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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Topical Aspects of the Ukrainian National Liberation Revolution of 1648-76

2 December, 2003 - 00:00

The Day offers the conclusion of Kamyanets-Podilsky University Prof. Valery Stepankov’s public lecture delivered at the Ostroh Academy National University. His lecture attracted considerable interest, on the part of students and teachers at the academy, as well as experts in the field, among them quite a few prepared and willing to offer their own, different views on that seventeenth century national revolution. The Editors will be happy to publish all such views in response to Prof. Valery Stepankov’s lecture, and they would like to use this occasion to express gratitude to Ostroh Academy Rector Ihor Pasichnyk and Deputy Mayor of Kamyanets-Podilsky Ihor Lysy for their assistance in arranging for the said public lecture.

(For beginning see The Day , No. 36, November 25)

We have dwelt on qualitative social changes in the Netherlands, Japan, and other countries, but we seem oblivious of the fact that precisely such changes also took place in the Ukrainian state in the mid-seventeenth century. The Ukrainian peasantry had enjoyed their social consequences for almost a century. Remember what happened in the Left-Bank Hetmanate, as it became part of [Russian] serfdom in the eighteenth century?

Ukrainians then felt themselves to be a nation, even if only for a short while. The Cossacks had become aware of their being a political nation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; in the 1630s, they acted as masters of that land. I refer to these events as a national revolution, considering the revolutionary changes in Cossack Ukraine (less the western territories). A similar situation arose in the northern Netherlands and south of Belgium. And we should not be afraid to make such comparisons.

I am resolutely against definitions such as Cossack-Polish War, and so on. There is the political or national aspect, as well as the social one, to be considered. These aspects cannot be combined! While the Poles rebelled against their government under Tadeusz Kosciuszko (and I might as well refer you to other Polish rebellions — or should I call them revolutions? — in 1830-31 and 1863- 64), there is no mention of a war of the Russian and Polish in Polish literature. That was a Polish rebellion and it was led by Polish aristocrats. In Ukraine, such rebellions were led by Cossacks. Yet this does not mean that Ukrainian peasants, burghers, clergymen, and certain national aristocrats did not wage that struggle — then why should we emphasize notions such as Polish, State, or ethnic origin, while feeling content to define our own Cossack status? That’s what I call one of the impacts of Polish historiography on our perception. We have always tried to act in keeping with someone else’s ideas, Russian or Polish, bowing and scraping before the East and the West, thinking twice before saying anything indicating that there were things their forefathers did wrong — and I would like to stress that any such wrongdoings must have been perpetrated on our ethnic territories. They remember their history well. Grunwald is something the Poles and Lithuanians will never forget.

That was a Polish-Ukrainian war. We must pose questions, rather than confine the liberation struggle of the Ukrainian nation for its independence to that Polish civil war notion (the Cossacks fought the government to defend their status). Did the Cossacks fight for their status only? The nation had lost hundreds of thousands of lives, but now we are faced with a stereotype and definitions which I personally believe are unscholarly.

At the same time, there appeared different timeframes concerning the revolution. V. Shevchuk, for example, believes that the liberation war ended in 1678, after the Turks had destroyed Chyhyryn, while its defeat is known to have been legally sealed by that “lasting peace treaty” signed by Russia and Poland in 1686. There are also several other versions.

I believe that these events of the Ukrainian revolution ended in 1678. What makes me think so? Whether we discuss the national-liberation or Ukrainian revolution doesn’t really matter; we must clearly define the objective. That struggle was aimed at achieving Ukrainian independence, and that’s a fact. The question is, if we take the year 1657, when Bohdan Khmelnytsky died, this was a great loss, and then civil war broke out. However, the struggle for independence had not stopped. It continued. After what happened in Hadiach, in 1658, followed by Chudniv in 1660. But did the Ukrainian state stop struggling for independence — maybe for a better status, as a political autonomy, or for better protection — after the Treaty of Chudniv? Why should we ignore Teteria’s policy or that of Doroshenko? I believe that the latter was the greatest, most talented politician of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries after Khmelnytsky.

