1. WHY DID MAZEPA
Commentary: By Taras Chukhlib
Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 16, 2009
recently hosted the international roundtable “The Battle of Poltava:
Its Perception Centuries Later,” involving scholars from Russia,
Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine. The roundtable was supported by Russia’s
president and the Russian historical journal Rodina. The participants
discussed issues relating to the Great Northern War (1700–21) in
general and the Battle of Poltava in particular.
author represented the Institute of Ukrainian History, the National
Academy of Sci-ences of Ukraine, and what follows is the unabridged
text of his presentation.
We believe that the reasons behind the Ukrainian Hetman Ivan Mazepa’s
refusal to accept Russia’s protection, as offered by Peter I shortly
before the Battle of Poltava, should be assessed in terms of
international political and legal relations that had taken shape in
Europe by then.
that time the relations between the sovereign and vassal countries were
based on a social contract that consisted of the rights and obligations
to be honored on a mutual basis. The vassals promised “obedience,
service, and loyalty” in return for the ruling nation’s “protection and
Such accords were
then based on mutual voluntary obligations, so that the rulers of the
sovereign states—kings, tsars, and emperors—had to observe the core
principles of recognition and safeguarding of their subjects’ “age-old
rights and privileges”, provide military protection to them, etc. If
the protecting state failed to fulfill its obligations, any such
subject—a prince, duke, baron, elector, boyar, or hetman—had the right
to rise against the ruler or seek another, more trustworthy one.
The 1710 Pacts and
Constitutions of Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporozhian Host mentioned
the main reasons behind Ukraine’s rejection of Muscovy’s protection:
when Ukraine was governed by Hetman Mazepa, “Muscovy wanted to carry
out its ill-wishing schemes and repaying good with evil, instead of
rewarding [Ukraine] for countless good services, pursuit thereof until
complete destruction, expenditures and losses, countless displays of
courage and military campaigning. Muscovy wanted to transform the
Cossacks into the regular army, subordinate Ukrainian cities, cancel
the rights and liberties, uproot the Zaporozhian Host, etc.
Peter I’s manifesto,
dated Nov. 1, 1708, reads that Hetman Mazepa “has betrayed … me as the
Tsar of Muscovy, for no obvious reason, siding with Charles XII of
Sweden…” In other words, the Russian tsar did not see the obvious
reasons behind what he regarded as a treacherous act on the part of his
long-term vassal and simply declared that Mazepa was Russia’s
a scholarly analysis of Ukraine-Muscovy relations in the early 18th
century shows that Peter I of Russia was the first to have acted
contrary to the bilateral accords between Russia and Ukraine—the
Kolomak Articles of 1687 and the Moscow Articles of 1689—that
guaranteed the Cossack autonomy, with its rights and liberties, under
Muscovy’s rule. There were tangible reasons for Ukraine to side with
Sweden, most of which were deeply rooted in history and were systemic
1. Muscovy had no intention
of resolving the issue of Ukraine’s union by way of placing its
Right-Bank territory back under the hetman’s rule.
Mazepa inherited the
problem of re-uniting Cossack Ukraine from Hetman Ivan Samoilovych
(1672–87). The idea of uniting Left-Bank and Right-Bank Ukraine was
conceived by the Mazepa administration practically after its inception,
despite the 1686 Eternal Peace Treaty between Muscovy and the
Mazepa first tried to implement it together with the Right-Bank Colonel
Semen Palii when they negotiated military operations with Moscow
against the Rzeczpospolita in the second half of 1692. After the Great
Northern War broke out in 1700, Hetman Mazepa believed he could extend
his authority over Right-Bank Ukraine, given proper military aid, so he
exerted diplomatic pressure on the Kremlin.
As it was, a special
clause was added to the Narva agreement between the Rzeczpospolita and
Muscovy on Sept. 30, 1704, whereby Palii was to return (“in a voluntary
or forced way”) to Poland all of the fortresses captured by the Cossack
troops on the Right Bank. In view of events on the battlefield, the
Hetman of Ukraine received a letter from Peter I of Russia only on Oct.
7, 1707, suggesting that “Bila Tserkva and Right-Bank Ukraine” should
return to the Rzeczpospolita as its “possession.”
To this Mazepa
replied that Right-Bank Ukraine could not be handed over to the Polish
Kingdom as its possession, except if the Russian tsar issued a special
ukase to this effect. In a letter to Count Golovkin, dated Dec. 10,
1707, Mazepa wrote that the occupation of Right-Bank Ukraine by Polish
troops was not possible, considering that the Cossacks lived
“practically everywhere” in Wroc aw and Kyiv voivodeships. Without
waiting for instructions from Peter I, Mazepa simultaneously ordered
the colonels in Right-Bank Ukraine to ban Polish troops entry to the
quote Mazepa as making the following important statement in the fall of
1707: “I shall remain loyal to His Royal Majesty until I can see the
forces brought to the Ukrainian frontier by Stanis aw [I Leszczynski of
Poland], what progress the Swedish troops have made in Muscovy, and if
I see that I cannot defend Ukraine and myself [against the enemy], then
why should I allow myself and my Fatherland to die? God will be my
witness as I will act as the circumstances will dictate, in order to
preserve my free, unconquered people and the integrity of my country…”
other words, one of the main reasons behind Hetman Mazepa’s decision to
start considering the possibility of withdrawal from Muscovy, back in
1707, was the inability of the Muscovite government to solve the
problem of Ukraine’s unity at the time.
