Henryk Krasinski.

The Cossacks of the Ukraine; comprising biographical notices of the most celebrated Cossack chiefs ... With a memoir of Princess Tarakanof, and some particulars respecting Catharine II., of Russia, and her favourites online

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Online LibraryHenryk KrasinskiThe Cossacks of the Ukraine; comprising biographical notices of the most celebrated Cossack chiefs ... With a memoir of Princess Tarakanof, and some particulars respecting Catharine II., of Russia, and her favourites → online text (page 1 of 22)
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/ 77







l)e most celebrate^ CoSSacfe C!)tefe or SCttamans,












Author of "Vitold;" "The Poles in the Seventeenth Century;"
" Gonta, an Historical Drama ? <tc.










>ultan of


The history of the Cossacks of the Ukraine
has such a strong connexion with the history of Poland,
and the history of the Ottoman empire, that it shows
most clearly that both these countries had for ages, and
have even now, but one common enemy ; an enemy
which, under the plea of friendship, has never ceased to
weaken indirectly the resources of Turkey, to under-
mine her vital strength, and to lay such artful snares
for the taking of Constantinople, that had not all the
movements of Russia been closely watched by your
IMPERIAL MAJESTY'S illustrious father of glorious
memory, SULTAN MAHMOUD, had she not been foiled in
all her schemes on Turkey in 1840, by the great energy
and extraordinary sagacity of the Right Honourable
Viscount Palmerston, one of the greatest statesmen of
his age, she might have inflicted the deepest injury on
your IMPERIAL MAJESTY'S dominions.

A 2


For the above reasons, and considering that
your IMPERIAL MAJESTY is animated with the best
possible feelings towards her most gracious Majesty,
Victoria I., Queen of Great Britain, whom I can now
in my heart call my own sovereign ; considering, more-
over, that one of my ancestors, who belonged to the
Confederation of Bar, was most hospitably received
on the Turkish soil, and, that he- recommended, on his
death bed, his friends always to be grateful to the
Turks ; I therefore hope that it may please your IMPE-
RIAL MAJESTY to accept the dedication of my work
on the Cossacks, which I venture to lay at the
foot of your IMPERIAL MAJESTY'S august throne, as
a small token of my regard for your IMPERIAL MA-
JESTY'S qualities and virtues, and my ardent wishes for
your IMPERIAL MAJESTY'S health, and the prosperity
of the Turkish empire.

I have the honour to remain,

Most humble and devoted Servant,


London, 15th October, 1848.


THERE are two kind of authors, one who foster some
predominating view with their pen, the other, who
use it chiefly as an instrument for securing their per-
sonal advantages. I claim a place, however humble, in
the former category.

Ever intent on the contemplation of the ancient
glory of Poland, whose history and politics are familiar
to me, because they have seldom ceased to be the
special object of my researches and persevering study,
I am always anxious to attract the reflecting readers
attention to that which engrosses my own thoughts ;
namely, how it is possible to humble Russia, to restore
Poland as a nation, and to increase the salutary influence
abroad, and the prosperity at home, of Great Britain.
Hence, all that I have ever written in Polish, French,
or English, has been historical in character, anti-
Russian in sentiment, and consequently exclusively
favourable to Poland and England. Having spent
some of my boyish years in the secluded regions of the
Polish Ukraine ; and having, at a later period, often


inhabited and visited, north and south, the most dreary
parts of ancient Poland ; having always been passion-
ately fond of shooting, and lived occasionally for days,
even in winter, in the open air, I naturally acquired
(though I have never been in America), something
of the habits of a North American hunter, and may
be almost considered as a child of the desert. Indeed,
though I lived for years at Warsaw and Paris, stayed
often even in London, yet, however partial at times I
might have been to polite society, I could never shake
off completely my early recollections, nor forget the
effect produced on my youthful and naturally enthu-
siastic mind, by the soaring of eagles, the neighing of the
herds of wild horses, the howling of ravenous wolves,
and the harmonious winds of the Steppes. To this may
be attributed the facility with which I occasionally d >
scribe some of the fiercer passions of the human heart,
and my partiality in fostering in my publications
subjects, more connected with the history of my own
country, than with other countries, and consequently
more congenial with the branch of politics to which I
devoted my attention. To the abovenamed early
recollection may be also ascribed, that the outpourings
of my pen bear rather an impress of romantic wild-
ness than that of too refined civilization. But if I
sacrifice elegance to energy in my writings, it will, I
think, be admitted, that I have a noble object in view.
Without being for an instant deceived by the artfully
concealed aim of panslavism, which with all its fine