Now the question is why I believe that 1678 marked the end of the national revolution. The thing is that disastrous events took place in Ukraine that year, the liquidation of Petro Doroshenko’s Right-Bank Hetmanate. After 1676, neither Yury Khmelnytsky, proclaimed prince, nor any of the subsequent hetmans proclaimed as allowed by the Polish king, could restore the state of Right-Bank Ukraine, where that state had been established and where its capital, Chyhyryn, was. The Ukrainian state ceased to exist in 1676, and the state of Right-Bank Ukraine was liquidated. Even the heroic efforts of members of the Ukrainian elite at the turn of the eighteenth century, among them Ivan Mazepa, to restore the Ukrainian state and achieve a certain political status in the Ottoman Empire, Poland, or Russia were of no avail.

Another point. What happened de facto after signing the Treaty of Buchach with Poland and Turkey in October 1672? We know five or six its brief clauses, but that’s not the whole text, just the main provisions. We have that text in the archives and it has many pages. And there is an interesting aspect. When I studied the issue, I came across the notion “Ukrainian state” for the first time and Turkish-Polish versions also contained a clause on the Ukrainian nobility. Poland did recognize its existence within the boundaries of the Wroclaw and Kyiv provinces, the Right-bank section of the Kyiv province that was partially under Moscow. The Treaty of 1676 between the Polish Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire (after ousting Petro Doroshenko) did not stipulate preservation of the Ukrainian state and it was legally sealed at the international level.

In 1677, the Turkish government tried to revive state life in Ukraine with the help of Yury Khmelnytsky; that much we know, but we don’t know the outcome. To this end, I would like to tell our young historians that all those stories about the end of Yury Khmelnytsky’s life, that he was thrown from a bridge in Zamostia or Kamianka, are legends. It’s fiction. No one knows what actually happened. Yury Khmelnytsky did not return to Ukraine after he was deprived of his office under the Turko-Russian Peace Treaty of 1671 and taken to Turkey.

Nor have my colleagues specializing in seventeenth century history succeeded in finding evidence of what are believed to be generally established facts.

Yury Khmelnytsky has an extremely unattractive image in our history. A great father and a ne’er-do-well son. The young man’s tragedy was that he loved Ukraine (I have read his letters, they sound very patriotic) and that he was not a politician. He came to power at 16; at that time the colonels and other ranking Cossacks were men of considerable life experience and influence; they could have used the name of Khmelnytsky and his posterity for their own ends. Yury became a hostage of political struggle.


By the mid-seventeenth century, the impetuous development of self- consciousness had contributed significantly to the national idea. Various strata were becoming aware of their ethnic identity, a process of national self-identification of the Ruthenians as Ukrainians was underway, although people living in Ukraine and Belarus were still known as the Ruthenian people. People were increasingly aware of that inseparable connection between their life and where they lived, now they regarded their land as sacred, their native land of Rus’ — in other words, their Motherland. The Ukrainians revered Kyiv and the Dnipro. Interestingly, the Cossacks began to feel that way about Zaporozhzhia. One of the letters dating from that period reads that “the Cossacks have preserved Zaporozhzhia.” Orthodoxy was becoming one of the most important inherent indications of ethnic self-identification, a principle of Ukrainian national unity. At the same time, the Polish official policy of ethnic and religious oppression (there were cases of ethnic purges in the 1630s) instilled among the Cossacks a growing feeling of hatred of Poland, the Poles, Catholics, Greek Catholics, and Jews who supported the colonial regime.

Patriotic aristocrats, clergymen, and intellectuals worked out the concept of continuity of the Rus’ (Ukrainian) people since the times of Rus’ princes. Separate authors portrayed princes and Cossack hetmans as part of Rus’. Natalia Yakovenko notes that, since the 1620s, the notion “Rus’ people” had been terminologically concretized, denoting those inhabiting territories historically linked to the Kyiv and Halych-Volyn principalities. Authors proceeded to single out “glorious Rus’ blood” as a special hereditary quality of the Ukrainian people and the latter started to be regarded as a special entity among the rest of the Slavic peoples professing Orthodoxy. The concept of national recreation emerged, evolved, and was strongly condemned. Converting from Orthodoxy to Catholicism or Uniatism was often regarded as treason to one’s own nation. Some among the [Ukrainian] aristocracy now regarded their status as that of the “Rus’ body politic” being equal to the Polish and Lithuanian peoples and being a partner in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was persistently maintained that the existing union of three “free peoples” was based on an agreement whereby the Rus’ people retained its rights and freedoms.