2. Peter I and his
subordinates started taking active measures to curb the Ukrainian
hetman’s political rights.
Mazepa’s General Military Chancellor Pylyp Orlyk, Countess Anna Dolska
described a conversation with two Russian generals, Sheremetyev and
Renne in Lviv (1706), in a letter to Mazepa. General Renne had said: “O
Lord, have pity on that good and clever man. The poor man does not know
that the Count Alexander Danilovich (Menshikov) digs a grave for him,
and after he is rid of him (Mazepa), then he himself will become the
Hetman of the Ukraine.”
After Pylyp Orlyk
finished reading the letter Mazepa said, “I know well what they want to
do with me and all of you. They want to satisfy me with the title of a
Prince of the Holy Roman Empire. They want the officer corps
annihilated, our cities turned over to their administration, and their
own governors appointed. If our people should oppose them, they would
send them beyond the Volga, and the Ukraine will be settled by their
contemporary sources have it that Mazepa harbored a grudge against
Peter I after he had visited Kyiv in 1706 and ordered the Russian and
Ukrainian troops to advance in the direction of Volhynia, and appointed
Menshikov as commander of the allied forces, thus subordinating the
Hetman of Ukraine to a Russian nobleman.
In 1707 the hetman’s
chancellery happened to get its hands on Menshikov’s letter addressed
to the Ukrainian Colonel Tansky. The latter was ordered, bypassing the
hetman, to move his regiment to join the Russian forces. Mazepa read it
and was outraged by Count Menshikov ordering his (Mazepa’s) people
said that if Colonel Tansky had carried out Menshikov’s order, he would
have shot him like a rabid dog. He wrote in a letter to Ivan
Skoropadsky (Oct. 30, 1708): “They want to get all of us under their
tyrannical control, the Hetman, the Cossack general officers, colonels,
the entire Zaporozhian Host with our legitimate rights and liberties…”
3. Moscow launched a radical
transformation of the administrative system in the Ukrainian Hetman
On Dec. 18, 1707,
Peter I issued a ukase setting up Kyiv gubernia, an area around Kyiv
with the radius of “a hundred versts“ (around 107 kilometers). Kyiv
gubernia thus became one of the eight new administrative territorial
units added to the Russian empire, along with those of Moscow,
Ingermanland, Smolensk, Arkhangelsk, Kazan, Azov, and Siberia.
Kyiv gubernia was to
comprise such cities as Pereiaslav (the headquarters of the Pereiaslav
Regiment of the Ukrainian Hetmanate), Chernihiv (Chernihiv Regiment),
Nizhyn (Nizhyn Regiment), etc. The governor of Kyiv gubernia was vested
with the following powers: “Those placed in charge of the gubernias are
hereby instructed to take care of all taxes and duties, also to attend
to other matters and be prepared to report to His Royal Majesty.”
long, Russian Count Golitsyn was appointed governor of Kyiv gubernia.
In the aforecited letter to Skoropadsky, Hetman Mazepa had this to say
with regard to changes to the Ukrainian Hetmanate that benefited
Muscovy: “Moscow started turning over Little Russian cities to its own
administration without our consent.”
4. Moscow cut the Ukrainian
hetman’s powers in such areas as economy, finance, and allocation of
parcels of land for the Cossack starshyna (officers).
On Jan. 13, 1700,
Peter I issued a decree authorizing H. Zarudny, the judge advocate of
the Myrhorod Regiment, to take possession of the village of Tukh.
document has a very special meaning in comprehending Russia’s economic
policy with regard to Ukraine.
reads that, contrary to the ukase issued by “His Royal Majesty, Hetman
Ivan Mazepa of the Zaporozhian Host on both sides of the Dnipro, gave
him [Zarudny] in possession the village of Tukh with its populace,
which is in Yareskiv Company of the Myrhorod Regiment, as attested by a
decree issued by the said Hetman who is a subject of His Royal Majesty,
whereas there was no decree issued to this effect by His Royal Majesty
… therefore His Royal Majesty hereby decrees to grant possession of the
said village and its residents [to Zarudny].”
In other words, with
the start of the Great Northern War, Peter I tried to deprive Hetman
Mazepa of his rather important right to grant parcels of land to senior
Cossack officers. Thus, at the beginning of 1701, Kyiv Colonel K.
Mokievsky informed Mazepa that, during his visit to Moscow with a
delegation, they had tried to talk him into accepting Peter I’s deed
that gave him ownerships rights to land in Ukraine and that he had
replied to the Russian tsar’s official, “I have no right and will not
accept any land ownership without my hetman’s knowledge and consent.”
On Dec. 20, 1704,
Peter I issued a decree addressing “all of the Zaporozhian Host” and
enforcing the Muscovite currency on Ukraine, although previously this
country used various European currencies.
