Polish republic: which nations’ country?



There is a monument on one of the central squares in Lublin, which was placed here at the beginning of the 19th century. The notice on it informs that it was built to honor the Lublin Union. In 1569, which laid foundation of the 1st Polish Republic was created – „The state of two nations” [i.e. Polish and Lithuanian – S. S.], which survived more than 3 centuries. The notice makes no mention of the fact that a significant part of the population living in one of the biggest and the most powerful states in Europe of that time were Ukrainians.[1] However, a long period of co-habitation within a single state body has left indelible marks in the historical memory of Polish and Ukrainian people.

Let us start with events that preceded the creation of Polish republic: 1) the revival of Polish state after the period of feudal separation and 2) the creation of Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The desire to revive the state of the Pyasts was noticeable among the populations of historically Polish lands during the whole 13th century. Particularly, the citizens of cities were interested in this idea since cities where the main place of commercial and financial activities. Also the knights were in favour of the idea since this new vision of the state could allow securing central reign and restrain the centrifugal tendencies of the princes in the particular provinces. Finally, also the Church saw the benefits it could gain through unification. To all these ambitions one should add that all these people had the sense of belonging to one ethnic and linguistic community.[2]

Cracow was chosen to play the role of the centre of the unification efforts. On 20 January 1320 it became a place of coronation for Polish kings for the first time, a ceremony which previously had taken place in Gnezno. That day the archbishop of Cracow Yanislav crowned prince Vladyslav I Loketek (Elbow-High).[3] This event had a symbolic and historical meaning for the fight of the Polish state’s revival and started the non-stop existence of the Polish crown till 1795.

The first Lithuanian state, which was later called Grand Duchy of Lithuania, appeared approximately in the middle of the 13th century, when the prince Mindaugas (Mindovg) (12301263) united the separated Lithuanian tribes. During the times of the great prince Gedyminas (Gedymin) (13161341) western Ruthenian lands (Belarusian) became a part of the Lithuanian state. Its borders came very close to Ukraine-Russ, which even in a century could not recover from devastating Tatar-Mongol attacks.

The historical research witness that the former great Kyiv of the 14th century lost the role of the capital city. In 1300 it was left by metropolit, who moved to former „Zaleska land” and soon settled in Moscow. For continuous time Kyiv, which was fought for by different branches of the Rurykovychs dynasty, did not even have its own prince.[4] For almost 80 years the superior ruler of the majority of Ukrainian lands was considered the Han of the Golden Horde – a state with a center in city Saray on the lower Volga, which was created after the split of Genghis-Han Empire.

For some time the traditions of Kievan Rus were supported by the Duchy of Galicia-Volhynia, which appeared in 1099 and after the attacks of Tatar continued to fight with them. It was headed by energetic prince Danylo Galytsky, who was eager to create a wide European coalition. According to some information he received the king’s regalia from the pope Inokenty the 4th – a wreath, a scepter, and a crown (the coronation was held in Dorogychyn in December 1253)[5]. Danylo (1263) was buried in Chelm, which was founded by him and which he wanted to become his capital.

The prince Danylo and all the Rurykovychys had to fight not only with external enemies but also with internal opposition – the boyars, whose positions were especially strong in Eastern Galychyna. Historians explain that the boyars’ class on the western borders of Russian lands had been formed long before the new dynasty appeared here on the basis of local family-tribe noblemen.[6] Moreover, this fight became one of the reasons of Galicia-Volhynia Duchy’s falling. Having poisoned in 1340 Yuri-Boleslav – a Polish cousin of the Romanovych, who was occupying throne of the Galicia-Volhynia state in 1323, the boyars got rid of the last prince on their own land.

Naturally, that the vacuum of power which was created in Kyiv and Galych, was soon filled by neighbors. When in 1367 the army of Gedymin’s son Algerdas (Olgierd) reached Kyiv, the citizens opened the city gates themselves, treating the Lithuanian prince as a savior from humiliating Tatar’s slavery. Soon, the power of Grand Duchy of Lithuania subordinated the majority of modern Ukrainian lands, except Eastern Galicia, which after the death of Yuri-Boleslav the Polish king Kazymir the Great (13201370) claimed his dynasty rights for. At the end of the 60s in the 14th century it joined the Polish crown. So, the territory of Rus-Ukraine was divided by its neighbors.

