Washington, D.C., Friday, July 10, 2009
Analysis & Commentary: By Taras Chukhlib
The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Analysis & Commentary: By Petro Kraliuk
The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Analysis & Commentary: By Boris Kagarlitsky
The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia, Thu, July 9, 2009 
Analysis & Commentary:  By Taras Chukhlib
The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Moscow 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.
This 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.
At 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 respect.”

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 number-one enemy.
However, 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 by nature.

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 Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
However, 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 winter camps.

Contemporary sources 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…”
In 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.

According to 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 own people.”
Other 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 around.
He 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 State.

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.”
Before 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.
This document has a very special meaning in comprehending Russia’s economic policy with regard to Ukraine.
It 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 administrative powers.

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.
The 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.
They 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.”

Mazepa’s nephew 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 privates.’”

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.”
Pylyp 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 Ukraine.

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 in Ukraine.”
Moscow-appointed 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.
Also, 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.
Mazepa 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 populace.

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 scale.”

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.
The 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.”

Contemporary 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.
There 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.

Russian forces 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.

The Russian 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 residents liquidated.
These 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 purposes.
The 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.
After 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.
All 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.

NOTE: Taras Chukhklib holds a Ph.D. in History. 

Commentary & 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.
After 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 Russia.

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 Lepky.

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.”
But 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.
Among 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.
Does this remind you of anything in the current history of independent Ukraine?

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.
On 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.

This 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.

The Articles 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.”
It 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.
Muscovy 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.

Reading 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.
The 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.”

Mazepa wrote 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.

Russian researcher 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 them.

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, and diplomacy.
He 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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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 richest oligarchs.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.
[5] 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.
Mazepa 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.
We must really bow our heads to Mazepa as a manager, administrator, and diplomat. But these talents of the hetman are almost never mentioned in this country.
Owing 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.

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.
After 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.

Motria’s parents 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 Kochubei family.
Eventually, 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 vassal.

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 a woman.
The 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 godfather.
Although 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.
Does this not remind you of anything?
In 1708 Mazepa agrees to conclude a secret alliance with Leszczy ski and Charles XII.

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 anti-Russian sentiments.
Mazepa 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 the
Ukrainian 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.
Documents 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?
[1] 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.

[2] Secondly, Mazepa’s defection further split the not-so-monolithic Ukrainian society. What erupted in the Ukrainian land was not just a war between the
Swedes and the Russians but a war between two parts of Ukraine. In some cases it resembled a civil war.
The “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.
There is no need in making conclusions, for they are as plain as day.
I will only note that we ought to analyze what Mazepa did and learn from the hetman’s mistakes.
For these are our mistakes, too!
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 life.
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.
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 political quarrel?

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 of history”?
NOTE: Boris Kagarlitsky is the director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.

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