5. Moscow made every effort
to limit in all possible ways the Ukrainian starshyna’s political and
During Peter I’s
visit to Kyiv in 1706, Count Menshikov demanded that Hetman Mazepa
restrict the authority of the general and regiment-level starshyna.
“Mr. Mazepa, it’s high time you started dealing with those enemies,” he
kept telling the hetman, and by “those enemies” he meant Cossack
colonels. After the Russian tsar and his entourage left Kyiv, Mazepa
informed his starshyna about Menshikov’s insistent requests, which were
obviously done with his sovereign’s knowledge and consent.
Ukrainian elite’s response was: “As ordered by His Royal Majesty, the
obedient and faithful Cossacks are serving without any resistance in
long-term military campaigns, sparing not their cattle and shedding
their blood, be it in Livonia, Poland, Lithuania, the Kazan State,
cities by the Don River.
get killed in action and their numbers are dropping, but in return for
their past and present faithful service, in particular during the war
with Turkey (1686–1700), they receive no recognition. Instead, they are
being shown disrespect and branded as idlers. Our faithful service is
not appreciated. Rather, they are planning on our destruction.”
Andrii Voinarovsky later said the general starshyna first learned about
Mazepa’s disillusionment with Muscovy, at a council held in Kyiv in the
winter of 1707: “It happened on Christmas Eve; as usual, my uncle
played host to colonels. It was then that I heard him say to them, ‘If
I had not stood up for you, you would’ve long been demoted to
6. Peter I started
“reforming” the Cossack Host and members of his government began giving
orders to Ukrainian ranking officers.
In 1705 I. Chernysh,
a member of the Cossack starshyna at Hrodno, forwarded to Baturyn a
copy of Peter I’s decree ordering every fifth Cossack of the Kyiv and
Pryluky regiments to be sent to Prussia “for drilling and becoming a
member of a regular dragoon regiment.”
Orlyk later testified that Mazepa received “His Royal Majesty’s ukase
on Cossacks to be drafted, like the Sloboda regiments, and that [this
ukase] scared and angered all of the colonels and starshyna so much
that they could discuss nothing else but that this ukase was aimed at
conscripting every fifth Cossack as dragoons and privates.”
In 1706 Peter I
ordered the formation of a special military unit, the Ukrainian
Division, by way of merging city-quartered and cavalry regiments in
Left-Bank and Sloboda Ukraine. The division’s commanding officer was to
be appointed by the Russian tsar. For the duration of a military
campaign he took command of all Cossack and Russian units stationed in
In May 1708 Major
Dolgorukov of the Leib Guard Preobrazhensky Regiment received command
of “all Muscovites, stolniks [members of the royal court responsible
for serving the royal table], clerks, noblemen, members of the royal
court, local police, and officers and men, including the dragoons,
infantrymen, Sloboda Cherkasy regiments and the hetman’s many regiments
Russian Voivode Golitsyn of Kyiv gave orders to Dolgorukov and all
Ukrainian troops. In November 1707 Mazepa handed over to his command
the “newly organized” Fortress of Pechersk and its Cossack garrison.
In the early 18th
century, the Ukrainian elite had reasons to see a threat to Ukraine’s
traditional political and military order in the loss of control over
the military, its transformation into a part of the Russian army, and
changes to the existing traditional power and social model.
7. Muscovy failed to
adequately protect Ukraine against the Swedish offensive.
During a military
council in Zhovkva (1707) Hetman Mazepa asked Peter I for 10,000
Russian troops to cover Ukraine’s frontiers to which his sovereign
replied that he couldn’t give him ten men, let alone 10,000, and that
he would have to rely on his own resources. The Russian tsar also
stressed that Mazepa had to exhaust Charles XII’s army by avoiding a
major battle and by retreating to Muscovy, as far as possible.
the scorched-earth strategy had to be used against the advancing
Swedes. Anticipating a possible Swedish-Polish attack on Kyiv in the
second half of 1707 and in 1708, Peter I ordered in the fourth clause:
“during the enemy’s advance, if and when the Caves Monastery is
besieged and taken, you shall retreat from Kyiv, leaving the city
empty, and proceed beyond the Dnieper.”
It is an established
historical fact that Hetman Mazepa sent his aide-de-camp D. Maksymovych
to inform Peter I that he disagreed with his decision to have “all our
troops [deployed] so far away from Ukraine, so that if the enemy
invaded Ukraine, there would be no one to defend it.” The Russian
army’s constant retreat, meant to exhaust the enemy with local
skirmishes, irked the Cossack starshyna and the Ukrainian populace.
took advantage of this situation when he stated in a Nov. 15, 1708
decree that “Moscow… cannot drive back the enemy, what with its troops
retreating from the Swedish army to Russia’s borders, leaving us and
Little Russia defenseless and helpless.”
