - had been to persuade the Pope Clement XI not to recognize Stanisław as king of Poland. But Kurakin also had instructions to ascertain the chances of reaching an understanding with the Pope that might eventually lead to a reunion between the Orthodox and the Roman Church. His findings were negative.


Unlike the Pope, the Grand Turk, Ahmed III, did recognize Stanisław as king and from the autumn of 1707 the Ottomans began to take note of suggestions from Charles XII in association with Leszczyński and from Mazepa for military action against Russia. Mazepa could not at that time have foreseen that after the disaster of Poltava the good will of the Turks would enable him and the Swedish king to find asylum on Ottoman territory.

After the death of Mazepa the Cossacks who had followed him into Turkish territory acclaimed hetman (on 4 April 1710) his closest associate, Filip Orlik. Their position, like that of the adherents of Stanisław Leszczyński who also crossed into Turkey, though difficult, was not desperate and improved as the relations between the Porte and Muscovy deteriorated. Before long, as has been seen, Orlik began to play a prominent part in the anti-Russian propaganda campaign directed by Stanisław Poniatowski. According to Gosciecki, the author of the rhymed account of the embassy to Istanbul of Stanisław Chometowski, Orlik, in order to ingratiate himself with the Porte, handed over to the grand vizier the secret papers from Mazepa's chancellery, among them letters from the hospodar of Wallachia, Constantin Brancovan (Brancoveanu or Brincoveanu, 1688-1714), who had corresponded with Mazepa 'for the ruin of the Porte'. This, according to Gosciecki, 'soon' led to the undoing of Brancovan. In return for this favour 'the traitor' received the hetman's mace. In point of fact Brancovan was not executed until 1714 and moreover for his relations with the Imperialists in Transylvania rather than with the Russians. Gosciecki further confuses the execution of Brancovan with that of his successor (1714-1716), Stefan Cantacuzino in 1716, also for intelligence with the enemy, again with the Imperialists. None of this inspires confidence in Gosciecki's charge against Orlik. It is also doubtful whether, having handed over the compromising papers, Orlik would have had the impudence to use the good offices of Brancovan's uncles, Constantin and Mihail Cantacuzino, to seek a pardon from the tsar.

