The Full Wiki

More info on Zaporozhian Cossacks

Zaporozhian Cossacks: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

The Zaporozhian Cossacks ( ) were Cossacks who lived in Zaporozhia, in Central Ukrainemarker. The Zaporozhian Host grew rapidly in the 15th century by serfs fleeing the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The name Zaporozhtsi comes from the location of their fortress, the Sich, in Zaporozhzhia, the ‘land beyond the rapids’ (from za ‘beyond’ and poróhy ‘river rapids’).

During the course of the 16th, 17th and well into the 18th centuries the Zaporozhian Cossacks became a strong political and military force that challenged the authority of Poland-Lithuania, the Ottoman Empire and its vassal the Crimean Khanate, and the Tsardom of Russiamarker. The Host went through a series of conflicts and alliances involving the three powers before being forcibly disbanded in the late 18th century by the Russian Empiremarker.


It is not clear when the first Ukrainian communities on the Lower Dnipro began to form, but it is widely believed this took place prior to the Mongol Invasion of Rus in 1240. The once powerful state of Kyivan Rus fell apart and many of its dwellers left to find sanctuary in the open steppe regions of the Lower Dnipro.

Polish ambitions

Cossacks for their part were mostly happy to plunder everybody more or less equally, although in the 16th century, with the dominance of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth extending south, the Zaporozhian Cossacks were mostly, if tentatively, regarded by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as their subjects. Registered Cossacks were a part of the Commonwealth army until 1699.

Around the end of the 16th century, relations between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire, which were not cordial to begin with, were further strained by increasing Cossack aggressiveness. From the second part of the 16th century, Cossacks started raiding Ottoman territories. The Polish government could not control the fiercely independent Cossacks, but since they were nominally subjects of the Commonwealth, it was held responsible for the raids by their victims. Reciprocally, the Tatars living under Ottoman rule launched raids into the Commonwealth, mostly in the sparsely inhabited south-east territories. Cossack pirates, however, were raiding wealthy merchant port cities in the heart of the Ottoman Empire, which were just two days away by boat from the mouth of the Dnipro. By 1615 and 1625, Cossacks had even managed to raze townships on the outskirts of Istanbulmarker, forcing the Ottoman Sultan to flee his alace. Consecutive treaties between Ottoman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth called for both parties to keep the Cossacks and Tatars in check, but enforcement was almost non-existent on both sides. In internal agreements, forced by the Polish side, Cossacks agreed to burn their boats and stop raiding. However, boats could be rebuilt quickly, and the Cossack lifestyle glorified raids and booty. During this time, the Habsburg Empire sometimes covertly employed Cossack raiders to ease Ottoman pressure on their own borders. Many Cossacks and Tatars shared an animosity towards each other due to the damage done by raids from both sides. Cossack raids followed by Tatar retaliation, or Tatar raids followed by Cossack retaliation were an almost regular occurrence. The ensuing chaos and string of retaliations often turned the entire south-eastern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth border into a low-intensity war zone and led to escalation of Commonwealth-Ottoman warfare, from the Moldavian Magnate Wars to the Battle of Cecora and Wars in 1633–1634.

Cossack numbers expanded with peasants running from serfdom in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Attempts by the szlachta to turn the Zaporozhian Cossacks into serfs eroded the Cossacks' once fairly strong loyalty towards the Commonwealth. Cossack ambitions to be recognised as equal to the szlachta were constantly rebuffed, and plans for transforming the Polish-Lithuanian Two-Nations Commonwealth into Three Nations (with the Ruthenian Cossack people) made little progress due to the Cossacks' unpopularity. The Cossacks' strong historic allegiance to the Eastern Orthodox Christianity put them at odds with the Catholic-dominated Commonwealth. Tensions increased when Commonwealth policies turned from relative tolerance to suppression of the Orthodox church, making the Cossacks strongly anti-Catholic, which at the time was synonymous with anti-Polish.

The waning loyalty of the Cossacks and the szlachta's arrogance towards them resulted in several Cossack uprisings against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the early 17th century. Finally, the King's adamant refusal to cede to the Cossack's demand to expand the Cossack Registry was the last straw that prompted the largest and most successful of these: the Khmelnytsky uprising that started in 1648. The uprising became one of a series of catastrophic events for the Commonwealth known as The Deluge, which greatly weakened the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and set the stage for its disintegration 100 years later.


Cossacks had a great influence in all areas of Ukrainian life of XVII-XVIII centuries: culture, administration, military, and many others. The Cossacks were not only a military organization, but rather a mixture of public (aka Hromada) and political society. Later their legacy gave roots to such society as Sich and mlitary organization Ukrainian Sich's Shooters transliterated).