It was a process of “transformation of the awareness of ethnic affinity, based on common territory, language, and religion, into the awareness of being a collective body politic with an exclusive right to self-actualization within that body’s boundaries.” Now the national aspirations were clearly outlined: development free of national and religious oppression. At the time, however, the Ukrainian elite saw the way to achieve that self-actualization not in withdrawing from the commonwealth and setting up an independent state, but in having equal rights with the Poles and Lithuanians. This moderate approach stemmed from the inability of the national elite to work out and put forth a political program for Ruthenian national existence. The crux of the national idea of a people struggling for independence consists of a set of concepts and principles relating to the establishment of a sovereign state.

Before the National Revolution of 1648-76, part of the Cossack nobility and rank-and-file Cossacks were becoming aware of the political originality of the governmental organism being created. Hence the growing separatist sentiments among the nobility in the 1630s, pressuring the [Polish] government to recognize the newly established [Cossack] power structures — in other words, attempts to achieve a degree of political autonomy for Cossack Ukraine. The leaders of the 1630 rebellion demanded the withdrawal of Polish troops from the Cossack territories, and the Cossack Council of Korsun in 1632 resolved to bar the Poles access to Left-Bank Ukraine, for the first time raising the issue of protecting their rights to certain territories. This was evidence of intentions to set up a Cossack republic.

The beginning of the national revolution marked an essentially new phase in the development of the national idea. Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s talks with Crown Hetman Nicholas Potocki in March 1648 showed that the rebellious Cossacks wanted not only their status and privileges restored, but also Polish troops withdrawn from the Left Bank and from Ukraine (although the appellation was not used at the time); they further wanted cancellation of the “government of the commonwealth” there and permission to maintain relationships “with foreign rulers” — in other words, they wanted self-government on a large scale in Cossack Ukraine.

Khmelnytsky’s victories at Zhovti Vody, in May 1648, and at Korsun allowed him to radicalize his political program. Now, in addition to the restoration of so-called ancient privileges, it provided for the Cossack Host being subordinated “to only one king,” liquidation of Polish authorities on the territory of Cossack Ukraine (including the provinces of Bila Tserkva and Uman), and of the existing political division, turning this territory into an appanage state with set frontiers and being ruled by the hetman. Thus the idea of setting up a polity on a part of the Ukrainian territory was formulated for the first time. Most likely it would not have had autonomy within the commonwealth but been its third component on a par with Poland and Lithuania) It should be noted, however, that the Cossack hetman and most of his brothers-in-arms harbored no plans to withdraw from the commonwealth in the summer of 1648; they were prepared to acknowledge the Polish crown, whoever might wear it, Moscow tsar, Transylvanian prince, or any of the late W л l adyslaw IV Vasa’s brothers (he died on May 20), provided the crown recognized the rights of the newly established Cossack state.

Given the increasing scope of the Ukrainian national-liberation campaign, this program prompted the Polish and Ukrainian aristocracy to see Cossack Ukraine and its relationships with the commonwealth in a new light. First, they became suddenly aware of a possibility to restore the Ukrainian state with Kyiv as its capital; second, they saw in it a mortal threat to the Polish kingdom. Adam Kysil, a Ukrainian Orthodox aristocrat and Braclaw voivode, wrote to Polish Primate Mazei Lubenski, begging for urgent measures to save the Motherland from death, “lest she suffer the Roman Empire’s lot (God forbid!).” At the Convocation Sejm, held in the summer of 1648, the Polish and Lithuanian chancellors drew the noble delegates’ attention to the inadmissibility of any encroachments on the commonwealth’s integrity and the need to remember the examples of the Netherlands (Holland) and the Neapolitan rebellion of 1647. The sejm formed a committee to hold talks with Bohdan Khmelnytsky and explicitly instructed it under no conditions to agree to the formation of “a special appendage from among the possessions of the commonwealth,” or to the cancellation of Polish authorities in any regions (meaning Cossack Ukraine).

Those participating in the liberation struggle were beginning to conceive the idea (however vague) of Rus’ existing independently of Poland. Cossacks and rebellious peasants captured by Poles told them, “we Cossacks rule this state, not you Poles” and that they would attack the commonwealth and march as far as the Wi s л l a, driving the Poles beyond the river. Polish dignitaries also noted that the insurgents planned to “separate Rus’ from the Crown.” This attitude was rooted in the determination to intensively develop a national state very much like the Zaporozhzhian Host, set up state structures on liberated territories, build the armed forces, central, and local authorities, introduce a political division (on a regiment-company basis), judicial system, and social structure.