On 10 May 1710 Orlik had already accepted for himself, the Cossack army and the Ruthenian people the protection of Charles XII, no mention being made of the king's other protégé, Leszczyński, with an interest in the same area. The exceptional circumstances, due to Charles XII's stay in Turkey, that were to prevail until the middle of 1714 offered Orlik the possibility of finding other patrons: the sultan, Ahmed III, the two successive Tatar khans, Devlet Giray and Kaplan Giray and, for good measure and briefly, Augustus II. Orlik, opportunist that he was, flitted from one to another as he combined his Russophobe propagandism (already described) with diplomacy and military venture. As he himself put it, he feared both the Muscovite Scylla and the Ottoman Charybdis and would have liked the final resolution of the question of protection over Ukraine to be postponed until the end of the war when it could be pronounced upon by 'an assembly of the estates, spiritual and secular'. But this was an Utopian goal. After the sultan had declared war on the tsar on 20 November 1710, Charles XII being out of the fight, an active protector had to be found quickly. It was the king himself who promoted a compact between Orlik and Devlet Giray, the most pugnacious among the opponents of the tsar on the Bosphorus. In his letters universal of 28 January 1711 Mehmed Giray, a son of Devlet and chief of the Nogai (Edisan) and Bucak hordes, stated the Porte's reasons for the declaration of war, bracketing the oppression and ruin of the Republic by the enemies of its legitimate monarch, Stanisław Leszczyński, with the subjugation of the Cossacks and the land of Little Russia. Mehmed guaranteed the security of all those who were in the service of King Stanisław and under the command of Józef Potocki, palatine of Kiev, and of Orlik, and promised them every help and protection. In conclusion he referred to Charles XII's determination not to end the war until he had assured the existence of those friendly neighbours [of the Tatars]. The essence of the agreement between Orlik and Devlet Giray, concluded five days earlier, was the intention of the khan that the Cossacks should be a free people, living in a free province and that no harm should be done to them. From such a base, if secured, operations could be conducted against the tsar's army which was bound to move across the western areas of Volhynia and Podolia towards Moldavia, as well as, by way of diversion, against his outposts on the Left Bank. The bold two-pronged invasion of both banks of the Dnieper, already noted in Chapter 00, planned by Charles XII and apparently organized by Orlik, was launched in February. One army, consisting almost entirely of Tatars and numbering several tens of thousands, set out from the direction of the Crimea and reached the vicinity of Kharkov but turned back for fear of being bogged down in an early thaw. The other and main force, consisting of approximately about 700 Swedes, 400 Turkish janissaries, 5000 Poles and Wallachians and 6500 Zaporozhians, mounted and foot, was led by Józef Potocki, Orlik and the hetman of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, Kost' Hordienko. Their prime objective was Bela Tserkov whence, in March, they were repulsed three times. Had the invaders succeeded in entering that stronghold, they might have been able also to capture the other fortified places formerly held by Palii. The local Cossacks, having tasted three years of Russian occupation, at first rallied to Orlik. But by then the campaign had lost its impetus, Russian reinforcements were on their way and, in Orlik's own words, the machine which he had with so much care constructed for the glory of His Swedish Majesty broke down ignominiously. The reason for this reverse was twofold: the desertion of the Nogais and the atrocities which they committed on this occasion - indiscriminate pillaging, arson and kidnapping. After fighting in Ukraine the Tatars as a rule received from a defeated enemy cash or the promise of regular presents and sometimes permission to take prisoners (esir) on their homward ride. This time, having failed to defeat or despoil the Russians, they recouped themselves in a razzia, breaking their promise that they would not molest the local population. Orlik should have known better than to enter into a compact with these notoriously unreliable slave-hunters. Yet there was between the Tatars and the Cossacks a complicity arising from a common wish to exclude outsiders from the steppe, inhabited as well as wild, and preserve it as a common source of livelihood - hunting, fishing and cattle-grazing - and an area in which esir captured by the Tatars for labour, sale or ransom was fair game. Esir was to be found also in Russia. In 1692 the Cossack adventurer and self-styled hetman of the Left Bank in opposition to Mazepa, Petro Ivanenko, made a treaty of peace and friendship with the Crimean Tatars. Their reward for freeing the Cossacks from Muscovite suzerainty was to be booty. In order to make it accessible the Cossacks were to leave open the traditional raiding route into Russia between the upper reaches of the Oskol and of the northern Donets. The complicity between the Tatars and the Cossacks was occasional, that between the Turks and the Tatars was permanent. As a Turkish official of high rank cynically remarked to the Polish envoy, Chometowski, 'let the Cossacks multiply so that the Tatars may from time to time have something to snatch and sell to us'. Slaves fetched high prices in Istanbul. A Circassian was worth 2500 rix-dollars, a Pole 1500, a Russian or a Cossack 1000.

