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3 January, 2020  ▪  Назар Розлуцький

Capitulation kozak-style: The death of 1,000 cuts

How Ukraine’s statehood collapsed in the 17th and 18th centuries

When people speak about Ukraine capitulating to Russia, they think of it as a landmark development and definitely a tragic one. The average observer imagines a public memorandum or, on the contrary, a secret protocol, a flurry of diplomatic activity and, quite possibly, military action. That’s why many underestimate the danger of the capitulation process, as it is something that can span years and even decades. At the time, no single individual decision might have seen as critical, but the steady accumulation of systematic and consistent decisions eventually destroyed the public, civic and cultural foundations of Ukrainian institutions completely. This is what the Chinese call lingchi, the death by a thousand cuts, but in this case it’s the state and national body. The world will barely notice the loss of Ukraine’s agency, not only as a state but as a territory. In fact, Ukraine has gone through this more than once in its long history.

1654. The Treaty of Pereyaslav. The Kozak Hetmanate became Muscovy’s ally in the war against Rzech Pospolita. The March Articles on the terms of relations between the Tsar and the kozaks stipulated the full independence of the Kozak Hetmanate in its domestic politics plus some allied commitments and restrictions in its foreign policy.

Much can be said about internal squabbles that were the main factor in the Hetmanate’s loss of agency or about the “cursed” geopolitical triangle of Muscovy, Rzech Pospolita and the Ottoman Porte – Russia, Poland and Turkey, to this day Ukraine’s biggest immediate neighbors – that the young Ukrainian state found itself in surrounded by. But this article will focus entirely on the policies of Muscovy, later the Russian Empire, that permitted it to completely swallow Ukrainian lands within its ever-growing imperial body.

1657. Bohdan Khmelnytsky dies. The Hetman-led state was in a very difficult geopolitical position, but it was still there. It had territory, a fairly large and well-organized army, a relatively established central and regional power structure, a haphazard system of taxation and economic activity, and active international relations. The starting conditions were not great, but they were not the worst either. Nearly 140 years remained until the Kozak Hetmanate was fully absorbed into the Russian Empire.

1657–1659. Muscovy works to undermine Hetman Ivan Vyhovskiy, who pursued independentist policies, entered into a war with Muscovy and defeated its army near Konotop. Vyhovskiy is removed through the sabotage of the kozak establishment.

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1659. A new Treaty of Pereyaslav, now with Yuriy Khmelnytskiy. The Hetman is forbidden to conduct an independent foreign policy and to appoint or remove colonels without approval from the Tsar. Instead, the Hetman must send the kozak army upon first demand in any war with the Poles or the Ottomans. Kozaks are forbidden to re-elect the Hetman. Moscow’s garrisons are placed in five cities across Ukraine.

1663 and 1665. Hetman Briukhovetskiy signs Baturyn and Moscow Articles granting Moscow the right to place garrisons in all major cities of the Kozak Hetmanate. The maintenance costs are burdened on the local population. Ukrainian cities and lands are transferred to the Tsar’s direct rule. The Tsar’s governors are entitled to collect taxes for their treasury. Merchants face serious restrictions in trade. In fact, the kozaks remain the only ones who have any real rights, albeit curtailed.

1667. Muscovy and Rzech Pospolita sign the Truce of Andrusovo. This divides the territory of the Kozak Hetmanate in two: the Poles get the Right Bank while the Muscovites end up with the Left Bank and Kyiv. The position of the kozaks, their establishment and the Hetman is not taken into account. It’s only 13 years since Bohdan Khmelnytsky signed the ill-fated Treaty of Pereyaslav.

1669.After a massive rebellion, Moscow realizes that it had tried to incorporate the Kozak Hetmanate far too fast while the Truce of Andrusovo had split Ukraine’s territory, a risky step. The Hlukhiv Articlessigned by Hetman Demian Mnohohrishniy restored some of the rights of the Hetman administration. Among other things, the Tsar’s garrisons were left in just five cities, while fiscal policies were handed back to the Hetman’s bureaucracy.

1672. Newly-elected Hetman Samoilovych signs the Konotop Articles. They officially entitle Moscow to negotiate the status of the Hetmanate and Zaporozhian Host with other states without any Kozak representation. Ukrainian lands were turned de jure turn into a bargaining chip. The articles abolished company regiments, the Hetman’s personal units. From this time on, the Hetman had no military power of his own; his right to manage the kozak army had already been lost under Pereyaslav-2.

1686. Moscow and Warsaw sign the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, an agreement to finally break up the Hetmanate. That same year, the Kyiv Metropole is illegally annexed to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Ukrainian Church loses independence.