The separation of historical Ukrainian lands made the process of Ukrainian ethnos consolidation slow down but could not stop it. Presently, it is assumed that it was formed on the basis of two Medieval nations – Polish-Kyiv and Galicia-Volhynia[7], the area of which was a wide forest-steppe line, which spread for about 600700 km. from the northern east to the southern west between 52 and 49 degrees of northern latitude[8]. Eventually, already starting from the 14th century it was possible to talk about it as a separate ethno-historical unity with its own language, which included several dialects, territory, own culture, which roots reach the farthest historical periods. Estimations show that the population of Ukraine in that time was about 3.23.7 million people.[9]

The analysis of historical sources show that in different regions of Rus-Ukraine, which were now included in several states, at the end of the 14th century–in the first half of the 15th century there was a different ethno-political situation. Soon after Eastern Galychyna became a part of Polish state the ethic content changed deeply, caused by the increasing number of Polish and German people, the structures of catholic Church appeared as well as the first signs of „greek faith” prestige falling down. In the cities mostly inhabited by Polish Catholics, the relationships between them and the orthodox got worse, which were accompanied by frequent welfare conflicts. Gradually the „Russian” laws were replaced by „Polish” laws. According to Yedlytsky privilege of Kazymir the Great, which was finally introduced on Russian lands by his son Vladyslav the third in 1434 in Galychyna and Western Poddilya an administrative-judicial system of Polish land was introduced. At the same time, the boyars-knights class remained in the former Duchy of Galicia and received the same rights as the noblemen of the „crown lands”. This led to its quick as a prominent Ukrainian Historian Mychaylo Grushevsky said „sinking in a Polish noblemen’s sea”, having obtained the status of „noblemen-Russians of Polish descent”.[10]

As far as those Ruthenian (Ukrainian) lands are concerned, which became a part of Grand Duchy of Lithuania (the Middle Naddnipyanschyna, Volhynia, Podilya and other); there was a different situation. The new governors expressed the unchangeable respect to the local customs, acting according to the principle: „We do not touch the old, and do not introduce the new”, as it was said in one of the documents at that time. Having been put under the cultural influence of own subordinates, the representatives of the great prince family Gedyminasy accepted the orthodox belief and got quickly assimilated in Ukrainian environment.

According to the words of M. Grushevsky, the sons of Gedymin already „grow in different Russian cities, being married to Russian women, and being among the Russians, not only took the Russian element into account but they mostly felt like Russians themselves […]. The second generation of the Gedyminovychys was already Russian almost without any exceptions”.[11] The Russian language was dominating in the prince court: it is truly known that even in the last years of Yagaylo’s life, who was proclaimed to be a Polish king, he wrote letters to Vitovt in Russian.[12]

For over two centuries Ukrainian ethnos had relatively facilitating conditions for its development. So, in such a way, the whole official documentation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which included the majority of historical Ukrainian lands was in Russian, it means in Ukrainian-Belarusian literature language, which, as a famous ukrainian historian Ivan Krypyakevych stated: „all the documents, acts, government books, without any exception are written in and which had their separate, local style”[13]. The cities which used big privileges, kept own contrast, the city administration was formed among the local citizens. The leading, almost monopoly position on Ukrainian lands was occupied by the orthodox church, which played a very important role in preserving national customs and traditions. The well developed educational system was under care of the church and its organization satisfied internal needs.

The highest layer of the noble society on Ukrainian lands, which were included in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania during the second half of the 14th century–16th century consisted of princes – the followers of the Rurykovych and the Gedyminovych. The majority of them had family places in Volhynia, where at that time about 30 ancient families of princes were, in particular: the Ostrozhski, the Zaslavski, the Vyshnevetski, the Chetverynski and others. All of them possessed huge property and premises, but the princes Ostrozhski were the richest: in the 16th century their premises occupied about 30% of all lands in Volhynia (14 thousand sq. km.) including 100 cities and 1300 villages.[14] Naturally, that representatives of aristocratic families of Ruthenian (Ukrainian) origin often held the highest state positions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Besides, they had a right to start a war under own but not under alien’s flags.[15] Apparently, the preserving of the national elite was the basis of ukrainain ethnic development.

One more important feature of this process in the conditions of state absence was the foundation of Zaporizka Sich in the low lands of the Dnieper in the end of the 15th century – so-called knights formation of Cossacks. The name „Cossack”, eventually, is of turks origin, it means „a free, independent person”. This name can be come across in the 14th century in the polovetsky dictionary as well as in acts of Italian colonies in Crimea, and in Ukraine it was first found in 1490 for definition of people, who went to steppes to hunt and to fight with Tatars.[16] One of the reasons of Zaporizka sich formation was the creation of Crimean hanta with a capital in Bahchysaray, which was was controlling Crimea and the Black sea steppes, where subordinated by it, nogayski groups were living. It was calculated that since the beginning of 1482, when han Mengli-Girey completely destroyed Kyiv and to the middle of 1530 years Crimean Tatars led destroying fights in Middle Naddnipryanshyna, Podillya, Galychyna, Volhynia, Little Poland, Belarus, and even to far Lithuania almost every year.[17] These robbery battles, which aimed basically to recruit the people of „yasyr”, demolished Ukrainian lands. In the last quarter of the 15th century a new dangerous enemy appeared not far from the southern borders – the Turkish, who after taking over Constantinople (1453) began to play a more and more active role in European politics. Due to such conditions, Zaporizka Sich which had quite a democratic system, but was known for severe military discipline served as a powerful shield against attacks of Crimean Tatars, and a barrier for increasing appetite of the osman Empire, which was spread over historical Ukrainian lands. After foundation of it, the ethnical borders of Ukraine moved deeply to the far south.