The Grand Signior reproved Devlet Giray for the Tatars' misdeeds and in the following year stepped in to clarify Orlik's position. The rescript of 5 March 1712 declared Ahmed III's wish that the Right Bank be entrusted to Orlik and his Cossacks. The hetman's authority should be absolute. In return the Cossacks were obligated to provide the Porte with military assistance whenever required to do so. But although the rescript referred as a precedent for the new relationship to the protection extended by the Emperor Mehmed IV to the then hetman Doroshenko in 1672, it denied Orlik the opportunity of uniting Ukraine under his rule because it expressly excluded from his jurisdiction Kiev and the adjacent areas. Another and perhaps more authoritative text of the same treaty limited the area in which military aid was to be given by the Cossacks to the basin of the Dnieper and stipulated that Orlik's eldest son Hrehory (Grzegorz) be held as a hostage by the Tatar khan to guarantee the observance of the treaty. The boy was thus held until he left Turkey with the rest of his family in 1714. But even these general terms conflicted with the spirit of the alliance between Charles XII and Leszczyński and in June Orlik admitted that in making the agreement with the Porte his representatives had exceeded their instructions. He accordingly undertook not to enter the Right Bank until the Ottomans had settled their differences with the Poles. In the autumn of 1712, as the relations between Turkey and Russia had once more deteriorated, the grand vizier, Soliman Pasha, demanded that Orlik enter the Right Bank but the hetman only sent in some of his units. He was convinced that the Ottomans' sole purpose using him, his Cossacks and the Zaporozhians to occupy the Right Bank was to create a fait accompli before any discussions began with Chometowski (now on his way to Istanbul) about the confirmation of the treaty of Karlovitz of 1699. Orlik's new and secret aim was to prevent this eventuality and to promote the confirmation of the peace of Karlovitz as a prelude for peace negotiations between Charles XII and Augustus II. To this end, like Mazepa before him, he played a double game, though with different partners, principally with the Porte and the Tatar khan. His efforts to find a common ground with the adherents of Augustus II did not conflict with his loyalty towards Charles XII as he hoped himself to take part in the peace negotiations and upon their successful outcome to be rewarded with autonomy for the Cossacks on the Right Bank. The Ruthenian szlachcic who in the years 1720-1732 was to keep a diary in Polish and could turn a letter in the most flowery Sarmatian style now remembered his antecedents. When Fr Załeski, S.J. resumed his backstairs activities to carry out a secret mission from Charles XII to J.D. Lubomirski, Orlik entrusted the Jesuit with his own letter addressed to Lubomirski, urging the Poles to steal a march on the Turks and occupy the Right Bank. He also wrote to S.M. Rzewuski, deputy hetman of Poland. To both dignitaries he protested his candour and zeal, indeed his love for the Republic. In the autumn of 1712 Lubomirski re-entered Ukraine from Volhynia at the head of 12,000 men and, settling his scores with the shades of Palii, announced that he was taking possession of the region on behalf of the Republic. The leaders of the Zaporozhians would not hear of this, least of all one Iurii Perebyinis who declared that if the Russians were withdrawing under pressure from the Turks it did not follow that their place should be taken by the Poles. The Cossacks, including Orlik's men, were scattered by Lubomirski but he himself was deprived of his command, probably on suspicion of being in touch with Józef Potocki and Leszczyński. At the end of 1713 more Cossack units, which had been sent into the Right Bank by the pliable Orlik, this time citing the authority of the new Tatar khan, Kaplan Giray, were driven back by the Polish commander, Marcin Kalinowski. Kalinowski sent his own delegates to St Petersburg with instructions to draw attention to the Republic's sovereignty over Ukraine. Earlier in the same year Orlik had stood by Charles XII during the affray of Bendery when the king's quarters were attacked by a combined force of Tatars and Turks with the intention of obliging the no longer welcome royal guest to depart.

Some time during 1713 Orlik had, in a secret message to the king's chancellor, G.H. von Müllern, expressed the view that the most desirable outcome of the crisis would be for Charles XII to make peace with the Muscovites so that they could jointly direct their arms against the enemies of Christendom as there was nothing auspicious to be expected of the ever faithless Turks. The King of Sweden, so long as he remained on Ottoman territory, did not neglect Ukraine; in September 1713 he was willing to make peace with the tsar on conditions which demanded that for the diminution of Russian power Ukraine should be free and for 'the security of the allies' either raised to the status of an independent duchy under Swedish and Polish protection or united to Poland on the same terms as Lithuania. But during the first serious peace negotiations between Sweden and Russia in the Åland islands in 1718 no mention was made of Ukraine. At one point Orlik had hoped that his Islamic friends (with whom he was not exactly keeping faith) would find a home for him and his men on the Left Bank of the Dnieper, between the rivers Samara and Orela, in a piece of territory formerly occuped by the Zaporozhians. The terms of the peace treaty concluded by Turkey and Russia in June 1713 ruled out this prospect but Orlik was too valuable an asset to be abandoned. From about September 1713 the Turks began to demand of the Poles, first in their negotiations with Chometowski and next by the agency of a special mission sent to Poland, that they allow Orlik's Cossacks to settle on the Right Bank under the protection of the Republic. The Poles evaded the issue by deferring its resolution until a future Sejm and a general pacification. The truth was that they distrusted the Cossacks who were now trying to cling to them; pointing to their record of rebellion they voiced the fear that they might be betrayed yet again. The proposal for the return of the Cossacks to the Right Bank which Orlik was to put forward in 1719 for inclusion in the peace treaty between Sweden and Poland would not have been acceptable to the local landed interest and there is no reason to believe that in 1712-1714 his demands would have been any less excessive. Orlik's answer to the intractable question where to put and how to pay the Cossacks was to hand over to them outright the benefices or starosties on Crown land, so highly prized by the Polish magnates, for use as permanent military stations and a financial endowment. The Cossacks would then serve the Republic in war at their own charge. The territory under the jurisdiction of the hetmans would extend westwards as far as the river Sluch. No other military units would be allowed to have their quarters in this right-bank hetmanate; the Cossacks would not encroach on the private estates of the szlachta. The memories of the outrages committed by Palii and his men were surely too fresh for the Poles to accept such assurances or indeed any part of Orlik's scheme.