After defeating the Poles at Pyliavka on September 23, 1648, Hetman Khmelnytsky decided to seize Polish possessions all the way to the Wisla, so he planned to move his troops along the western frontiers of Ukraine. At the time, however, neither he, nor the Cossack starshyna had managed to formulate the concept of an independent state within the ethnic limits of Ukraine. Most likely they harbored the idea of having the newly elected Polish king recognize Ukraine’s status as the third subject of the commonwealth (at least in terms of Kyiv, Volyn, Wroclaw, Chernihiv, and Podillia provinces). They expected to achieve this status by way of political reform to be carried out by the “non-Catholic monarch,” after strengthening his authority.

After his plans to enthrone the Moscow tsar or the Transylvanian prince fell through, Bohdan Khmelnytsky supported Jan Casimir III who was elected king of Poland. The hetman had talks with him and agreed to a truce (approved by a Cossack council at Zamosc on November 21). Under its terms the Cossack troops were to be withdrawn from the western border of Ukraine and moved to the south. This clause is still regarded as the most tragic page in the annals of Ukrainian state construction (Colonels Maksym Kryvonis and Petro Holovatsky insisted on continuing the campaign and taking advantage of the situation).

New concepts relating to the objective could not but influence the elite’s attitude when holding negotiations with Adam Kysil’s Polish committee (starting on February 20 in Pereyaslav). The Polish side was struck by radical changes in Khmelnytsky’s views on the Ukrainian-Polish relationship.

In the first place, the Cossack Hetman reaffirmed the right of the Ukrainian people to its own independent state life within its ethnic boundaries. “We have enough land in Ukraine, in Podillia and Volyn,” he declared February 23 in front of the Polish envoys, “Now we have land in the principalities of Lviv, Kholm, and Halych. When I stand by the Wisla, I shall tell the Poles: Now you be quiet and mind your own business.” Why by the Wisla? Because in folk songs and legends the river was considered the ultimate boundary.

Second, the Cossack Hetman introduced the notions of Ukraine’s national and territorial unity. He would time and again stress that he would “take away all of Rus’ and Ukraine from Poland,” and free “all people of Rus’” from the Polish yoke.

Third, he came out with the idea of Ukrainian independence for the first time, several times emphasizing his resolve to “liberate” it and “tear it away” from Poland. Muscovite envoy Grigory Unkovsky, conversing with Cossacks in early May, learned that the Polish negotiators were told, “The Hetman and the Zaporozhzhian Host, as well as all of Kyiv Rus’ do not wish to remain under the Polish Crown.” For the first time in the history of Ukrainian-Polish relations, in the second half of the sixteen and first half of the seventeenth century, precisely in February 1649, the Polish side received a formal statement to the effect that the Ukrainians did not want to remain part of the commonwealth and that they intended to build an independent state of their own.


In Pereyaslav, the Cossack Hetman and his starshyna accepted the Moscow tsar’s protectorate. It was a legal act separating the Ukrainian state from the commonwealth and making it an independent state. At the same time, one must never forget that what happened addressed only Cossack Ukraine, not all of Ukraine. The rest of its territory remained under the Polish crown.

At the time of pledging allegiance, both sides interpreted the notion Little Russia in its narrow sense, meaning the territories of the newly established Ukrainian state, and not in the broad sense relating to all ethnic Ukrainian lands. Russian chauvinist political structures would capitalize on this later. Bohdan Khmelnytsky saw Russia as a state which, in his opinion, would help him smash Poland and join the western Ukrainian lands to the Hetmanate. In 1655-57, he repeatedly stressed his intention to spread his rule over all of Ukraine. The Swedish ambassador wrote that Khmelnytsky emphasized on more than one occasion that he wanted to extend his power “to all of Old Ukraine, or Roxolania, where the Greek faith exists and their language is spoken, as far as the Wisla.” Mind you, this was not written by a Ukrainian.

Ukraine means the territories comprising the Cossack region and Old Ukraine means Roxolania. Interestingly, in September 1655 when the Ukrainian troops were marching to Lviv through Podillia, the Russian tsar issued an ukase adding to his title “Sovereign of all Great and Little Russia” the words “Grand Prince of Lithuania, White Russia, Volyn, and Podillia.” Thus principal differences in their approach to the western Ukrainian region were the main obstacle and caused misunderstanding and concealed rivalry between the Ukrainian officers and Russian voivodes during the joint western military campaign in the fall of 1655. And the same caused a sharp confrontation in western Belarus in 1655-59.