At the end of the 14th century between Polish state was coming closer to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, it was due to the necessity of fighting with Tevton order, which was trying to occupy Polish and Lithuanian lands. Moreover, it was reflected in the Union of Krewo (agreement) in 1385 according to which a Grand Lithuanian prince Yagaylo Olgerdovych married a Polish queen of Hungarian origin – the eleven-year old Yadviga. However, he took a personal responsibility to implement Christianity among the Lithuanians, and to make the Grand Duchy of Lithuania part of the Polish kingdom. Most historians agree that the union „had a character of personal union of two states.”[18]

The process of uniting Lithuania and Poland which at the beginning differed very much in social-economic level of development was very continuous and took a lot of time. The noble – followers of the Rurykovych and the Gedyminovych did not rush to refuse their hierarchy in a Grand Duchy of Lithuania. However, their wealth and privileges caused much dissatisfaction among the small and middle noblemen on Lithuanian, Belarusian and Ukrainian lands, which wanted to get the same privileges as king’s noblemen had. That is why the representatives of this society supported a Polish king Sigismund August during the Lublin Sejm in 1569, which settled down the question about the final union of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Polish kingdom. The Sejm proclaimed the creation of a two-sided state with a common monarch and a legislative body and subordinated Ukrainian lands by Polish administration.[19] Four Ukrainian noblemen did not want to accept his decision for the longest period of time – Kostyantyn Ostrozky, Alexander Chartorysky, Bogdan Koretsky, and Kostyantyn Vyshnevetsky, but they were forced to be subordinated by power, multiplied by small noblemen. Accepting the decision of the Sejm the follower of ancient Russian family the prince Kostyantyn Vyshnevetsky during its last meeting said directly to the king: „We state, your majesty, that we join [Poland – author’s note] as free people – but we do not want to be lowered in our noble honor, because we are very honorable people, and we will not give our first rank to any other people of the world”[20] These words witness about the deep understanding of their ethnic identity.

Lublin union – is a culmination point of Medieval and Early Modern history of Poland, which completed the creation of a powerful state, which played a primary role in Eastern Europe. However, finally this political project, started by Krevska Union, failed, and Polish historian Eugene Starchevsky tried to explain the reasons of this failure: „The union of Poland and Lithuania is often called a wise step, made by Polish oligarchy on political chess board […] However, the outcome of this skillful step turned out to be fatal for the future of Poland. Having received the access to the great spaces of Russian and Lithuanian East, Polish ethnic borders gradually became worse; it left its old possession, Silesia in the arms of the germans. However, it directed its not numerous population and all the resources to the new territories. Whatever happened, in the end of the 14th century a Polish state grew in power, but Polish people lost, melted on Russian East and lost its ground in native Silesia. The life of Polish people became pale and weak […] If union with Lithuania in some time can become harmful for Poland. The negative consequences of this relationships deepened through the way this union was implemented and introduced in the 16th and 17th centuries. We mean the separation of Volhynia, Podillya and Ukraine (in 1569) from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and their joining of Little Poland. The unwillingness to give autonomy rights to Ukraine, at least such as Lithuania had, led to the understanding it as the land where the noblemen could easily get wealthy […]”.[21]

On the first stage of Polish state’s existence, the Lublin Union, as the Ukrainian historian and political scientist I. Lysyak-Rudnytsky noted, the Union „gave some undeniable benefits for Ukraine”, in particular: united its territories again, which are still divided between Poland and Lithuania strengthened military power, which was to protect from Tatars’ attacks and alien armies (first of all Ottoman Empire and the Muscovites); deepened the impacts of Renaissance and Reformation on historical Ukrainian lands, which became a stimulus for cultural development after long-lasting period of decay; made Russian and Polish noblemen equal in rights.[22] However, the Lublin Union made the position of Ukrainian people significantly worse: the natural wealth of Ukraine, which attracted the wealthy for a long time, „[…] attracted numerous Polish people and their greed overcame any state ideas. The Polish government during the chosen kings’ governing was too weak and short-sighted to prevent the creation of great possessions in Ukraine.”[23] Social contradictions, which are typical for any feudal society, gradually turned into national resistance on Ukrainian lands.