8. Russian military officers
and privates exercised arbitrary rule with regard to the Ukrainian
In one of his
earliest letters to Peter I (dated April 16, 1703), Hetman Mazepa
complained that Russian military units stationed in Left-Bank Ukraine
treated the populace rudely: “I have received repeated complaints from
my ranking army officers, people of noble birth, also from residents of
Nizhyn, that servicemen under the command of Your Royal Majesty assault
them physically and otherwise mistreat and offend them on a large
In 1705 the Kyiv and
Pryluky regiments deployed to Western Belarus under the command of
Acting Hetman Dmytro Horlenko where they performed combat operations
jointly with the Russian army. Horlenko wrote to Mazepa complaining of
“numerous instances of mistreatment, abuse, physical assault, theft of
horses, and Cossacks being murdered by men of Great Russian officers
and their subordinates.” It came to the point that the acting hetman
was insidiously “pushed off his horse and then the horses and the carts
were taken away from him and his subordinates.”
In 1706 they started
energetically building the Pechersk Fortress in Kyiv and the local
Cossack officers repeatedly complained to Baturyn that
“Moscow-appointed officials who were directing the construction works
hit the Cossacks with sticks on the head, cut off ears with swords, and
otherwise mistreated them.
Cossacks had to abandon the harvesting season to carry the burden of
their work in their service to His Royal Majesty, while people from
Great Russia were looting their homes, raping their wives and
daughters, taking away their horses and cattle, and beating local
Cossack officials to death.”
eyewitness accounts have it that in response to such violence on the
part of Moscow-appointed officials, Horlenko told Mazepa: “Just as we
keep praying for our Lord to rest the soul of Khmelnytsky, holding his
memory sacred, being grateful for what he did to rid Ukraine of the
Polish yoke, so we and our posterity will condemn you as our Hetman,
and your posterity if you leave us in this (Russian) bondage.”
9. Peter I overburdened the
Cossack host with military campaigns.
Starting in 1700,
the Cossack troops were annually engaged in long-rangen military
campaigns against the Baltic countries, Saxony, Northern Russia,
Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Kazan, and the Don region, although the
contemporary Moscow-based historian V. Artamonov claims that Russia’s
war in the Baltic countries was beyond Ukraine’s national interests.
is documented evidence that, in June 1706, Hetman Mazepa received a
letter from a group of wives of Cossacks who were serving in the
Starodub Regiment. They asked the hetman to bring back their husbands,
considering that these men had been away from home for more than five
years as they had been engaged in the military campaigns against the
Swedes. In view of this Mazepa asked Peter I to issue an ukase ordering
this regiment’s return to Ukraine.
stationed in Ukraine dramatically depleted its resources. Peter I wrote
to Mazepa (June 27, 1707): “Our Zaporozhian Host, as well as residents
of Little Russia, are suffering under the heavy burden of losses and
expenditures involved in the continuous military campaigns, movements
of troops under the command of His Royal Majesty, and the
transportation of military, financial, and other supplies to Kyiv…”
10. The Russian army’s
punitive operations wreaked havoc with Ukraine, causing heavy material
losses and numerous deaths.
Historian V. Ye. Vozgrin insisted that in 1708–09 Ukraine sustained an
act of genocide: “As the Russian troops were retreating to the south,
they left scorched earth behind, mostly in Right-Bank Ukraine.
Populated areas were destroyed, along with the populace’s food
reserves, and forests—not only along the anticipated way of Swedish
advance, but also in the 40–45-kilometer-wide swaths on both sides of
the anticipated Swedish route. In addition, cities suspected of
supporting Mazepa-sided Cossacks were burned down and all their
punitive measures causes a great deal of losses to the Ukrainian
people.” Another prominent researcher, Yevgeny Tarle, later confirmed
that Mazepa feared “Ukraine’s complete devastation caused by the
advancing forces of Charles XII and/or by the Russian troops that were
retreating or moving alongside.”
In other words,
since the outbreak of the Great Northern War (1700–21), Muscovy no
longer treated the autonomy of the Ukrainian Hetmanate in accordance
with the previous bilateral protectorate accords. Peter I regarded
Ukraine only as long and as much as he needed it for his political
ruler of Russia and Ukraine did not consider it necessary to carry out
his imperial duties in protecting the rights and liberties of his
Ukrainian subjects. However, there is documented evidence that Peter I
was aware of the accords between Moscow and Baturyn.
he learned about Mazepa’s siding with Charles XII of Sweden, he
immediately ordered his bureaucrats to dig up all previous
Russia-Ukraine agreements. They obliged and placed “two folders on his
desk one of which contained a list of articles made with Hetmans Yurii
Khmelnytsky (1659) and Ivan Briukhovetsky (1663), while the other
folder contained a list of articles made with Ivan Mazepa (1687),
including the rights and liberties given to Mazepa.”
Peter I delivered an
emotional speech addressing his officers and men hours before the
Battle of Poltava (June 27, 1709), and let it slip that “King Charles
[XII of Sweden] and the impostor Leszczynski [I of Poland] have
succeeded in winning Hetman Mazepa over to their side, all of whom have
pledged… to establish a special duchy under his rule, where he [i.e.
Mazepa] would be the grand duke…”
Charles XII had
convincing victories in the initial phase of the Great Northern War;
Augustus II of Poland stepped down to be succeeded by the Swedish
king’s prot g Stanis aw Leszczynski; Ukraine sustained heavy material
and human losses on the “Baltic” and “Eastern” fronts of the war.