words, crafty sophisms, and childish arguments, intends
nothing more than to dismember Turkey and Austria,
to erase Poland from the map of nations, to disturb
the balance of power, to check British commerce and
British influence in the south-east of Europe, as well as
in Egypt and Persia, and to endanger the British com-
munications with India for ever in favour of Russia.
Thoroughly convinced that nothing short of the com-
plete independence of Poland, on a liberal scale, and
the rigid preservation of the Ottoman empire, can save
Europe from north-eastern invasion, and permanently
guarantee the blessings of peace and progressive
improvement all over the world. I have boldly
pointed attention to what I deem the weakest, and
therefore the most vulnerable, part of Russia.
> To those who, having never exposed their heads to
the Russian bullets, advised the Poles to submit
blindly to Russia, as well as to those who, without
the slightest knowledge of Polish history, past or
present, became suddenly authors of political pamphlets,
and from various motives (no doubt favourable to their
private interests), now preach the same doctrine among
the Poles, I beg to answer, that in proportion to the
increasing danger with which Russia was occasionally
threatened by numerous wars and political commotions
in Europe, she always flattered Poland, and tried, with
crafty and seasonable insinuations, to gain the confidence
of the Poles. So did Catherine II. before the partition
of Poland ; so did the Emperor Paul I. ; so did Alex-


ander in 1807, 1812, and 1815 ; so did the Emperor
Nicholas in 1829, and does now and while I admit
that the hatred that exists between Russia and Poland
for ages, is entirely of a political nature, and can cease
under proper circumstances I by no means admit
blind submission to Russia as beneficial to the Poles,
especially in the present unsettled state of Europe. If,
however, Russia will give up part, at least, of her
Polish provinces ; if she will restore all the confiscated
property of the Poles, recal from abroad and Siberia all
the Polish political exiles, if she will withdraw her
armies from Poland, re-establish the constitutional king-
dom of Poland, proclaim either his Imperial Highness
the Grand Due Michel, or his Imperial Highness the
Duke of Leichtenberg, or any other personage whom
she may think proper, as the future king of Poland, and
allow the formation of a purely national Polish army,
under the command of Chlopicki, Skrzynecki, Uminski,
Dwernicki, Bern, or Rozycki, as the safest guarantee of
keeping her promise, then a permanent peace between
Russia and Poland is possible, and Poland, though
oppressed for ages, and who had, and still has such a
strong claim to the gratitude of civilized Europe, may
consider Russia as her sister, improve her morality,
keep pace with the inarch of constitutional freedom, and
drown in oblivion her Tartaro-Calmuck praurf? but
without the fulfilment of a great part of the above-
named guarantee, the friendly dispositions of Russia
towards Poland is too great a mockery, and cannot


possibly deceive any man who has one single grain
of common sense.

The denationalizing of Poland for many reasons is
impossible, and if Russia will not give up Poland volun-
tarily, that kingdom will be wrested from her sooner or
later. Poland was conquered, temporarily, because
she was a republic ; had she been a regular kingdom,
she would never have become the prey of her neigh-
bours. Should all Europe become a republic (which is
very doubtful), Poland might accept the form of re-
publican government; but even then, Poland would
be the last of all the European nations where the
republican government can work well. "Whoever has
a practical knowledge of all the parts of Poland,
must be well aware, that a king is as necessary to the
future well-being of Poland, as the mother's milk to
the existence of a child.