For some time those Ukrainian aristocrats, who were brought up in the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, considered their duty to take care of national culture, education, church. One of them – Kostyantyn Ostrozky founded a high school in Ostrig in Volhynia, further known as Slavonic-greek-latin academy (1580), where a big group of European intellectuals were invited. In the premises of prince, a book publisher Ivan Fedorov published his famous „Ostrig Bible” – the first Holy Scriptures, translated into church-Slavonic language (1581), which is still used by some orthodox church. The question of Constantinople patriarchy transfer to Ostrig was even discussed.[24] In 1632 the Kyiv-Mogylyansky collegium was founded, which later obtained the status of academy – the first high educational institution in eastern Slavonic and orthodox world.[25]

However, pretty soon it was found out that the followers of ancient Russian princes’ and boyars’ families could not protect the national interests of Ukrainian people. „The dominance of Polish aristocratic way of life and bar Rocco culture was so powerful, – I. Lysyak-Rudnytsky wrote concerning this – that for almost two generations after 1569 almost all aristocratic families and a significant part of middle noblemen became Catholics, accepting Polish nationality in such a way.”[26] The family of the prince Konstyantyn Ostrozky can be as an example: during the life of glorious Maecenas and protector of national culture his son and the follower Yanush refused from his father’s church and became a catholic. The consequence of this decision was evident pretty soon: the only follower of Yanush, his daughter princess Ann Aloiza turned the former institution of the orthodox education into Jesuit college. Small not wealthy noblemen resisted for a longer period of time than others, but it was too dependant on power in order to protect the national rights with dignity. „The privileged classes could not lead,” I. Krypyakevych wrote, „and that was a great harm for Ukrainian people, because only the privileged classes could develop a national life freely. The Ukrainian people lost their leading class and became an incomplete, broken body – and later on, in Hetman times, had to create the upper class again”.[27]

When Ukrainian noblemen became separated from grandfathers’ roots, the low classes started to play the leading role in protection of national and historical interests: they gathered around religious-educational foundations („brotherhoods”)[28] and the newborn social class – the Cossacks, and the Polish power felt soon the influence of their force and freedom. „Domestic freedom is overcoming, – the king Sigismund the 3rd (15871632) was writing about the influence of Cossacks on the life of Ukrainian society – and became so independent that it is hard for us as well as it creates conflicts between us and our powerful neighbors; having forgotten about their motherland they created a separate state. The entire Ukraine is listening to them. The nobleman is not free in his house. The entire king’s administration is in cities and towns, the whole power is in Cossacks’ hands: they occupy the judgment system, break the laws.”[29] Trying to subordinate the Cossacks to the laws of the Polish state and to use their military potential, the King Stephen Batory (15761586) allowed to create 6 „registered” or regular Cossack regiments and the Cossack administration headed by the chosen hetman. Each of them had a thousand of people, though the number of Cossacks was much bigger: the majority of them were not registered and was in Zaporizka Sich, where new and new escapers came every year. There were a lot of small noblemen representatives which mostly formed the Cossacks’ elders.[30]

The final polonization of former local aristocracy, the strengthening of social pressure and the Beresteyska Union 1596, according to which the untied greek-catholic church was created and subordinated to the pope – all this caused the deepening of national-religious resistance in Ukraine. Greek-catholics were supported by the king and the ruling circles of Polish republic, and the orthodox – by Cossacks, who in the end of the 16th century realized themselves as protectors of „Russian people and fathers’ faith”. In 1615 hetman Petro Sagaydachny with Zaporozke army joined the Kyiv brotherhood, having demonstrated that „from now on, Cossacks protected cultural-national movement”[31]. The consequences of national-religious resistance which was harmful for Polish republic were enormous Cossacks gatherings in the whole Ukraine at the end of 16th17th centuries led by Kryshtov Kosynsky, Severyn Nalyvayko, Taras Fedodorovych (Trasylo), Ivan Sulyma, Pavel Buta and others.[32] The 10 years „golden quietness” which came after the elimination of the last one (in 1638) was only a silence before storm.

This storm appeared in April in 1648, when a revolution was led by a talented Cossack leader Bogdan Hmelnytsky.[33] At that time Polish republic was one of the biggest European states, which had the population of about 11 mln. people. However, its state body was injured by internal diseases, caused by selfishness of the noblemen, which was covered by loud conversations about patriotism and „golden freedom”. These conversations sounded on the background of deep social gap between the noblemen and simple people.[34] On Ukrainian lands, where in the middle of the 17th century 5.3 mln. people used to live[35], this gap was getting deeper by national-religious resistance. The flame of revolution led by Bogdan Khmelnitsky occupied the whole Ukraine, and caused interference into Polish-Ukrainian relationships of the neighboring countries.

After long-lasting and exhausting military actions, during which none of the sides could get the final victory, Bogdan Khmelnitsky asked the Moscow Tsar Oleksy Myhailovych for help, having signed Pereyaslavsky agreement (1654) with his representatives. The original text of this document was not kept. On experts’ opinion, the agreement was a personal union, according to it a stronger side agreed to protect a weaker side, which in its turn took certain liabilities.[36] From historical sources it is known that Tsar agreed with the fact that the Hetman of Ukraine and the Cossacks’ elders would be chosen by Cossacks themselves at the Cossacks’ Council; Ukrainian administration and judicial system would be independent from Moscow; taxes would be collected by the hetman administration; the Cossacks’ registration would consist of 60 thousand people; on the territories of Ukraine the former division into classes would be kept (Cossacks, noblemen, merchants and spiritual people), each of them would keep his rights; Ukraine would have a right to negotiate with other states. Though, there was a Moscow army to be located in Kyiv under authority of the voivod, appointed by Tsar: the hetman was liable to inform Moscow about his negotiations with foreign embassies; Cossacks were to inform Tsar about the election of a new hetman.[37]

