Wednesday, 21 February 2018 12:31


Oleksandr Palii, A History of Ukraine, 21.02.2018




Ivan Mazepa (a hetman of Ukraine in 1687–1709), was born in 1639 in Mazepyntsi (Kyiv region). He studied in the Kyiv Mohyla College, studied artillery and engineering, and spoke seven languages. He was a general chancellor (1669-1673, a head of the diplomatic department) in the government of hetman Petro Doroshenko and a general osaul (1682-1686, a head of the military headquarters) under hetman Ivan Samoilovych. More big churches were built and restored in Ukraine under Mazepa in 20 years of his ruling than in all the centuries under the rule of Muscovy. These majestic buildings have common features which art critics call the Mazepa baroque. 


the mazepa Ivan Mazepa

Ivan Mazepa, a hetman of Ukraine in 1687-1709 


With Mazepa’s support, the Zaporozhian Cossacks successfully stormed Turkish fortresses on the Dnipro in 1691. In 1695–1696, the Cossack fleet attacked Akcekum (Ochakiv), seizing dozens of Turkish galleys, while Mazepa’s regiments seized Islam-Kermen (now Kakhovka in Kherson Oblast). Taking advantage of Semen Palii’s rebellion, hetman Mazepa took over Right-Bank Ukraine and restored the unity of the Ukrainian lands in the Dnipro region.


However, Peter I (the Muscovy's tsar in 1682-1725) returned all the fortresses along the Dnipro river to the Turks. Peter I was remarkably energetic and cruel at the same time. He himself tortured his son to death, participated in sadistic tortures and executions and introduced blasphemous rituals.


Just having inked a truce with Turkey (Ottoman empire) on 29 August 1700, on the very next day the Muscovite tsardom, together with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Denmark, started the Northern War (1700–1721) against Sweden. Ukraine, occupied by Muscovy, was forced to fight for foreign interests. In the unusually wet climate in the north, the Ukrainian troops that worked at construction sites suffered from epidemics. Meanwhile, Mazepa learned that the tsar and his magnates had decided to abolish the Cossacks, appoint their vice-gerent to rule over Ukraine, and move Ukrainians out and settle Ukraine with Muscovites. “Brothers, we are standing on the edge of two cliffs that are ready to devour us,” Mazepa said speaking to Cossack officers. Eventually, the hetman opted for a Ukraine-Sweden union. The Swedes did not have a common border with Ukraine but had common enemies. 


the mazepa Charles XII

Charles XII, a king of Sweden in 1697-1718 


The Swedish army quickly grew accustomed to a victor’s role. Thou, on 9 October 1708 in the battle near Lisove (now in Belarus near Mohyliv), the Muscovite army started to flee, but the tsar ordered the Cossacks to kill everyone who was retreating regardless of rank. It was the first battle won by the Muscovites against the Swedes. 


Later in October 1708 Swedish troops entered the territory of Ukraine. On 8 November 1708 hetman Mazepa joined them with several thousand men. But his plans were thwarted by the absence of a majority of Cossack regiments in Ukraine, which were fighting far away in the north. Moreover, the population lost trust in the hetman, as it did not receive support from him when complaints were made about extortions by Muscovite voivodes. Mazepa evidently too long kept his plans to liberate Ukraine in deep secret. 


After unsuccessfully storming Baturyn, a capital of the Hetman State, the Muscovite troops used a help of a traitor to enter the city, which they then razed. On 13 November 1708 they burst into the city through a secret passage at night and killed its entire civil population. According to Istoriia Rusоv (The History of the Rus’ People), the main Ukrainian chronicle of the 18th century, “they killed all the townspeople with no mercy for the sex, age, or infants... The usual punishment was to quarter and impale a person alive and then they invented new forms of executions that frightened the imagination.” The Seim River was red with the blood of tortured townspeople; rafts with crosses from which the swaying bodies of the executed hung floated down the river. At the site of the Baturyn fortress there is now a mound with a monument in the form of a cross with a crucifixion. Attached to the cross is an icon which was found during excavations in Baturyn on the skeleton of a woman who was holding a little baby.


the mazepa icon Baturyn

Commemorative cross with an icon at the site of atrocities committed by the Muscovites in Baturyn on 13 November 1708


Similar atrocities took place in many other Ukrainian cities — Romny, Lebedyn, etc. Seeing them, the Zaporozhian Sich fully switched to the Swedish side — the entire Zaporozhian Host led by kish otaman Kost Hordiienko. In April 1709 the Muscovites massacred the entire population of the Zaporozhian town Perevolochna. The same fate befell other Zaporozhian settlements... 


In May 1709, the Muscovites besieged the Zaporozhian Sich. A thousand elderly Cossacks under the command of acting otaman Yakym Bohush defended the Sich for nearly a week. Part of the Cossacks were able to escape into the flooded fields near the Dnipro, but over 200 wounded Cossacks were captured and subjected to fierce tortures: they were skinned alive, quartered and impaled. Their bodies were sent down the Dnipro on rafts to frighten other Cossacks. Muscovy's tsar Peter I issued an ukase to have every Zaporozhian Cossack executed. A bit later, the Sich was restored, but in another place — downstream the Dnipro, near the old town of Oleshky in territory controlled by Turkey. 


Some 17,000 Swedes and 42,000 Muscovites clashed in the Battle of Poltava on 8 July 1709. The Swedish king Charles XII counted on the Ukrainian artillery but nearly all of it had been captured in Baturyn — up to 315 cannons, according to various estimates. As a result, the Swedes had six cannons in the battlefield against 102 cannons operated by the Muscovite army. The Swedes launched a desperate attack on the Muscovite positions but lost. 


The Muscovites held hostage the relatives of many of Mazepa’s officers. Almost all priests anathematized the hetman from fear of opposing the infamously sadistic tsar. Under the pain of death they had to declare an anathema on the hetman even in the churches he had built. 


the mazepa cathedral

St. Nicholas Military Cathedral, built at the bidding of Hetman Ivan Mazepa. The Muscovites tried to rename it, and the Soviets blew it up in 1934.


Those Ukrainians who did not follow their hetman never received a reward. According to the History of the Rus’ People, Ukrainians who captured Swedes and brought them to the tsar’s camp were “rewarded” with a shot of vodka and the words “Thanks, khokhlionok!” (a derogatory name for Ukrainians). Ukrainians began to be disparagingly called Mazepyntsi (Mazepists, Mazepa followers). They had limited access to official offices in Ukraine itself and foreigners began to appear among the Cossack officers. 


Only the Mazepa followers in emigration continued to fight for Ukraine. The most prominent of them were Pylyp and Hryhorii Orlyks, the Myrovych family and Andrii Voinarovsky, who was kidnapped by the Muscovites from Hamburg in 1716.


On 16 April 1710, being in Moldova, Pylyp Orlyk (Ukraine's hetman in exile in 1710-1742) wrote (two copies — in Latin and Ukrainian languages) and inked the first Ukrainian Constitution — a compendium of the rights of the Cossacks and people of Ukraine. Conceptually advanced, this document envisaged, among other things, the separation of powers, intolerance to corruption and the protection of veterans, widows and their children.


the mazepa constitution

The Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk, the Latin version, now in a Swedish museum 


On the main picture: Charles XII and Mazepa at the Dnipro River after the Poltava Battle, painting by Gustaf Cederström



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