Furthermore, there was a growing discontent among Ukraine’s political
elites regarding their long-term Russian protector Peter I.
of the above forced Ivan Mazepa to reject “treacherous and tyrannical
Moscow” in favor of an independent Ukrainian duchy. He and his
government believed that this kind of polity would stand a better
chance of survival, given the protection from the more reliable
European monarchs. The Battle of Poltava, however, wrecked all hopes of
this rebellious Cossack leader.
Chukhklib holds a Ph.D. in History.
Analysis: By Petro Kraliuk
The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Frankly, I was not exactly bursting with this subject. I had been
watching for some time the aggrandizement of Ivan Mazepa in today’s
Ukraine and saying to myself: any country needs heroes. Yet any
national hero functions, by all accounts, as a myth, and Mazepa is no
exception in this sense.
all, I could also have turned a blind eye to the fact that the myth
about this hetman does not quite correspond to reality and that this
myth’s constructive element raises some questions. But the latest
events in and around Ukraine prompted me to take a somewhat different
look at this problem.
Naturally, Mazepa is
not a simple historical figure. But are there simple historical figures
at all? If need be, one can find both bright and dark sides in the
actions of any character of the past.
As a politician, he was far from the worst figure among Ukrainian
hetmans. But if we make a thorough analysis of Mazepa’s activities, we
will see more defeats than victories. His very life ended in a crushing
defeat, when the hetman lost power and was forced to flee Ukraine.
But after the hetman’s death, his failures turned into “victories.” The
personality of Mazepa began to generate myths — in this sense the
hetman was very lucky. There are at least two well-known myths: a
romantic myth about Mazepa the Lover and a nationalist myth about
Mazepa’s alleged struggle for the independence of Ukrainian lands from
In 1818 the well-known English romanticist Lord Byron published the
poem Mazeppa. The plot boils down to the old Mazepa telling the Swedish
King Charles XII, after losing the Battle of Poltava, about a love
affair he had had in his young years. Byron managed to create a
striking image of Mazepa who careers, tied to the back of a horse,
across Poland and Ukraine. Thanks to the poet, this image got
entrenched in the European literature of those times.
At the turn of the
20th century, when Europe stepped into the “era of nationalism” and was
rife with national movements, Lady Luck smiled again on Mazepa.
Ukrainian literature began to shape the image of Mazepa the
nationalist, a fighter for Ukrainian independence. In a way, it was a
reaction to Russian chauvinistic literature, which portrayed Mazepa as
a “traitor” and enemy of Tsar Peter I.
What prompted the projection of Mazepa as a fighter for Ukrainian
independence was not so much academic literature as popular and
belles-lettres publications, especially the trilogy Mazepa by Bohdan
A rather peculiar cult of Mazepa was formed by the Ukrainian diaspora
in the West, which has published a number of academic studies that
clearly show an attempt to portray Mazepa as a Ukrainian state-builder.
Oleksandr Ohloblyn made a special effort to this end. We must give him
his due: he was a brilliant connoisseur of both the documented evidence
of the “Mazepa era” and the “Mazepa folklore.”
if you read his works attentively, particularly the monograph Ivan
Mazepa and His Era, you will see that the book’s factual material does
not exactly fit in with the conclusions.
Some Mazepa studies
suggest that the hetman was a Machiavellian politician. In his famous
work Il Principe (The Prince), Niccolo Machiavelli advises politicians
to act cynically, without too many scruples about agreements. Mazepa
seems to have been doing so. But does this do him honor? After all,
Machiavellianism is quite a disputable point.
Let us try to follow Mazepa’s political career. Unfortunately, there
are very few documents about his pre-hetmanship activities. It is known
that he served some time under Hetman Petro Doroshenko who ruled
Right-Bank Ukraine. Then, allegedly contrary to his will, he switched
over to Ivan Samoilovych, Hetman of Left-Bank Ukraine.
The latter was not a simple figure. There may have been a lot of
negative points in his actions, but we must give Samoilovych his due:
he tried to establish viable governmental structures and instill law
and order in his autonomous Hetmanate. But senior Cossack officers took
a dim view of those actions. The most powerful of them betrayed the
hetman, filing a complaint against him to Moscow.
In principle, treason was a routine thing in Ukrainian politics at the
time. Nobody seemed to be paying attention to it.
It is the same now. Just look at how easily our politicians abandon
their views and principles, betray their voters, switch sides, etc. And
society remains largely unperturbed by this.
Mazepa’s name was
not among those who signed the complaint, but there is no doubt that he
took part in the conspiracy against the hetman. Mazepa generously
rewarded the informers. When he became the hetman, he presented them
with estates and offices.
those he honored was Vasyl Kochubei, his children’s godfather. The
hetman appointed Kochubei general chancellor, although the latter was
unable to write properly. Ironically, the godfather of the hetman’s
siblings later informed on his benefactor.
this remind you of anything in the current history of independent
Mazepa was the one
who took the best advantage of Samoilovych’s downfall. Bribing Vasily
Golitsyn, the lover of the Muscovite Tsarevna Sofia, with 10,000 rubles
(a staggering amount at the time), Mazepa secured his election (in
fact, appointment) as hetman.