The Zaporozhian Host was led by a Hetman, aided by a head secretary, head judge, head archivist and the supreme government body called the Sichova Rada (council).Some sources refer to the Zaporizhian Sich as a "cossack republic", as the highest power in it belonged to the assembly of all its members, and because the leaders (starshyna) were elected.

Administratively, the "Left-bank" Ukraine was divided by military principal into polks (equivalent to regiment) which were part of the Moscow-formed gubernias (same as province). A Polk consisted of a number of kurins (several hundreds of cossacks called sotnia). There also was another part of the military organization known as kish equivalent to brigade) headed by the koshovy otaman and usually formed exclusively for military campaigns.
Zaporozhian Cossack with a head of a Muslim.
There was a cossack military court, which severely punished violence and stealing among compatriots, bringing women to the Sich, consumption of alcohol in periods of conflict, etc. There were also churches and schools, providing religious services and basic education. Principally, the Christian Orthodox religion was preferred and was a part of the national identity.

In times of peace, Cossacks were engaged in their occupations, living with their families, studying strategy, languages and educating recruits. As opposed to other armies, Cossacks were free to choose their preferred weapon. Wealthy Cossacks preferred to wear heavy armour, while infantrymen preferred to wear simple clothes, although they also occasionally wore chain mail.

At that time, the Cossacks were one of the finest military organizations in Europe, and were employed by Russian, Polish, and French empires.

Alliance with Russia

After the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654, the territory became a suzerainty under the protection of the Russian Tsar, although for a considerable period of time it enjoyed nearly complete autonomy. After Khmelnytsky's death in 1657, his successor, Ivan Vyhovsky, alarmed by the growing Russian interference in the affairs of the Hetmanate, initiated a turn towards Poland. An attempt was made to return to the three-constituent Commonwealth of nations with the Zaporozhian cossacks joining the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth by signing the Treaty of Hadiach (1658). The treaty, ratified by the Polish Sejm (parliament), was rejected at the Hermanivka Rada by the Cossack rank and file, which would not accept a union with Catholic Poland that they perceived as an oppressor of Orthodox Christianity. The angered cossacks executed Polkovnyks (colonels) Prokip Vereshchaka and Stepan Sulyma, Vyhovsky's associates at the Polish Sejm and Vyhovsky himself narrowly escaped death.
After Khmelnytsky's death, the Zaporozhians maintained a largely separate government from Hetmanatemarker, where the hetmans ruled. The Zaporozhians elected their own leaders, known as Kosh otaman, for one-year terms. In this period, friction between the cossacks of Hetmanate and the Zaporozhians escalated.

Cossacks who in the past fought for their independence from Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, were involved into several uprisings against the Russian Tsar, in fear of losing their privileges and autonomy. In 1709, for example, the Zaporozhian Host led by Kost Hordiienko joined Hetman Ivan Mazepa against Russia. Mazepa was previously a trusted adviser and close friend to the Russian Emperor Peter the Great but allied himself with Charles XII of Sweden against Peter I. After the defeat at the Battle of Poltavamarker Peter ordered a retaliatory destruction of the Sich.

With the death of Mazepa in Bessarabiamarker in 1709, his council elected his former general chancellor, Pylyp Orlyk, as his successor. Orlyk issued the project of the Constitution, where he promised to limit the authority of the Hetman, preserve the privileged position of the Zaporozhians, take measures towards achieving social equality among them, and steps towards the separation of Ukraine from the Russian State—should he manage to obtain power in Ukraine. With the support of Charles XII, Orlyk made an alliance with the Crimean Tatars and Ottomans against Russia, but following the early successes of their 1711 attack on Russia, their campaign was defeated, and Orlyk returned into exile. The Zaporozhians built a new Sich under Ottoman protection, the Oleshky Sich on the lower Dnieper.

Although some of the Zaporozhian cossacks returned to Moscow's protection, their popular leader Kost Hordiienko was resolute in his anti-Russian attitude and no rapprochement was possible until his death in 1733.

