Oleksandr Palii, A History of Ukraine, 29.01.2018
During the Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries, the Crimean khans often acted in alliance with Muscovy. These invaders took Ukrainians as prisoners and sold them on the slave markets in Kefe (now Feodosia in the Crimea) and Istanbul (now in Turkey).
Muscovite princes regularly instigated the Crimean khans to make military expeditions into Ukraine. As a result of one such campaign the Crimean invaders burned Kyiv and sent ritual implements from looted churches as a gift to the prince of Muscovy. During another raid they even killed the metropolitan of Kyiv.
Ukrainian hunters, fishermen, farmers and merchants who lived along the Lower Dnipro, were forced to keep their weapons ready for battle and gather in groups to put up a joint defense. They were joined by ambitious young people and outcasts. This is how the Cossacks emerged. The word “Cossack” meant “independent person” in Turkic languages.
Defense against the Tatars was organized by the starostas (elders, heads of administration) of border cities. The “war of raids” was fought on Ukraine’s borders starting from the 15th century. Local residents took turns to do watch duty at the outposts in the steppe and notified further outposts about the approaching enemy using fire at night and smoke in the daytime.
Portrait of a Cossack colonel, second half of the 17th century. Colonel Hryhorii Hamaliia from Lubny.
The first written mentions of the Cossacks go back to 1490–1492 when the Crimean Khan, Mengli Giray, complained about the residents of Kyiv and Cherkasy who had seized a Tatar ship near Tighina (now Bendery, Moldova) and attacked a fortress.
In 1493, the Cherkasy starosta Bohdan ruined the Akçakum (Ochakiv) fortress which the Tatars had built on the site of the Lithuanian Dashiv fortress and captured its garrison.
In 1514, the Ukrainian nobleman Ostafii Dashkovych from Volhynia, who was appointed as starosta of Cherkasy, defeated the Tatars multiple times.
Irked by the raids of the Cossack fleet to the Crimea, the Crimean Khan brought a horde of many thousands of armed fighters that had cannons and encircled Cherkasy in 1532, but was forced to retreat.
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