But the negotiations in Istanbul between Chometowski and the grand vizier Damad Ali Pasha dragged on and in the spring of 1714 reached deadlock over the question of the Right Bank. Ali Pasha insisted that it be ceded to Turkey and that a protocol to that effect be added to the treaty of Karlovitz. Chometowski stood his ground and refused to exceed his instructions until in the end the grand vizier, having once more reproached the ambassador with showing so much stubbornness on a trifling point, declared that for the sake of concord between two neighbouring nations the Porte was making a gift of the disputed region to the Republic. The Porte made light of this concession because, having no stomach for a 'northern' war it was already turning its attention to the Morea. In addition the Imperial resident in Istanbul, F.A. von Fleischmann whose position had been strengthened by the peace made recently at Rastatt between France and the Emperor, had used his influence with the Porte, no doubt for the sake of Augustus II, to bring about a settlement. According to Sir Robert Sutton, the British ambassador, during the last phase of the Turco-Polish negotiations Kaplan Giray was the chief abettor of the pretensions to Ukraine pointing out the great advantage that its possession would bring to the Porte. In the early part of 1714 Kaplan Giray had 'sent the Cossacks under his protection and some Tatars on an expedition into the Polish Ukraine'. His immediate (if indirect) purpose was perhaps to unnerve the Russians and keep alive the the divisions in Poland as he was probably acting at the instigation of Charles XII who had a 'correspondence' with him.

As champion of the national and political aspirations of a considerable proportion of the Ukrainian Cossacks, Orlik was a party in the struggle for Ukraine but never attained to the same degree of authority and power as Palii or Mazepa. Circumscribed in his activities by strategic and geographical circumstances and above all by his position as exile and father of a hostage, he was often no more than an instrument in the hands now of Charles XII, now of Ahmed III and his successive grand viziers, now of the Tatar khans. But none of these patrons came up to his expectations and in steering by the Crescent he did not even advance as far as Doroshenko who at least had succeeded in holding out as hetman on the Right Bank between 1672 and 1676. The Left Bank remained completely out of Orlik's reach. But between 1712 and 1714 the course of events was to some extent affected by Orlik's change of tack. His demonstrations of good will towards the Poles helped them to reestablish the Republic's sovereignty over the Right Bank but brought him no benefit whatever.

After joining Charles XII at Demotika Orlik followed the king to Stralsund and thence to Sweden where he found refuge together with his family and a group of Cossack émigrés. Upon the conclusion of the treaty of Vienna in January 1719 between the Emperor, George I and Augustus II, the formation of a coalition against Russia, comprising the allies of Vienna with the addition of Sweden and Hesse-Kassel, seemed imminent. Orlik knew that the Christian powers were also inciting the Ottoman Porte to go to war against Russia and saw in this configuration an opportunity for bringing about an alliance between the Zaporozhian Cossacks and the Tatars for action in Ukraine. But by the time Orlik had left Sweden for Germany early in 1720 the coalition turned out to be a mirage. The game was up. Having failed, in the summer of 1721, to obtain a pardon from Tsar Peter, Orlik tried to persuade Augustus II and his principal counsellor G.H. von Flemming to allow the revival of Cossackdom on the Right Bank as a means of strengthening the position of the King and Republic but had no success and was obliged in March 1722 to return to Turkey.