Occupation by the Russian Empire

Over the years the friction between the Cossacks and the Russian tsarist government lessened, and privileges were traded for a reduction in Cossack autonomy. The Ukrainian Cossacks who did not side with Mazepa elected Ivan Skoropadsky, one of the "anti-Mazepist" Polkovnyks (Colonels) as their Hetman. While advocating for the preservation for the Hetmanate autonomy and privileges of Cossack nobility, Skoropadsky was careful to avoid open confrontation, and remained loyal to the union with Russia. To accommodate Russian military needs, Skoropadsky allowed for stationing of ten Russian regiments in the territory of the Hetmanate. At the same time, Cossacks took part in the construction, fortification and channel development projects in Saint Petersburgmarker, to establish a new Northern Russian capital. Many did not return, and it is often stated that St. Peterburg "was built on bones".
In 1734, as Russia was preparing for a new war against the Ottoman Empire, an agreement was made between Russia and the Zaporozhian cossacks. Under the Treaty of Lubny, the Zaporozhian Cossacks regained all of their former lands, privileges, laws and customs, in exchange for serving under the command of a Russian Army stationed in Kievmarker. A new sich (Nova Sich) was built to replace the one that had been destroyed by Peter I. Concerned about the possibility of Russian interference in Zaporozhia's internal affairs, the Cossacks began to settle their lands with Ukrainian peasants fleeing serfdom in Polish and Russian proper. By 1762, 33,700 Cossacks and over 150,000 peasants populated Zaporozhia.

By the late 18th century, much of the Cossack officer class in Ukraine was incorporated into the Imperial Russian nobility (Dvoryanstvo), but many of the rank and file Cossacks, including a substantial portion of the old Zaporozhians, were reduced to peasant status. They were able to maintain their freedom and continued to provide refuge for those fleeing serfdom in Russia and Poland, including followers of the Russian Cossack Yemelyan Pugachev, which aroused the anger of Russian Empress Catherine II. As a result, by 1775 the number of runaway serfs from the Hetmanate and Polish-ruled Ukraine to Zaporizhiya rose to 100,000.

After the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, which annexed the Crimean Khanate into Russia, the need for further southern frontier defence (which the Zaporozhians carried out) no longer existed. Colonisation of New Russia began, one of the colonies, located just next to the lands of the Zaporozhian Sich was New Serbia. This escalated conflicts over land ownership with the Cossacks which often turned violent.

The end of the Zaporozhian Host (1775)

The decision to disband the Sich was adopted at the court council of Empress Catherine II on May 7, 1775. General Pyotr Tekeli received orders to occupy the main Zaporozhian fortress, the Sich, and liquidate it. The plan was kept secret and regiments returning from the Russo-Turkish war, in which Cossacks also participated, were mobilized for the operation. They included 31 regiments (65,000 men in total). The attack took place on May 15, and continued to June 8. The order was given by Grigory Potemkin, who formally became an honorary Zaporozhian Cossack under the name of Hrytsko Nechesa a few years prior. Potemkin, in his turn, was given a direct order from Empress Catherine II, which she explained in her Decree of August 8, 1775:

On June 5, 1775, General Tekeli's forces divided into 5 detachments and surrounded the Sich with artillery and infantry. The lack of southern borders and enemies in the past years had a profound effect on the combat-ability of the Cossacks, who realised the Russian infantry was to destroy them only after being surrounded. To trick the Cossacks, a rumour was spread that the army was crossing Cossack lands en route to guard the borders. The surprise encirclement put a devastating blow to the morale of the Cossacks.

Petro Kalnyshevsky was given two hours to decide on the Empress's ultimatum. Under the guidance of a starshyna Lyakh, behind Kalnyshevky's back a conspiracy was formed with a group of 50 Cossacks to go fishing in the river Ingul next to the Southern Buhmarker in Ottoman provinces. The pretext was enough to allow the Russians to let the Cossacks out of the siege, who were joined by five thousand others. The fleeing Cossacks traveled to the Danube Delta where they formed the new Danube Sich, under the protectorate of the Ottoman Empire.

When Tekeli became aware of the escape, there was little left to do for the remaining 12 thousand Cossacks. The Sich was razed to the ground. The Cossacks were disarmed in the mostly bloodless operation while their treasury and archives were confiscated. Petro Kalnyshevsky was arrested and exiled to the Solovki, where he lived in confinement to 112 years of age. Most upper level Cossack Council members, such as Pavlo Holovaty and Ivan Hloba, were repressed and exiled as well, although lower level commanders and rank and file Cossacks were allowed to join the Russian hussar and dragoon regiments.


The after effects of the Sich's destruction did not aid the Russian Empire. Supporting the increase in the privileges gained by the higher ranking leadership put a strain in the budget, whilst the stricter regulations of the regular Russian Army prevented many other Cossacks from integrating. The existence of the Danubian Sich, who would now support the Ottoman Empire in the next war was also troublesome for the Russians.In 1784 Potemkin formed the Host of the Loyal Zaporozhians (Войско верных Запорожцев) and settled them between the Southern Bugmarker and Dniestermarker rivers. For their invaluable service during the Russo-Turkish War, 1787-1792 they were rewarded with the Kuban land and migrated there in 1792.