Having, after a mature consideration, formed my own
opinion on the Polish question (though at variance with
the generality of the Poles of two opposite parties), I
am convinced, that neither any advocate of the wild
democracy, nor any man notoriously connected with the
last Polish insurrection in 1831, can ever rule Poland ;
but any talented and energetic man (unconnected with
either party), whom circumstances or European
diplomacy may favour, can rule that kingdom, and
soothe all its internal animosities. Considering that
true liberty, which is spoken of everywhere, does
not exist but in England ; considering that all dispas-


sionate men, who have resided some years in England,
agree that British institutions are superior to all
others without exception; that the British govern-
ment is the best in the world; considering that
dethroned kings, expelled dukes, illustrious princes,
fallen ministers of various shades ; considering that
even such contrasts as Metternich and Louis Blanc,
with swarms of persecuted chiefs, sectarians, exiles,
from all parts of the world, find shelter in England,
where their persons are safe, their creed respected,
their property protected ; considering that parties
are bo well balanced in England that none of them
can oppress each other; considering that England
expended twenty-five millions for liberating the slaves ;
considering that British sailors and soldiers, without
much noise, under Nelson, Wellington, Harding,
Napier, Edwardes, never showed their backs to the
enemy, and conquered all nations; considering that
there is no better climate for longevity than in
England; nowhere are to be found fairer, or more
virtuous women than in England ; it must be acknow-
ledged, without speaking of British superiority in
every branch of science and literature, that as long
as she shall reasonably protect the Established church,
and produce such political giants as Lansdown, Pal-
merston, Russell, Peel, and Graham, who, under the
most trying circumstances governed her realms with ex-
traordinary firmness, prudence, and foresight, and give
at the same time fairly an example of all domestic


virtues, England, firm like a rock amidst the raging
political storms, will always be the real queen of the
world; and, therefore, I cannot but imagine that
nothing could be more advantageous to Poland (in
the event of the restoration of that country), than
that a British nobleman should become the future
king of Poland. But should no British noble be
induced to ascend the throne of Poland and my
earnest hope thus remain ungratified his place might
then be supplied by one of the princes Esterhazy, or
by a Swedish, Servian, German, Italian, or any other
foreign prince.

By propagating such an opinion, I offended some in-
fluential individuals, who never forgave me, and find-
ing it impossible to alter my feelings in their favour,
knowing some of my weaknesses, as also various diffi-
culties in which I have necessarily been involved as an
exile, they have indirectly inflicted great injury upon
my prospects in England. I was exposed, not only to
annoyances, but to artfully propagated slander, un-
worthy even of an answer. Let them remember that
noble blood flows in my veins, and that no offers, how-
ever tempting, can bribe me, and though, in conse-
quence of crafty intrigues, some publications have
been directed against me in various languages, it will
ultimately rather tend to serve than to injure me.
Confident in the purity of my intentions, and in the
soundness of my political intellect, I shall fight my own
battle, like the worthy British Missionaries who spread


in all parts of the world, amid raging storms, the
blessings of the Gospel.

Three years ago, during my stay at Richmond, in
Yorkshire, I compiled a regular history of the Polish
Cossacks, which I properly corrected in the British
Museum ; but having neither literary acquaintances,
nor available means of publishing it, and being more
thwarted than encouraged in my literary exertions, I
was twice obliged to curtail it, and so leave unpublished,
perhaps, the most interesting part of it. Whoever is an
author, must admit that there is nothing more un-
pleasant than to condense and completely re-model
historical subjects, after they have been once prepared
and matured for the press.

In my present work on the Cossacks, I describe
their piratical expeditions into Turkey, and sketch their
dangerous rebellion (fostered by Russia) in Poland,
under Chmielnicki, Zelezniak, and Gonta ; and not less
formidable rebellions in Russia, under Stenko Razin,
Mazeppa, and Pugatchef, which rebellions cost Russia
nearly a million of human beings, and shook that
empire to its very foundation, and even to this time
has not only impaired its whole strength, but ren-
dered its continued existence a mysterious problem.
Having further described all the branches of the
Polish Cossacks, with their most noted chiefs, from
almost the beginning of their political existence till
our time, I then unveil many interesing facts re-
specting Catherine II., as connected with Poland,


and give a short account of her lovers and the
victims of her hatred, as also the various diabolical
intrigues for which she was so infamously celebrated.
I conclude the work with a statistical, historical,
and geographical description of the Ukraine, from
time immemorial the land of unbridled passions,
poetry, and romance, and the source from which
the genius of Byron drew the material of his poem of

Some of the notes are written in the form of
memoirs, and will be found full of interest. The
anecdotes on Prince Pashkievich and Countess Cordule
Fredro, are peculiar and characteristic. Many curious
customs of the dreariest parts of Poland are mentioned.
The dark shade of the Ukrainian poetry, and the
singular adventures of the principal Ukranian poets
are faithfully described. The music to be found at the
end of the book may be attractive to the fairer portion
of my readers.