Having agreed with the signing of Pereyaslavsky agreement, a part of Cossacks authority headed by hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky hoped a new single sovereign would become a guarantee of keeping the local self-government and satisfaction of cultural and religious needs of Ukrainian people.[38] However, these hopes did not take the mentality of Ukraine’s northern neighbors into consideration, who were not even thinking of fulfilling their liabilities and started to violate the agreed upon promises. The hetman was especially angry with the circumstance that the Cossack delegates were not allowed to participate in the negotiations between Moscow and Polish republic in Vilno (1654). He came to a conclusion about his senseless hopes concerning the external support and in during last years of his life he was thinking seriously about making his power a heritage. The unexpected death of Bogdan Khmelnitsky did not give a chance to make this happen.

The follower of Bogdan Khmelnitsky – hetman Ivan Vygovsky continued to look for the ways to implement his state plans, having taken a range of preventing external-economical steps. He renewed the diplomatic contacts with the king Yan Kazymir and e signed with the representatives of Polish republic so-called „Gadyatsky contract” (the name originally came from the name of town Gadyach in Poltava region) in 1658. According to this document, three independent states’ federation was to be created: Poland, Lithuania, and Grand Duchy of Rus, where Kyiv, Chernigiv, and Bratslavske voivodships would be included. Each of this creation’s members would be united by the common king’s, sejm’s election and liabilities to agree upon actions during a war with external enemy and would use the whole autonomy of internal state. The highest legislative power in the Grand Duchy of Rus was to belong to the National meetings, executive – the hetman of the Zaporozya army, who would be elected for his entire life and would be approved by the king from the four candidates, elected at the Council. It was supposed that it would have own judicial system with running business in Ukrainian; the right to emit coins and treasury; army subordinated by the hetman which would include 60 thousand people of registered Zaporozke army and ten thousand hired army. The orthodox church would have equal rights with Rome-Catholic, the union on the territories of the Duchy would be cancelled. The foundation of two universities was allowed: Kyiv-Mogylanska academy which would have equal rights with Krakowska and a new created one where it would be needed; colleges, schools, publishing houses, and the introduction of freedom of speech and word. A significant number of Cossack elders was promised to give a status of Polish noblemen. The noblemen and catholic priests were allowed to go back to own premises, left by them after the beginning of „domestic war”.[39]

Of course, a conditional mood does not exist in history, so it’s impossible to change the past. And it’s still possible to agree with the words of a modern famous middle centuries historian Nataliya Yakovenko, who estimated the possible consequences of the agreement between Cossacks and Polish power: „If the ideas of Gadyatsky agreement – a bright memo of existing political-legislative opinion – were implemented, that would really give Polish republic a chance to be revived through the new ways of co-living of its people, and at the same time giving a guarantee to protect everything already achieved – the recognition of a human right for personal, property and political freedom”.[40]

However, the Gadyatsky agreement was left only on the paper: having been betrayed by that part of Cossacks’ authority which had pro-Moscow orientation, I. Vygovsky was taken away from his power and he was soon killed. After the death of the closest leader Bogdan Khmelnitsky, the Cossacks’ authority was finally split into those who stuck to the union with Moscow, Poland, and Turkey. A period of anarchy and non-stop wars began in Ukraine (16591686), which was given a concise but very expressive name – „The ruin”. As a result of brother-killing war with participation of neighboring countries’ armies, which lasted for almost two decades-thousands of innocent people perished or were taken as slaves.[41] Once blossoming lands of Naddnipryanschyna to the south of Kyiv became uninhabited and according to a famous researcher of the Ruin Dmytro Doroshenko, „[…] turned finally into uninhabited land”.[42] Dozens of years were needed to have people got back here. Polish people also experienced many hardships at that time. In July 1655 the army of Swedish king Karl Gustav the 10th came to the lands of Poland, which caused violence, robbery, devastation, and tortured religious feelings of local people. Almost 5 year staying of foreign invaders on Polish territories, which was accompanied by epidemics and hunger, economy decay, and decrease of the population was left in historical memory of Polish people as disaster under the name „Swedish flood”.

Simultaneously there was a war between Cossacks and Moscow, which resulted in signing the Andrusivsky armistice in 1664 for the term of 13.5 years, according to which Polish republic was forced to agree with the loss of Smolensk land, Ukraine on the left bank and Kyiv region[43], that was ¼ of its territory. The hetman Dmytro Doroshenko did not agree with such division of Ukraine, and he signed a union with a Turkish sultan. This caused a long-lasting war of Polish republic with Ottoman Empire and Crimean Khanate, during which Polish republic according to the Zhuravnensky peace agreement in 1678 temporarily lost Podilske voivodship with the city Kamyanets-Podilsk. Non-stop wars, which made the economy really exhausted were accompanied by a deep internal crisis of the Polish society. The situation led to the first military action in the history of Poland against the King’s power, known in the history as „rokosh Lubomyrskogo”.