After Tsar Peter's victory over the Swedes at Poltava had clinched the Republic's subjection to Russia, an assembly of the Polish and Lithuanian estates held in Warsaw in the first quarter of 1710 ratified both treaties of alliance with Russia, that of 1704 as well as that of 1686. The right-bank Ukraine accordingly remained a part of the Republic. The future of the neutral zone along the Dnieper (recently colonized by the right-bank Cossacks in contravention of the 1686 treaty) was left open but the Russian envoy, Georgii F. Dologorukii, declared that Bela Tserkov and the other fortified places (together with Bykhov in White Russia), would be handed back. There is no reason to believe that this was Tsar Peter's genuine intention now any more than it had been in 1707.

Meanwhile the right-bank Ukraine was experiencing a new wave of seizures by the Cossacks of estates owned by the szlachta and magnates in the vicinity of Bela Tserkov, Fastov, Pavoloch, Berdichev, Byshev, Kotel'nia, Polonnoe, Ovruch and Bykhov. Close on the heels of the Cossack 'bloodsuckers' (and of some of the Republic's own predatory regiments belonging to the army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) followed the Russian troops, auxiliary in name but helping only themselves, notably those to be stationed at Bela Tserkov, Bratslav, Boguslav, Nemirov and Polonnoe. The szlachta of the palatinate of Kiev complained in January 1711 that their towns and landed estates were being stripped not only of provisions but also of money, needed to settle the officers' pay. The no less destructive southward march across Volhynia and Podolia towards Wallachia of the army of Field Marshal Boris P. Sheremetev was yet to begin.

The dénouement of the dramatic struggle for Ukraine in which all the principal characters were villains armed with the insidious weapons of double-dealing, conspiracy and falsehood, was brought about by an exotic personage hidden in the wings: the Grand Turk. The treaty of peace between Muscovy and the Porte concluded on 21 July 1711 immediately after the battle of the Pruth in which the Russian army had suffered 'great slaughter' and had been 'reduced to very great straights' stipulated that 'the tsar shall not intermeddle in the affairs of the Polacks nor of the Cossacks who depend on them ... but shall leave them in their ancient state and shall withdraw his hand from those parts'. On 16 September, from Carlsbad, where he was recuperating from the rigours of the Moldavian campaign, the tsar, in an ukase addressed to the colonel of the regiment of Bela Tserkov, Anton Tans'kyi, ordered the evacuation of the Cossacks from the right-bank Ukraine and restored the official division between the right-bank and the left-bank Ukraine (plus Kiev). The ordinance, merely citing the requirement of the treaty of 1686 that the trans-Dnieper Ukraine was to be left to the Poles, makes no reference to the treaty with the Porte. The Cossack migrants were to join the regiments on the Left Bank. The neutral zone along the Dnieper was to remain uninhabited. The removal from the Right Bank of the Cossacks, to be followed in 1713 by the withdrawal of Russian military units, together with the loss of the Zaporozh'e and of Azov amounted to a grave setback which dimmed the glory of the victor of Poltava. Gone were the gains made in the south over the past quarter of a century; the ground thus lost was made up only gradually: the Zaporozh'e was recovered in 1733-1734, Azov in 1774, right-bank Ukraine was detached from the Republic in 1793. The strict interpretation and execution of the 'hands off' requirement contained in the treaty of the Pruth was no doubt due to the pressure brought to bear by Turkey but some of the Polish leaders at King Augustus II's side had demanded the removal of the Cossacks from the Right Bank as early as 1705. At that time it was believed that they were loyal to the tsar but in 1711 many of them had given their support to Orlik during his foray into the Right Bank. The initiative for the transfer of these waverers came from Skoropads'kyi who wanted to have them under his control. Also, to give up the Right Bank to the Poles was to prevent Orlik from finding shelter there and this, from the point of view of the tsar's plenipotentiaries in Istanbul, was a way of avoiding difficulties and quibbles in the negotiations with the Turks.