The Ukrainian elite accepted the protectorate of Alexei I of Moscow mainly because they badly needed real military assistance and this found reflection in the Treaty of 1654. However, their expectations were not to be justified. The Muscovite government saw its main objective in returning Smolensk, seizing Belarus and strategic Baltic regions, so the Ukrainian war theater was to play a minor role in 1654, although it was actually the major point in fighting the Polish king and the Crimean khan. The Muscovite troops were numerically superior to the Lithuanian army by far (70,000 against 15-18,000), yet the tsar, instead of sending 30,000 troops to help Khmelnytsky, ordered him to dispatch 20,000 of his men to Belarus forthwith. Because of this, the Ukrainian army, numbering 40,000, became considerably weaker in the face of 40-50,000 Polish troops advancing from the northeast and 40-50,000 Tatars from the south. The tables were turned. And there was no Ukrainian-Muscovite action plan. Russian historian Sanin writes that there were “joint and agreed-upon tactical plans,” but this is not corroborated by sources subsequently discovered. As a result, the Cossack hetman lost the initiative in the 1654 campaign.

Khmelnytsky expected the Russians to continue advancing on Poland, after defeating the Lithuanians, thus tying up the Polish army, but the Muscovite command instead ordered sieges of cities and deportation of Belarusians to Muscovy, asserting Muscovite rule in Belarus and Lithuania. In the later fall of 1654, the Russian army stopped its offensive altogether.

Although aware of the threat of Polish-Crimean troops invading Ukraine, the Moscow government made no substantial changes in the strategic combat plan and sent reinforcements to Khmelnytsky almost three months later than requested. Only 12,000 officers and men arrived. This was not much help in fighting the numerically superior enemy. and the outcome was devastating for the Wroclaw province and eastern Podillia. Khmelnytsky, of course, could not withstand a Polish offensive from the west and a Tatar one from the south. The Battle of Okhmatov (Jan. 29 — Feb. 1, 1655) left no victors, but the Poles and Tatars remained in control of the western part of the Ukrainian state.

The Polish command had no money to pay the Tatars for their military aid, so they were allowed to capture the populace. There is a horrifying eyewitness account by the commander of the Polish army Krzysztof Tyszkewicz, voivode of Chernihiv: “270 settlements were razed to the ground between the South Buh and the Dniester alone. A thousand churches were ruined and over 200,000 persons captured.” Imagine a thousand churches destroyed between the rivers! Polish troops had to besiege populated areas themselves, because the Tatars did not know how to do it, and would then allow the Tatars to loot and ruin them, and they would massacre the residents, children included.

Now that Khmelnytsky’s plans to win his struggle against Poland with Moscow’s help had sustained such a devastating blow, courtesy of his Russian “friends,” he sharply altered his course. In the spring of 1655, after a shattering defeat (Busha in Podillia), and after adopting the Russian tsar’s protectorate, he sent a new delegation to the Turkish sultan, asking for an Ottoman protectorate. In other words, the Ukrainian elite could already see that the hopes placed in Moscow and its military assistance were unjustified. Nor would Russia protect the Ukrainian political interests, as evidenced by the Wilno (Vilnius) accords.

Ms. Yakovleva, a Russian researcher, ought to be credited for admitting the tragic consequences of those accords for Ukraine: “The ease, if not flippancy, with which the Moscow envoys agreed to reduce the Hetmanate territory to the limits envisaged by the Treaty of Bila Tserkva (even though the Polish side rather expected to have the frontiers set by the Treaty of Zboriv) can only leave one wondering.” What happened was actually a transgression of the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav setting the frontiers in keeping with the Treaty of Zboriv. The Cossacks found themselves under a dual protectorate, but no one was interested to know how they felt about it. Even considering that this particular clause of the Vilnius agreement was never carried out, the Cossacks had every reason to believe that they had been betrayed. Meanwhile, the Polish threat vanished in the fall of 1655, when Poland was seized by Sweden (see The Deluge by Sienkiewicz), with which friendly relations were subsequently established.