In general, Polish-Ukrainian resistance in the middle of the 17th century started the epoch of calamities and gradual decay of Polish republic. Moreover, it had tragic consequences for both nations.

On the 8th of July 1709 an event happened on the territories of Ukraine on the left bank, which completely changed the political situation in Europe. On that day the army of the Russian Tsar Peter the 1st during the Great Northern War (17001721) near city Poltava overcame and broke swedish army headed by the king Karl the 12th, whose army the hetman of Ukraine Ivan Mazepa also joined and who wanted to gain the independence of Ukraine as well as Zaporozke army. Trying to escape from being caught, Karl the 12th and I. Mazepa moved to Osman Empire, where they received a permit to live in village Varnytsya near the city Bendery. In autumn the same year I. Mazepa died and Karl the 12th stayed here for several more years. The Poltava battle became a turning point in the history of Polish and Ukrainian people, marking the beginning of the final decay of Polish republic with further division of Polish ethnic lands between its stronger neighbors and postponing the independence of Ukraine for almost 3 centuries.

The strengthening of Moscow in Polish republic started during the elections of the Polish king’s Yan Sobesky follower (16741696), who became famous for his bright victory over the Turkish near Vienna (1683). Two candidates were trying to occupy the throne at that time – a french prince Francois Luis De Conti, who was supported by the majority of noblemen at the elective sejm 1697 and a saxon Fridrich August the 1st from the dynasty of Vettiny, the representative of the minority. Having used this situation, the Moscow Tsar Peter the 1st, being afraid of the strengthening France’s positions, through bribes and threats supported Fridrich August, who took the name of the king August the 2nd the Saxon (16971733). In 17041709 he lost his throne and it was occupied by voivod from Poznan Stanislav Leschynsky, who was supported by Swedish king Karl the 12th. There was a cruel fight between pro-Moscow side and pro-swedish side.[44]

Soon after the Poltava battle the meeting was held in Torun between August the 2nd the Saxon and Peter the 1st, during which the Russian Tsar took the liability to guarantee the safety of the Polish republic and supported the desire of the saxon to return a Polish throne to himself. As a consequence of complicated internal and external political fight, the Polish-Saxon personal union was renewed, however, the Polish republic got out very weak of the Northern war. This can be explained by huge material and human loss, caused by military actions on its territories and epidemic; not seen before political anarchy, connected with the fight of wealthy groups, which in the race for own benefits often ignored the state-national interests. The Polish republic which was considered a formal winner in the war lost also a part of ethnic territories of the Polish people; according to the Swedish-Prussian agreement in 1720 Western Pomerania with city Stettin (Szczecin), which was only returned to Poland after the end of the Second World War, joined the Prussian kingdom. After the Great Northern war the foreign interference into internal matters of Polish republic strengthened very much. This first of all was Russia, which less and less started to take its weakened neighbor into account, constantly and seriously interfering into its internal matters.[45] In the 1717 so-called Dumb Sejm took place, during which the ambassadors, surrounded by Russian army, were forced to agree with the limitation of the Polish republic’s army to 1820 thousand of people for the Polish Kingdom and to 6 thousand for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. These limits made any resistance against the threat of invasion of some of the neighbors on its territory (the proportion of the Polish republic army to the army of Russia, Austria, Prussia, were 1:28; 1:17; and 1:11) practically impossible.[46]

In 1724 Peter the 1st having used the conflict between the Lutherans and the catholics in Torun, announced freely about his plans to further interfere into the matters of the Polish republic with motivation to protect the rights of religious communities. Estimating this situation, a famous American expert in the history of Slavic nations Francis Dwornik wrote: „He gave his followers the weapon, which could be successfully used in any time and in such a way supported the division of Poland, where the threat of interference created obstacles for any reforms in its political life.”[47]