July 25, 1687, there was a “free election” in a Cossack camp on the
River Kolomak. There were about 2,000 Cossacks, just a fraction of the
whole army, in the camp surrounded by Russian troops from all the
sides: nobody could rival Mazepa in this situation.
Machiavellianism cost Ukrainians very dearly. The overthrow of
Samoilovych was another step towards the limitation of the rights of
Ukrainian autonomy. Craving for power, Mazepa signed the so-called
Kolomak Articles that made the hetman a puppet of the Moscow tsar.
obligated the Ukrainian government to take a number of steps in
Moscow’s favor. It was allowed to station Russian garrisons not only in
Kyiv, Chernihiv, Pereiaslav, Nizhyn and Oster, but even in the
Hetmanate’s capital Baturyn. The Hetman state was also obliged for the
first time “to unite by every method and means the Little-Russian
people with the Great-Russian people and to lead them by intermarriage
and other measures to an indestructible and firm harmony.”
was forbidden to say that the Little Russian country was ruled by the
hetman: one was to say that the tsar was the ruler.
I strongly advise
those who consider Mazepa a champion of Ukrainian statehood to reread
the above-mentioned Kolomak Articles and remember the context in which
they were concluded. The then Muscovite Tsardom was facing serious
problems. The throne was shared by two reigning tsars: an ailing Ivan V
and an underage Peter I.
was in fact ruled by Tsarevna Sophia Alekseyevna and her lover Prince
Golitsyn. A serious conflict was imminent. Taking advantage
of the situation, Hetman Samoilovych began to reinforce his power,
gradually distancing himself from Moscow. But, instead of rallying
around the hetman, senior officers, including Mazepa, came out against
him. This resulted in the further erosion of the Hetman state’s rights.
WAS MAZEPA AN ANTIRUSSIAN POLITICIAN?
some literature creates the impression that all Mazepa was doing was
thinking about breaking up with Moscow and waiting for a suitable
moment to do so. This is wishful thinking.
hetman was taking a pro-Russian attitude, which is proved by numerous
documents and Mazepa’s real actions. The hetman went to Moscow more
than once to solve his problems by way of offering generous bribes.
Even his mother once traveled to Moscow to pay a “courtesy call.”
deferential letters to the tsar, obeyed his orders, dispatched
Ukrainians on the tsar’s war expeditions, and sent them to build
Petersburg, where they would die on a massive scale. At the same time,
he suppressed anti-Russian activities, such as the uprising led by
Petryk (Petro Ivanenko). He also helped crack down on anti-governmental
movements in Russia itself.
In spite of all
snags and certain discontent with the Russian government, Mazepa
remained loyal to the tsar and pinned his personal hopes on Muscovy. It
is a little-known fact that the hetman used to buy land outside the
Hetman state, on Russian territory. Mazepa cared very much about the
economic development of these newly-acquired estates. This raises a
simple question: if Mazepa harbored any secret plans to secede from
Russia, why did he do this?
He also wanted to
become a relative of Prince Aleksandr Menshikov, a close friend of Tsar
Peter I. Again, why would a “secret separatist” need this?
Before Mazepa “betrayed” the Russian leadership, they regarded him a
loyal vassal: he was supported and given awards. The hetman was one of
the first recipients of the Order of St. Andrew the First Called. Tsar
Peter I took Mazepa into his special confidence.
Tatiana Tairova-Yakovleva believes that Mazepa did very much for the
Russian Empire to be built. She is right. The hetman helped Tsar Peter
I, bailed him out of quandaries, and gave him valuable advice. He
groomed some intellectual figures (above all, Feofan Prokopovych and
Stefan Yavorsky) that played an important role in the religious and
ideological “provision” of the young imperial state.
It may seem to some
that this writer is trying to blacken the name of Mazepa. This is not
so. I will say again that Mazepa was, undoubtedly, a talented person.
One can even assert that he was one of Ukraine’s best hetmans. The
question is what kind of talents Mazepa possessed and how he applied
What really mattered
for a hetman at the time was military talent. Was Mazepa a talented
general? Far from that. Can you recall at least one well-known battle
that Mazepa won? After all, he had neither a proper military education
nor training. Mazepa had other talents — in administration, management,
also knew how to intrigue, which is by no means the least thing for a
politician. He would have been an excellent ruler in a stable state
that has no geopolitical problems. In the long run, Mazepa did very
much under the complicated circumstances of that era.
 Firstly, he
managed to keep his country from the ravages of war. “The Mazepa era”
was a time of peace, although this peace demanded a high price: as was
mentioned above, the hetman sent Ukrainians to Russia-waged wars and
engaged them in the construction of Petersburg, where they died en
masse. This notwithstanding, Left-Bank Ukraine still had an opportunity
to develop quite well in terms of economy and culture.