1687. Hetman Ivan Mazepa signs the Kolomak Articles. Among other things, these articles focus on abolishing national differentiation of Ukrainians by encouraging marriages between “the Little Russian people and the Great Russian people.” They oblige the kozak establishment to engage in spying on the Hetman and reporting on him to the Tsar’s administration. Some of the “more minor” aspects of the articles included the placement of a regiment of Moscow riflemen in Baturyn, the seat of the Hetman.

These were the conditions in which Ivan Mazepa found Ukraine. Obviously, it was hardly the “good neighborhood, friendship and voluntary unification” as soviet and post-soviet propaganda portrayed it in different variations. Just 13 years later, Muscovy launched the Great Northern War against the Swedish Empire and Tsar Peter I demanded that thousands of kozaks join battle without proper supplies. In fact, kozaks were forced to work on a grandiose building frenzy of the emerging empire, including the building of Saint Petersburg, as well as channels and fortifications beyond the Hetmanate. Using the state of war as an excuse, Moscow’s governors squeezed more and more economic resources from the Hetmanate and oppressed the rights and freedoms of the kozaks, the urban population and the peasantry more and more. When the Swedish army drew nearer to Ukraine, the Tsar told Mazepa that he would not allocate a single soldier, so Mazepa had to figure out a way to defend his land. Under the circumstances, Mazepa switched to the Swedish side. 

1708. The sack of Baturyn.In retaliation, the Muscovite army penetrated the fortified town of Baturyn and slaughtered 15,000 civilians living there. Those atrocities were a demonstrative revenge intended to intimidate the rest of the population of the Hetmanate. Peter’s next step was to destroy Zaporozhian Sich. It was only revived in that territory some 26 years later when Russia’s rulers once again needed allies to fight against Crimea and the Porte.

1709. The Battle of Poltava.The defeat ofMazepa and the Swedes in the 1709 Battle of Poltava brought an end to the Ukrainian statehood project. The Reshetylivka Articles submitted by Hetman Ivan Skoropadskiy that July further limited the Hetman’s already curtailed powers. But the Russian government and its representatives—Muscovy became the Russian Empire in 1721—had no intention of honoring them. After Skoropadskiy died, Peter I decided that it was time to abolish the institution of the Hetman once and for all. Instead of scheduling elections, he established the Little Russian Collegium as a separate entity to rule the territory of the Kozak Hetmanate. The kozak leadership that tried to oppose the new order was arrested and its leader, Pavlo Polubotok, died in jail.

1720-1750. Slow destruction and russification.The Ottoman Porte was the major opponent of the Russian Empire, meaning that the timing was not right for a “final solution” in the Ukrainian question. As the Russian empire grew by leaps and bounds, having allies rather than enemies on its southern frontier worked for the Tsar. Because of that, the institution of the Hetman was restored and abolished on and off, while rank-and-file kozaks were allowed to rebuild the Sich on its original territory and exercise their own administration in the Lower Dnipro valley. Still, bits and pieces were chipped away from the kozak lands from time to time to resettle people from the Balkans. As a result, temporary entities like Novoserbia and Slovianoserbia emerged there. Meanwhile, the real imperial offensive unfolded in the humanitarian domain: decrees came out to ban books in Ukrainian, withdraw old Ukrainian books from use, and rewrite all state decrees and instructions in Russian only.

1764-65. Catherine “unifies” Ukraine. The ultimate “unification” of Ukraine started after Catherine II came to power. In 1764, she finally abolished the institution of the Hetman and established the Second Little Russian Collegium. In 1765, she abolished the kozak military order of regiments and companies in Sloboda Ukraine, which did not report to the Hetman but were self-governing. Ukraine had finally been turned into an ordinary Russian guberniaor province.

1775. The Sich is abolished. Following the Russo-Turkish war won with the help of the kozaks, Catherine II abolished Zaporozhian Sich and all kozak freedoms in the Lower Dnipro valley. The order of regiments and hundreds was abolished throughout the Hetmanate in the 1780s and serfdom was introduced among Left-Bank Ukraine peasantry, units of registered kozaks were merged with the Russian army, russification intensified, and favorable conditions were created for the russification of the kozak elite by equating their rights with those of Russian aristocracy. The incorporation of Ukraine into the Russian imperial body was thus conducted in all spheres.

1786. Second Little Russian Collegium is disbanded, having served its purpose in ultimately destroying the remnants of Ukrainian independence. New imperial gubernias replaced the Kozak Hetmanate and Zaporozhian Sich. After Right-Bank Ukraine, Podillia and Volyn were annexed from Rzech Pospolita, this well-tested strategy was applied to that territory as well.

By the end of the 18th century, no signs of differentiation between Ukrainian and Russian territory remained. And yet, no one step in this process had been seen as the ultimate capitulation.

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Translated by Lidia Wolanskyj

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