The rulership of Peter the 1st had even more tragic consequences for Ukrainian people: non-stop wars, which Moscow had with their neighbors, made the economy of Hetmanship exhausted – autonomy formations on left bank Ukraine in Russian state, where the Cossacks’ self-government headed by the Cossack elder was kept for long-lasting time. On the demand of the Tsar, the Cossacks military units included in Russian army during the Great Northern war were forced to fight far beyond the borders of their motherland – in Eastland (Estonia), Livonia (Latvia), and Lithuania. The Cossacks did not only receive any material rewards, but were tortured and disrespected by Russian officers. Moved in 1706 to Hetmanship the Tsar army behaved itself like on occupied land, robbing the local people. The Tsar Peter the 1st had the plans of Cossacks’ army reformation and destroying the autonomy of the Hetmanship, which I. Mazepa turned to know. This particular fact made the old hetman protect his „poor motherland”. At the beginning of 1708 he signed a secret agreement with Karl the 12th and Stanislav Leschynsky, the original of this agreement was not preserved. On historians’ opinion it was based on the idea of Gadyatsky agreement 1659 concerning the joining of the Great Russian (Ukraine) Duchy the Polish republic as a member with equal rights. Swedish king was supposed to be a guarantee of this agreement.[48] Trying to stop the Cossacks’ resistance, Russian armies headed by the closest man of Peter the 1st illiterate „prince” Oleksiy Menshykov used unbelievable medieval cruelty, having burned the hetman’s capital Baturyn and cruelly killed up to 15 thousand of citizens, who „[…] were in their own houses, and did not participate in Mazepa’s plans at all, having killed them all, having no mercy for women, babies and old people. After the cities were being robbed, while their officers and torturers were punishing the Serdutsky elders and civil governors. The ordinary punishment for them was to be quartered alive, to be wheeled and then the new types of tortures were invented which scared the imagination itself.”[49] In the same cruel way they killed the Cossacks-Zaporozhians as well, who left in Sich and having believed in the promise of the Tsar kept it untouched, without any fights they admitted the Russian armies inside: „The heads were hit, the neck was cut to the body, people were hung and other terrible killings took place, there were a lot of the dead – not only the community (Cossacks) and the priests were found dead, whose heads were cut, the skins were separated and hung”.[50] According to the order of Peter the 1st, in November 1708 Ivan Mazepa – a famous builder of the churches, who sacrificed a lot of money for the orthodox church – was given a ceremony, which was announced from that time in all the churches of the Russian Empire on the 1st Sunday of the Great Feast, in gratitude for the honorable withdrawal in 1918 in the times of hetman Pavel Skoropadsky.[51] The hatred of Russian nationalists to Ivan Mazepa, who made the last effort in the period of the Middle Ages to gain independence of Ukraine did not disappear even nowadays: recently the Kyiv church authority of so-called „Ukrainian Orthodox church”, subordinated to Moscow bishop, resisted deceitfully against the idea to give a name of glorious Ukrainian hetman to one of the streets in Kyiv.

One of Ivan Mazepa’s reasons for defeat was the absence of unity among the Cossacks’ elders of the Hetmanship, which at the end of the 17th century finally turned into a closed class, which tried to keep its privileges by all means. This explains the hesitation of the top Cossacks’ majority during the fight of the hetman and his supporters. Being stressed by unbelievable Asian cruelty of the „eastern Tsar” and his devoted „brothers”, they could not overcome own selfish instincts, willing „[…] to see and to wait, how the events would develop”.[52] The consequence of this profitable position, which made the protection of national interests impossible, became gradual decay of the Hetmanship. Soon after the Poltava battle, Peter I significantly limited its autonomy, having created so-called „Little Russia”, which included Russian governors the appointed by Tsar. This became the first signal on the way of cancelling the institution of the Hetmanshp itself, which was done by Catherine the 2nd (1764). Soon afterwards Zaporizka Sich was liquidated as well (1775).



*       *       *


The Polish republic existed up to 1795. From year to year a former powerful state was getting weaker. Polish-Ukrainian relationships, having been poisoned by the selfishness of magnates and religious contradictions, were getting worse, and caused a new explosion of negative energy of underprivileged people in the second half of the 18th century – Koliyivschyna (1768), during which thousands of people of different nationalities perished – the Polish, the Jews, the Ukrainians, they were cruelly torn apart by stronger neighbors, having put Polish people in a hard situation of getting their ethical and political body united. It took almost 150 years of serious hardships, fight and victims to solve this problem. It took even more time and victims for the Ukrainians in order to gain own state for the first time in their history at the end of the 20th century.

Poland became one of the first counties in the world, which in December 1991 recognized the independence of Ukraine and established diplomatic relationships with it. From to year the political, economical, and cultural relationships between Poland and Ukraine are getting deeper, which are facilitated by the gradual solving of complicated important problems, caused by the negative historical experience of the 20th century. One of the particular ways of cooperation became a creation of European collegiums of Polish and Ukrainian universities (2000) – an institution, which is a good example of search for the new ways of cooperation, aimed to strengthen the European community. The next step is – an implementation of big economical and humanitarian projects (the organizing and holding the European football championship in 2012), which requires huge tension of forces, a clear coordination of actions and tight cooperation, which will make the borders of both states more open and the distance between Warsaw and Kyiv – shorter. The history gives the Ukrainians and the Polish a chance to correct the mistakes of the past and to get better future together.

[1] One more nation tightly connected with the Polish republic is the Belarusians.

[2] Л. Зашкільняк, М. Крикун, Історія Польщі, Львів 2002, p. 59.

[3] More detailed info about this historical period: J. Baszkiewicz, Polska czasów Łokietka, Warszawa 1968.

[4] О. Субтельний, Україна. Історія, Київ 1992, p. 70.

[5] Н. Яковенко, Нарис історії середньовічної та ранньомодернової України, Київ 2005, p. 105.

[6] О. Субтельний, Україна. Історія, p. 63.

[7] Г. Півторак, Українці: звідки ми і наша мова, p. 179.

