Monday, 05 February 2018 14:13


Oleksandr Palii, A History of Ukraine, 05.02.2018



The Cossacks turned the Black Sea into a true battlefield, although it was fully surrounded by Turkish territories. They seized Trabzon, Varna, Sinop, Kefe (now Feodosia), Kezlev (now Yevpatoria) and the suburbs of Istanbul, liberating many prisoners and capturing booty. 


In 1573, a squadron led by hetman Samiilo Kishka was defeated and he himself was taken prisoner. Chained to a Turkish galley, Kishka rowed for 26 years until he organized a rebellion of rowers. In 1599 they killed the Turkish crew and returned to Ukraine where they were hailed as heroes and Kishka was re-elected as hetman. 


In the late 16th century, the boyars of Moldova and Wallachia often called upon the Ukrainian Cossacks for help as they fought for power. 


In 1577 the Cossacks led by hetman Yakiv Shakh put a Cossack, Ivan Pidkova, who had a Moldovan background, on the Moldavian throne. He received his nickname (pidkova means ‘horseshoe’) for his incredible physical strength and ability to bend horseshoes. 


In 1615 the Cossack flotilla entered the Bosporus, on which the Turkish capital is located, burnt Turkish galleys in the Bosporus and ports close to Istanbul and released a large number of Christian captives. Sailors were recruited to serve in the Turkish navy under pain of punishment.


In 1616-1622, under hetman Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny (on the main photo) the Cossacks repeatedly defeated the fleet of the Ottoman Empire, the most powerful state at the time. The Cossacks developed their own tactics, using small chaikas (boats) each of which had two small cannons and 40-50 men to attack much bigger Turkish galleys armed with dozens of big cannons. The main objective was to distract the enemy ships until the enemy flagship was destroyed. Such actions were impossible without strict discipline in the Cossack Host and the Cossacks’ confidence in their brothers-in-arms. The Cossack Host had strict discipline during military campaigns. Those who got drunk or even as much as took alcohol with them during a campaign were thrown into the sea


In 1616, the Cossacks seized Kefe, the largest city in the Crimea, including its citadel and the khan’s treasury and freed thousands of captives. 


the camp kefe 1616

Cossack fleet destroying Turkish galleys and attacking the Kefe fortress in 1616, miniature, 1620s. 


Meanwhile, after the carnificial reign of Moscow tsar Ivan the Terrible (1547—1584), who had conquered Kazan, Astrakhan and Turan khanates, Muscovy saw the time of troubles and the Don Cossacks started inviting the Zaporozhian Cossacks to help them upport their candidates for the throne. The Cossacks took part in the civil war in Muscovy and defeated Muscovite government troops thrice — in 1604, 1608 and 1610. 


In 1618, a 20,000-strong Ukrainian army led by hetman Konashevych-Sahaidachny started assisting the Polish prince who, seeing the end of the Muscovite dynasty, wanted to become a Moscow king himself. In Muscovy, the Cossacks advanced with surprising speed, seizing more than 20 fortresses. Seeing them, the Muscovite army of prince Dmitry Pozharsky scattered and fled. Another voivode made a failed attempt to prevent the hetman from forcing a crossing over the Oka. The Sahaidachny-led Cossacks attacked the Muscovite forces and crushed them near the Donskoy Monastery. 


After the long war against Muscovy (since 1605) and according to the terms of the Truce of Deulino of 1618, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth regained control over Smolensk, Chernihiv and Novhorod-Siverskyi which Muscovy took from Lithuania a century earlier. Since then, the ethnic Ukrainian lands of Chernihiv and Novhorod-Siverskyi have always been part of Ukraine. 


In 1621, Turkey set out to conquer Poland. The armies met near Khotyn (now in Chernivtsi Oblast). The joined Turkish-Tatar army had, according to various estimates, from 180,000 to 460,000 soldiers besides auxiliary forces from Moldova and Wallachia. It was one of the greatest armies in the Middle Ages. The Cossacks had 40,000 troops. After five weeks of inconclusive fighting by the walls of Khotyn, six attempts to storm the Ukrainian-Polish positions and the loss of about a third of his army, the Turkish sultan Osman II learned about Cossack attacks in the Black Sea and asked for peace. The Poles admitted: “The real victors at Khotyn and the saviors of Poland were the Cossacks.” The triumph at Khotyn stopped the victorious advance of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. However, hetman Konashevych-Sahaidachny was wounded by an arrow and soon died.


the camp khotyn

Turkish Sultan Osman II with a vizier and janissaries leading captives, including Zaporozhian Cossacks, after the Battle of Khotyn. A propagandist picture from a Turkish manuscript. In fact, the Turks lost the battle


During the next Polish-Lithuanian war against Muscovy (the Smolensk War of 1632–1634) the Muscovite forces found themselves in a trap after the Zaporozhian Cossacks led by hetman Tymofii Orendarenko caught them by surprise by forcing a crossing over the Dnipro. Near Smolensk the Poles, the Lithuanians and the Zaporozhian Cossacks forced the Muscovite army to capitulate and led its men under a gallows to shame them. On the tsar’s orders, after this shame, the commander of the Muscovite army was perfidiously executed in Moscow.


the camp smol

The capitulation of the Muscovite army in the Smolensk War, Polish painting, 1634.


In 1637, the Zaporozhian Cossacks, including the future liberation war hero Ivan Bohun, made a surprise attack, together with the Don Cossacks, on the Turkish fortress of Oziv (Azov). They held the fortress for five years, repulsing the attacks of larger enemy forces.


the canp galley

Zaporozhians attack Turkish galleys, Turkish painting, 1636.


In 1643, Roman Katirzhny, a leader of another revolt of slave rowers on Turkish galleys, and his fighters seized a ship, sailed to Sicilia, then served to the Spanish king, but in 1648 they returned to Ukraine to support the Cossacks against Poland. Knowing many foreign languages he was a diplomat of the Cossacks


The Cossacks strengthened the authority of the Zaporozhian Host. And during the national liberation war of the Ukrainian people, which began in 1648, Turkey even took a pro-Ukrainian stance. 


All these activities showed that the Ukrainian Cossacks became stronger than not only the Muscovite army but also the Poles, who had achieved less in their campaigns.


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