 Secondly, Mazepa
was an excellent manager. He managed to implement an effective economic
system in his estates. As a result of this efficiency, Mazepa was able
to amass enormous financial resources and become one of Europe’s
 Thirdly, on
becoming the hetman, he tried to establish effective functioning of the
Hetman state’s institutions, often relying on Polish patterns. Mazepa
strove to instill more discipline in his subjects and minimize their
anarchism. The proof of this is found in his speeches and actions,
which met with rejection on the part of various social strata,
especially the Zaporozhian Cossacks. Hence enmity towards the hetman,
his never-ending conflicts with the Zaporozhians, allegations that he
was Polish, etc. This is why Mazepa failed to become a public idol and
a folklore hero.
 Fourthly, as a
good diplomat, the hetman pursued a relatively well-balanced foreign
policy, which was an important factor of stability in the Ukrainian
state, although it came under vigorous pressure from the three great
powers: Muscovy, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Turkey.
Fifthly, the hetman’s donations to churches objectively served to
promote Ukrainian culture. For example, it is Mazepa’s efforts and
generous donations that helped develop Kyiv Mohyla Academy and form a
cohort of brilliant intellectuals who made a notable contribution to
both Ukrainian and Russian cultures.
himself was fairly well-educated and cultured. The Mazepa era saw the
activity of such chroniclers as Samovydets, Hryhorii Hrabianka, and
Samiilo Velychko. Ukrainian Baroque, an object of our pride now, also
largely owes its fame to Mazepa.
must really bow our heads to Mazepa as a manager, administrator, and
diplomat. But these talents of the hetman are almost never mentioned in
to Mazepa’s “routine” work in Left-Bank Ukraine, the Hetman’s state
built the core of the Ukrainian nation and formed the Cossack elite,
which played an important role in the making of the Ukrainian nation.
It is this region that brought into motion the formation of latter-day
Ukrainian national culture. Although this was not the merit of Mazepa
alone, we should not underestimate his role.
MAZEPA THE PLAYBOY
It is not surprising
that romantic literature projects Mazepa as a lover. But in reality he
was not very lucky in love.
When still young,
Mazepa had a love affair with a married woman, which sparked a scandal.
It is perhaps due to this scandal that he was forced to abandon the
court of Polish King John II Casimir.
arriving in Ukraine, Mazepa married a rich widow, the daughter of Bila
Tserkva Colonel Semen Polovets. It was hardly a marriage of love.
Mazepa’s wife was no longer in her first youth: she may have even been
older than he was. But this kind of marriage offered Mazepa access to
senior officers’ society. Mazepa had only one daughter by this
marriage, who had died a long time before her mother did.
After his wife’s
death in 1702, Mazepa began to look for “the other half.” As he was a
wealthy man and the topmost governmental official at the time, it was
not difficult for him to find a match even despite his not-so-tender
age. He fell for his goddaughter Motria Kochubeivna, who was young
enough to be his granddaughter.
categorically refused to marry their daughter off to the hetman,
referring to church canons that ban a marriage between a godfather and
his goddaughter. This broke the warm and friendly relations with the
Vasyl Kochubei informed on Mazepa to Tsar Peter I, accusing the hetman
of treason. The tsar did not believe the information, but this
nevertheless cast a shadow on Mazepa. By all accounts, this event
prompted Peter I to think on how to further restrict the power of his
There was and still
is a legend in Baturyn that Mazepa had an affair with Motria’s mother,
Liubov Kochubei. If you read some of Mazepa’s documents between the
lines, you will also find a hint about this intrigue. This makes it
clear why Motria’s parents (above all, her mother) were unwilling to
give their daughter in marriage to Mazepa — it was the injured honor of
Baturyn legend has it that it was Liubov Kochubei who persuaded her
husband to inform on the hetman. If it was really so, the love for
Motria cost the hetman dearly.
But there was
another love. After a failure with Motria, the hetman quickly found a
new flame. This time Countess Hanna Dolska was his sweetheart. When he
was in Dubno in 1706, he met her and even became her grandson’s
Dolska was, like Mazepa, no longer young, she had not lost her feminine
charm. He lent her a handsome amount of money. At the same time, she
tried to persuade the hetman to desert Tsar Peter I and ally with
Polish King Stanis aw Leszczy ski to whom she was related and who was
backed by Swedish King Charles XII.
The lovesick Mazepa
lost his head and sense of caution. Dolska becomes a secret mediator
between the hetman and Leszczy ski. They exchanged secretive letters. A
love story turned into a political ploy.
this not remind you of anything?
1708 Mazepa agrees to conclude a secret alliance with Leszczy ski and
The peripeteia of
this political erotic affair is described in detail in a well-known
letter from Mazepa’s comrade-in-arms Pylyp Orlyk to Metropolitan Stefan
Yavorsky. This scheme is also mentioned in Kochubei’s denunciation of
Mazepa. At least, nobody has ever questioned the reality of this.
It would be wrong to believe that only the
above-mentioned affair caused Mazepa to “betray” Tsar Peter I. There
were other reasons, too. The Ukrainian troops that fought in alliance
with the Russians outside Ukraine were increasingly rife with
was told that the tsar wanted to liquidate the Hetmanate and curtail
the rights of Ukrainians. But it was extremely risky to side with
Stanis aw Leszczy ski and Charles XII in the particular situation of
1708. The hetman, who was generally distinguished as a good analyzer of
situations, seems to have lost this ability.