[8] І. М. Малахов, Моделювання розвитку українського етносу, „Вісник АН УРСР”, 1999,7, p. 815.

[9] С. І. Копчак, Населення Українського Прикарпаття (Історико-демографічний нарис), Львів 1974, p. 4244.

[10] More detailed info about this: Н. Яковенко, Нарис історії середньовічної…, p. 115120.

[11] М. Грушевський, Історія України-Руси, P. 4, Київ 1992, p. 353.

[12] The same.

[13] І. П. Крип’якевич, Історія України, Львів 1990, p. 119120.

[14] О. Субтельний, Україна…, p. 80.

[15] Н. Полянська-Василенко, Історія України, P. 1, Київ 1992, p. 353.

[16] І. П. Крип’якевич, Історія України, p. 132.

[17] Н. Яковенко, Нарис історії середньовічної…, p. 183.

[18] Л. Зашкільняк, М. Крикун, Історія…, p. 94.

[19] The same, p.122.

[20] І. П. Крип’якевич, Історія…, p. 119.

[21] E. Starczewski, Widma przeszłości, WarszawaKraków 1929 [notice and translation of the text by I. Lysyak-Rudnytsky – S. S.].

[22] І. Лисяк-Рудницький, Польсько-українські стосунки: тягар історії, [In:] Історичні есе, P. 1, Київ 1994, p. 8687.

[23] The same, p. 88.

[24] More detailed about this: Н. Яковенко, Нарис історії середньовічної…, p. 210

[25] See: A. Sydorenko, The Kievan Akademy in the Seventeenth Century, Ottawa 1977.

[26] І. Лисяк-Рудницький, Польсько-українські стосунки…, p. 133.

[27] І. П. Крип’якевич, Історія…, p. 133.

[28] More detailed about the activity of brotherhoods: Я. Д. Ісаєвич, Братства та їх роль в розвитку української культури XVI–XVIII ст., Київ 1966.

[29] І. П. Крип’якевич, Історія…, p. 166.

[30] More detailed info about this: W. Lipiński, Z dziejów Ukrainy, Kraków–Kijów 1912; В. Липинський, Участь шляхти у великому українському повстанні під проводом гетьмана Богдана Хмельницького, [In:] Твори, P. 2, Філадельфія 1980.

[31] Д. І. Дорошенко, Нарис історії України, Львів 1991, p. 209.

[32] See: Z. Wójcik, Wojny kozackie w dawnej Rzeczpospolitej. Dzieje Narodu i Państwa Polskiego, Kraków 1989.

[33] About the life and activity of Bogdan Khmelnitsky see: J. Kaczmarczyk, Bogdan Chmielnicki, Wrocław etc. 1988; В. А. Смолій, В. С. Степанков, Богдан Хмельницький: соціально-політичний портрет, Київ 1993.

[34] Л. Зашкільняк, М. Крикун, Історія…, p. 175.

[35] С. І. Копчак, Населення Українського Прикарпаття…, p. 4244.

[36] О. Субтельний, Україна…, p. 125.

[37] І. П. Крип’якевич, Історія…, p. 181.

[38] Some representatives of Cossacks’ elders refused to participate in Pereyaslavska Council and to swear the loyalty to Moscow Tsar. Among them was a charismatic colonel Ivan Bogun – one of the central persons in the novel of G. Senkevich.

[39] Н. Яковенко, Нарис історії середньовічної…, p. 373374.

[40] Н. Яковенко, Нарис історії середньовічної…, p. 374.

[41] See for example: Літопис Самовидця, Київ 1971, p. 120; С. Величко, Літопис, P. 2, Translated by В. Шевчук, Київ 1991, p. 178179.

[42] М. Дорошенко, Нарис історії України, Львів 1991, p. 324.

[43] According to the peace agreement Kyiv was supposed to be separated from Moscow for 2 years only. However, events in Ukraine created obstacles for implementation of this point of Andrusivsky armistice. Finally, Polish republic lost the former „Russian lands’ mother” according to so-called „eternal peace”, signed by Polish and Moscow diplomats in Moscow 1886.

[44] See about this: Л. Зашкільняк, М. Крикун, Історія Польщі, p. 200205; Ф. Дворнік, Слов’яни в європейській історії та цивілізації, Київ 2005, p. 463.

[45] Л. Зашкільняк, М. Крикун, Історія Польщі, p. 206.

[46] Н. Яковенко, Нарис історії середньовічної та ранньомодерної України, p. 468.

[47] Ф. Дворнік, Слов’яни в європейській історії…, p. 466.

[48] More detailed info about this: О. Субтельний, Мазепинці. Український сепаратизм нa початку ХVIII ст., Translation from English В. Кулик, Київ 1994.

[49] Історія Русів, Translation from Ukrainian by І. Драч, Київ 1991, p. 262.

[50] С. Величко, Летопись событий в Юго-Западной России в 17 веке, Киев 1851, P. 2, p. 497.

[51] The same, p. 115.

[52] О. Субтельний, Україна. Історія, p. 151.