The main condition, under which the Polish elite accepted the protectorate, was that the tsar undertook “not to surrender all of the Zaporozhzhian Host to the Polish king and protect it” and “defend it against all misfortunes.” This clause was not observed and the elite assumed that this made the whole protectorate business nonsensical. Khmelnytsky suspected that, if and when Russia made peace with Poland, it would be at the expense of Ukraine. Their reconciliation was a deadly threat to Ukrainian independence. He was primarily concerned about the western Ukraine that could forever remain in Poland. To prevent this, acting contrary to Moscow and the Ukrainian- Muscovite accords, he stepped up talks with Sweden, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Wallachia in the fall of 1656, aimed at setting up an anti-Polish coalition. In light of this one can understand the sharply negative response of the hetman and his senior officers to the diplomatic dispatches reporting the progress and results of the talks in Vilnius. At a starshyna council he even spoke of breaking the treaty with Moscow: “We must step away from His Tsarist Majesty...” Mykhailo Hrushevsky was right, saying that “the army and especially the officers were outraged by Moscow deciding things for themselves. The fact became a constant argument against the Moscow policy, against remaining loyal to Muscovy, and against the Moscow orientation. Everyone who tried to antagonize the Cossacks against Moscow would always refer to it as evidence of Moscow’s autocracy and undisguised contempt of Cossack rights, saying that the tsar was using the Cossacks — and Ukraine in general — as though they were not men but dumb animals. And it became firmly implanted in the Ukrainian minds as a lasting warning against Muscovite infidelity, against Moscow betraying the Cossacks and Ukraine.”

The next cornerstone in the terms and conditions under which the Ukrainian elite accepted the Muscovite protectorate was the tsar’s guarantee that all the rights, liberties, and privileges of Cossack Ukraine would be unswervingly observed, and this was duly laid down in the treaty. However, that same year 1654 the Russian government tried for the first time to strengthen its presence in Ukraine, thus infringing on its internal sovereignty. In April, Moscow wanted to send a team of Muscovite noblemen to carry out a census to determine how much taxes the Ukrainians were paying, to intervene in the tax collection procedures in the urban areas, to institute voivode administration (1655-57), and to subordinate Cossack Ukraine to the Patriarch of Moscow.

So long as Bohdan Khmelnytsky kept his mace, the Muscovite elite met with his powerful resistance and had to proceed with caution, aware of the hetman’s formidable authority, avoiding open confrontations. After his death in August 1657, the situation began to change. In April-May 1658, the tsar decreed the appointment of voivodes in Bila Tserkva, Korsun, Nizhyn, Poltava, Chernihiv, and Myrhorod; the keeping of the Cossack register, and a census of urban and rural dwellers, specifying the duties imposed on them before 1648. Contrary to the 1654 treaty, Moscow openly intervened in the struggle for the hetman’s mace and, flirting with the opposition to the newly elected Hetman Ivan Vyhovsky, fueled the fire of a fratricidal civil war in the Ukrainian state.

Unlike the Ukrainian elite, its Muscovite counterpart regarded the Treaty of Pereyaslav not as an international instrument, but an altogether different kind of relationship between Great and Little Russia, an “act of the reunification of various parts of what once had been a single Rus’ under the rulers in Moscow.” It was precisely the concept of Ukraine as an inalienable component of Russia that determined Moscow’s policy in its regard, not only in the early years after the 1654 treaty, but also throughout the second half of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In assessing it, Hrushevsky noted that “the Muscovite government took advantage of that bifurcation (between the political ambitions of the starshyna and the demands of society — Author) and all those hesitations, confusion, and controversies, in order to conduct its centralist policy and gradually restrict the Ukrainian autonomy. It took advantage of the aspirations of those career-hungry and overambitious individuals, demoralizing the Cossack starshyna, step by step bribing it into surrendering some political prerogative or another, making advance payments, granting estates and concessions...”

In view of everything stated above, I see no weighty arguments in favor of the allegation that the Russian protectorate was the best alternative for the Ukrainian state from among the Polish, Crimean-Ottoman, or Swedish options.

The Treaty of 1654 remained valid for about four and a half years. The Ukrainian side, being its initiator and then seeing that all their expectations were in vain, disowned it. As a standard protectorate agreement, it envisaged neither “reunification” between Ukraine and Russia, nor Ukraine being enslaved by Russia. Any allegations to the contrary are the result of mythmaking by historians, columnists, writers, poets, and politicians. As for what caused such changes in Ukrainian-Russian relations, this is a different story.

By Prof. Valery STEPANKOV, Ph.D. in historyPrepared by Serhiy MAKHUN, The Day