As the Cossacks trekked eastwards, bringing with them their horses and cattle, they left behind a trail of wreckage - estates, villages and settlements maliciously turned into heaps of smouldering ruins, abandoned or inhabited only by pitiful remnants of their original dwellers. The Poles, szlachta and magnates, remained in possession of a desert, albeit a fertile one with a great capacity for renewal, as the rapid if only partial economic recovery after the disasters of the 1660s and 70s had shown. But in the riparian areas the process of rehabilitation was hindered by the terms of article 7 of the treaty of 1686 which the tsar expected the Republic to observe. In 1720 Stainsław Chometowski, who had acquitted himself well in Istanbul, was sent as envoy extraordinary to St Petersburg. His instructions required him to settle the controversy over the places on the Dnieper so that they could be formally restored to their owners or tenants or to the Crown because the turning of land into desert seemed hardly ever to be practised between Christian monarchs but only between uncouth and pagan peoples. However, the matter was not resolved on that or, apparently, any other similar occasion and, as time passed, the restriction was disregarded. By 1733 there were 7297 peasant holdings in the 'barrier'.

Cossackdom as a military body and a social organization had disintegrated on the Right Bank with the desertion of Mazepa and the subsequent transfer of the bulk of the Cossacks to the Left Bank. The szlachta kept their private estates, the members of the opulent and influential senatorial families held on to their Crown benefices (or starosties) which made up substantial components of the fortune and hence the political power of each one, exercised directly or through patronage or by means of private militias.

It has been suggested that one of the reasons for which the starosties on the right bank of the Dnieper were regarded as particularly valuable was the relatively low cost of recolonization. Unlike the peasants on hereditary, private, estates, the colonists did not receive any subsidies from the landlord, only exemption from all taxes and imposts and freedom to sow and to trade. The settlers grubbed up the land and put up their own buildings, only exceptionally did they receive loans and seed-corn. In the subsequent decades, as before, the starosties were held by the rich and powerful. Kanev, held by Mikołaj Bazyli Potocki (ca. 1706-1782), passed in 1762 to a distant relation of his, Józef (1735-1802), castellan of Lvov and from him (in 1763?) to Ignacy Potocki (1738-1793 or 1794) who played a prominent part in the confederacy of Bar (1768-1772). Cherkassy, held by Piotr Potocki, passed on his death in 1726 to Prince Paweł Karol Sanguszko (1682-1750), grand marshal of Lithuania and after him to Prince Hieronim Janusz Sanguszko (ca. 1743-1812), palatine of Volhynia. Chigirin passed from Jan Stanisław Jabłonowski (1669-1731) to his son Jan Kajetan (1699-1764), palatine of Bratslav and from him to his son Antoni Barnaba (1732-1799), castellan of Cracow. Korsun', after being merged with Zvenigorod, remained in the hands of the Jabłonowskis and was held by Józef Aleksander (1711-1777), palatine of Nowogródek (Novogrudok). The Lubomirskis continued to hold Boguslav but it is hard to trace the individual holders. Possibly the last member of that family to hold Boguslav was Hieronim Teodor (d. 1761), from whom it passed to Jan Klemens Branicki (1689-1771), grand hetman of Poland from 1752. Bela Tserkov which fell vacant in 1754 on the death of Stanisław Wincenty Jabłonowski (b. 1694), palatine of Rawa, went to Jerzy August Mniszech (1715-1778), grand marshal of Poland, the head of a family newly restored to prominence. On his death the starosty passed (via the king, Stanisław Augustus Poniatowski, to Franciszek Ksawery Branicki (ca. 1730-1819), grand hetman of Poland (1774-1793), no relation of his namesake mentioned above. Vinnitsa was assigned in 1720 by Marcin Kalinowski, castellan of Kamenets (d. 1738) to his son Ludwik (dates unknown). As the least aristocratic of this group of incumbents he was rivalled only by Józef Stepkowski, the infamous military commander who restored order on the Right Bank after the haidamak revolt of 1768; a genuine but deplorable piece of panis bene merentium. In the 1790s Vinnitsa was held by Protazy Potocki (1761-1801), banker, industrialist and landowner, appointed palatine of Kiev in 1791. The successive holders of Khmel'nik were Franciszek Maksymilian Ossolinski (ca. 1676-1756), grand treasurer of Poland from 1729 to 1736; his son Józef (d. 1780), palatine of Volhynia and the son of the latter, Józef Salezy (d. 1789 or 1790), palatine of Podlachia till 1774. The 'general' or amalgamated starosty of Podolia passed in the middle of the century from Jan Tarło (1684-1750), palatine of Sandomir to August Aleksander Cartoryski (1697-1782), palatine of Ruthenia from 1731. August Aleksander contributed substantially to the revival of the fortune and influence of his family, commonly known in this period as Familia. In 1758 he assigned the starosty to his son Adam Kazimierz (1734-1823). The starosty of Bar passed from the widow of Jerzy Dominik Lubomirski to her sons, first to Antoni Benedykt (d. 1761) and next to Franciszek Ferdynand (d. 1774), both sword-bearers of Poland. In 1775 a grateful Sejm granted the starosties of Bela Tserkov, Boguslav, Kanev and Khmel'nik to the king, Stanisław Agustus Poniatowski, in hereditary ownership. He in turn granted most of these benefices to members of his own family.