At the time, the
correlation of forces was not in favor of the Swedes. The Swedish army
got bogged down in the fighting on the Polish Kingdom’s territory,
while the Russian army was revamped, increased in strength, and could
oppose the Swedish troops. Besides, Mazepa was unable to make sure that
populace took a friendly attitude to the Swedish army and that the bulk
of his troops switched sides. Moreover, there were Russian garrisons
stationed in Ukraine (a sort of an analogue for the present-day Black
Sea Fleet). The Russians waged an informational war, telling about
Mazepa’s “treason” and pronouncing an anathema on him in churches.
prove a negative attitude of Ukrainians to Swedish soldiers — they were
considered unwelcome aliens. This can also be found in folklore
sources. What mattered most was the religious factor: Swedish soldiers
and officers adhered to the Lutheran faith, ignored icon-worshiping and
fast-keeping, etc. Ukrainians regarded this as sacrilege and heresy.
The defection of a
hetman, who did not enjoy grassroots love, to Charles XII could not
possibly enlist proper support. Those who joined Mazepa were only his
units stationed in Baturyn and, paradoxically, the Zaporozhians who had
been at odds with the hetman until then. Quite a few Ukrainian military
units remained on the Russian side.
I will omit the
course of hostilities between the Russians and the Swedes on the
Ukrainian land. This is a well-known fact that includes the tragedy of
Baturyn, the punitive raids of the Russian troops, the destruction of
the Zaporozhian Sich, the Battle of Poltava, etc.
Did Ukraine really
benefit from Mazepa’s defection to the Swedes? Or did it lose out?
Firstly, after two decades of relative peace, Left-Bank Ukraine became
a theater of military operations again. What Mazepa had been building
so painstakingly for such a long time began to tumble down.
Mazepa’s defection further split the not-so-monolithic Ukrainian
society. What erupted in the Ukrainian land was not just a war between
and the Russians but a war between two parts of Ukraine. In some cases
it resembled a civil war.
“pro-Mazepian Ukraine” suffered a defeat. This enabled the Russian
government to further limit the Hetman State’s autonomy and, later on,
eliminate it altogether.
INSTEAD OF CONCLUSIONS
is no need in making conclusions, for they are as plain as day.
will only note that we ought to analyze what Mazepa did and learn from
the hetman’s mistakes.
these are our mistakes, too!
CREDIT FOR SWEDEN'S DEFEAT
Analysis & Commentary: by Boris Kagarlitsky
The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia, Thu, July 9, 2009
Moscow and Kiev have found something new to argue about, and who would
have thought that it would be an event that happened 300 years ago —
the Battle of Poltava.
Of all the many events in Russian and European history, the
Battle of Poltava is remarkably one of the least controversial. Its
result, historical significance and consequences are never questioned.
Both Swedish and Russian historians amicably agree that the
battle marked the end of Sweden’s status as a dominant power and the
emergence of the Russian Empire at the forefront of Europe’s political
Russian and Swedish forces battled at Poltava, and Ukraine —
which was split along the shore of the Dnieper into the Polish and
Muscovite parts — was nothing but the site of a major European
confrontation. England, France, Denmark, Saxony and even Turkey were
the countries that had the most at stake in the war’s outcome. The
Battle of Poltava made a difference in one way or another for each of
these countries, but it had little impact on Ukraine.
Unfortunately, the cause for the new ideological spat
between Moscow and Kiev is the fact that Ukrainian Cossack hetman Ivan
Mazepa aligned himself with the Swedish forces against the Russians.
Mazepa’s switch to the Swedish side is little more than a footnote in
his personal biography. He underestimated the strength of the Russian
army under Peter the Great.
WAS VERY PRO-RUSSIA
Mazepa, whose portrait is widely featured during Ukrainian
holidays, is perhaps the least appropriate figure to be honored as a
national hero. Right up until he joined forces with the Swedes, Mazepa
was very pro-Russia.
He zealously worked to carry out Moscow’s policies in
Ukraine and did more than any other hetman to turn Ukraine into a
province of the Russian Empire. But when the supposedly invincible
Swedish army appeared on the Ukrainian border, the hetman panicked and
ran for cover by switching to the Swedish side.
The problem was that Mazepa could only offer the Swedish forces about
300 men — his personal guards and close associates. Making matters
worse for the Swedes, Mazepa was unanimously replaced by hetman Ivan
Skoropadsky, who brought a full complement of Ukrainian Cossack
fighters to aid Peter the Great’s army at Poltava.
Who would have thought that 300 years later such a minor
episode in the Great Northern War would become the subject of a
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko declared the Battle of Poltava to
be a tragedy and that the Swedish defeat deprived Ukraine of the chance
to be independent and to develop along European lines.
It sometimes happens that a person takes credit for
another’s victory, but only the present Ukrainian administration has
displayed the creativity to take credit for someone else’s defeat.
Ukraine’s political games with history have caused bewilderment in
Sweden and indignation in Russia. But do Yushchenko’s antics differ
substantially from the Kremlin’s own struggle against the “falsifiers