In 1828, the Danubian Sich ceased to exist after it was pardoned by Emperor Nicholas I, and under amnesty settled on the shores of the Northern Azovmarker between Berdyanskmarker and Mariupolmarker forming the Azov Cossack Host. Finally in 1862 they too migrated to the Kuban and merged with the Kuban Cossack Host. The Kuban Cossacks served Russia's interests right up to the October Revolution and their descendants are now undergoing active regeneration both culturally and militarily. The 30,000 descendants of those cossacks who refused to return to Russia in 1828 still live in the Danube delta region of Romaniamarker, where they pursue the traditional Cossack lifestyle of hunting and fishing and are known as Rusnaks.


Although in 1775 the Zaporozhian Host formally ceased to exist, it left a profound cultural, political and military legacy on Russiamarker, Ukrainemarker, Polandmarker, Turkeymarker and other states that came in contact with it.

The shifting alliances in the Cossacks have generated a large amount of controversy, especially during the 20th centuries. For Russians the Pereyaslav Rada gave Tsardom of Russiamarker, and later Russian Empiremarker the impulse to take over the Ruthenian lands, claim rights as the sole successor of the Kyivan Rus and for the Russian Tsar to be declared the protector of all Russias, culminating in the Pan-Slavism movement of the 19th century.

Today, most of the modern descendants of the Zaporozhians, the Kuban Cossacks remain loyal towards Russia, many fought in the local conflicts following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and today, just like before the revolution when they made up the private guard of the Emperor, the majority of the Kremlin Presidential Regiment is made from Kuban Cossacks

For Poland-Lithuania, the Zaporozhian Cossacks, and the Khmelnytskyi Uprising effectively marked the beginning of its finale with the Deluge, which led to the gradual demise of the Commonwealth ending the Partitions of Poland in the late 18th century.

A similar fate awaited both the Crimean Khanate and the Ottaman Empire, having endured numerous raids and attacks from them both, the Zaporozhian Cossacks aided the Russian Army in ending Turkey's ambitions of expanding into northern and central Europe, and like Poland, after the loss of Crimea, the Ottoman Empire began to demise.

However the most important historical legacy of the Zaporozhian Cossacks is found in modern Ukrainemarker. It was their independence and will, and the memory left by their demise that would in the latter half of the 19th century shape and influence the idea of Ukrainian self-determination and independence. Ukrainian historians, such as Adrian Kaschenko (1858–1921), Olena Apanovych and others go on to interpret the final abolishment of the Zaporizhian Sich in 1775, as the destruction of the Cossack historic stronghold perceived as the bastion of protection of the Ukrainians and their ways of life, was the final blow that brought Ukrainians to the total submission of the Russian Empire.

The Ukrainian aspect of the Zaporozhians would be the stimulus of the emerging Ukrainian self awareness in the middle of the 19th century and culminate in a distinct Ukrainian nationality who would claim the Zaporozhian Cossacks as their progenitors. During the Sovietmarker times this point of view was slightly watered down in order to prevent the rise of nationalist sentiment, but at the same time supported (and becoming official) to create a negative image of the Russian Imperialist policies, yet retaining the Russophilic tendency of the Zaporozhians to justify Ukraine being part of the Soviet Union.

Zaporozhian attire, songs and music found its way into official state dance and music ensembles, which stylized the image of Ukraine in the years to come. Since the Independence of Ukraine in late 1991, attempts at regenerating the Cossack lifestyle have diverged into politics, horsemanship and cultural endeavours.

See also


  1. Cossacks at the Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  4. Olena Rusyna, Viktor Horobets, Taras Chukhlib, "Neznaiyoma Klio: ukrainska istoriya v tayemnytsyah i kuryozah XV-XVIII stolittia", Kiev, Naukova Dumka (2002), ISBN 966000804X. online fragment
  6. Volodymyr Antonovych, " Pro kozatski chasy na Ukraïni", Kiev, "Dnipro", (1991), 5308014000
  7., Whose Knights were Zaporozhians by Alexander Shirokorad, June 8, 2007 Retrieved October 17, 2007
  8. Encyclopedia of Ukrainian Cossackdom
  9. CIUS Press: Pereiaslav 1654: A Historiographical Study
  10. BBC-Russia release from 24 September 2005, В президентском полку прибыло [1] by Olga Lestnikova
  11. ", Adrian Kashchenko, "Opovidannia pro slavne viys'ko zaporoz'ke nyzove", Dnipropetrovsk, Sich, 1991, ISBN 5777503012
  12. ", Olena Apanovich, "Ne propala ihnya slava", "Vitchizna" Magazine, N 9, 1990.

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address