In the four-cornered struggle for Ukraine each party had pursued its own aims. The Cossacks wanted to extend the left-bank hetmanate to the Right Bank or at least obtain autonomy there; Russia - to annex the Right Bank, the Porte, seconded by the Crimean Tatars wanted to erect on the Right Bank a Cossack barrier against the further southward advance of the lord of the Muscovite Heartland (and could have done so, had it taken full advantage of its victory on the Pruth), the Republic would have liked to regain Kiev and, in the most favourable circumstances, the Left Bank. None of these aims was achieved. Mazepa's treachery cost the left-bank Cossacks their limited autonomy but was a gain for Sweden: without Mazepa's guidance Charles XII would not so easily have found sanctuary in Turkey. The Republic had to content itself with the suppression of Cossackdom and the assertion of its sovereignty on the Right Bank. It had recovered lost ground not by its own exertions but thanks to the stalemate in the trial of strength between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

Whereas on the Left Bank of the Dnieper the tsars instituted a stern and stable regime based on serfdom and administrative supervision from the centre, the restoration of the status quo ante and the abolition of Cossackdom in its traditional form did not bring order to the right-bank Ukraine. Renewed unrest was caused by the imposition on the peasants by the landlords of duties felt to be excessive and also by the deterioration in the treatment of colonists after their original contracts and exemptions had expired. A further ground for complaint was the systematic campaign of discrimination and coercion into acceptance of the Uniate rite conducted against the Orthodox majority of the population by the Uniate clergy and their highly placed Roman Catholic supporters. In this way the spirit of revolt and the memories of Cossack liberties were revived among the magnates' private militiamen still described as Cossacks.

The inability of the central authorities to exercise adequate control over so vast a territory invited the disruption of public order by bands of brigands. The haidamaky, as they were called (from the Turkish haydamak, meaning vagabond, marauder, cattle-thief), recruited from among the peasants on both banks of the Dnieper and the Zaporozhian and mercenary Cossacks, were to some extent actuated by the traditional eagerness of the local Ruthenian population to be rid of the szlachta, the Jews and the Uniate clergy. The sporadic outbreaks of violence caused by the social and religious conflicts which an impotent administration could neither suppress nor resolve, culminated in 1768 in the slaughter of the population of Uman' (Human) by an armed congeries of haidamaky and peasants. This was no mere local disturbance, it was a national disaster. About a hundred years ago an eminent Polish historian remarked that 'Under King (1764-1795) Stanisław Augustus no event occurred in the Republic's home or foreign affairs that did not directly or indirectly affect the Ruthenian lands.' Today it may be added that the inverse was equally true, as will be seen in the Epilogue.

Go To Chapter 4, Part I

Go To Chapter 5, Part I

Return to Contents Page