In the life of Pugatchef, following blindly a written
document, I committed, unintentionally, an historical
error, which I am anxious to correct. It was not the
Russian general Tchernishef, but the Russian general
Carr, who was first vanquished by Pugatchef.

The whole work, though very imperfectly written in
English, may yet prove interesting alike to the histo-
rical student and the general reader, if they will but
consider the importance of the subject rather than its
style of composition.


A small part of this work I hare already written in
French, those who wish to translate it into Italian,
Spanish, and German, will not, probably, take ad-
vantage of a Polish exile, and may readily make
terms for publication. In any written communication
with me, it is necessary to put distinctly my Christian
name, HENRY, on the address, to prevent mistakes,
which has on more than one occasion exposed me to
great annoyances.



CHAPTER L The Polish Cossacks 1

IL Rebellion of Stenko Razin 57

m. The Zaporogues 74

IV. Mazeppa 92

V. Zelezniak 105

VL Gonta 117

VII. Sava 134

VIIL Rozycki 141

IX. Princess Tarakanof 163

X. Catherine II., and her Favourites . . .178

XI. Rebellion of Pugatchef 186

XH. Description of the Ukraine . . . .224

Notes 275







jOrigin of the Cossacks^-Derivation of the Name Invasion of
Batuk~han Tne Tatars Difference between Kussian and Polish
Cossacks The Cossacks of the Don Their Arms and Mode of
Warfare The first Chief of the Cossacks of the DnieperUnion
of the Cossacks with Poland Batory His Policy respecting the
Cossacks Their Incursions Boats- Cruises on the Black Sea
Dissensions between the Cossacks and the Poles Revolt of the
Cossacks Their Defeat Sahaydatchny Decline of the Cossacks
History of Khmielnitski Andrew Firley His Defence of
Zbaraz Horrors of the Siege The friendly Arrow Battle of
Zborof Convention of Khmielnitski with the Poles His treacher-
ous conduct Deliverance of Khmielnitski His Invasion of Mol-
daviaBattle of Beresteczko Defection of Khmielnitski The
Convention with Russia The two wild Bulls The dying words
of Khmielnitski.

THE immense solitudes which spread between the
Volga, the Don, and the Dnieper, between the Caspian
Sea and the Black Sea, appear to have been, from time
immemorial, the fatherland of those wandering nations
and barbarian hordes who, subsisting by rapine and



pillage, thundered down upon civilized Europe like an
avalanche ; leaving in the rear of their destructive and
fearful track nought save carnage, conflagration, ruin,
and despair.

Confounded and intermixed, as regards their origin,
the one with the other, these predatory tribes have
passed, ever since the ancient Scythians, under different
names ; but all bear one peculiar, distinctive, and
forcibly -impressed character, both individually and in
common, too indelible to be either obliterated or mis-
taken wriil&t the general resemblance observable
amongst them is so decided and striking, as to preclude
their being confounded with any other races ; notwith-
standing that a few varying shades in individual
character, attributable to slight differences or modifi-
cations of general climate the moral results of suc-
cessful or of unsuccessful wars and other accidental
circumstances influencing the destiny of so numerous
and widely-extended a race of barbarian adventurers,
may have caused some disparity in the general features
of resemblance otherwise recognizable among them.

The origin of the Cossack tribes is lost in the
obscurity of ages ; and many celebrated historians are
still divided in opinion as to whence the term Cossack,
or rather Kosaque, is properly to be derived. This
word, indeed, is susceptible of so many etymological
explanations, as scarcely to offer for any one of them
decided grounds of preference. Everything, however,
would seem to favour the belief that the word Cossack,


or Kosaque, was in much earlier use in the vicinity
of the Caucasus than in the Ukraine. 8

It is possible that the Kotzagery and the Kosarts may
claim some sort of affinity with the primitive ancestors
of the ancient Kosaques, with whom they are occasion-
ally confounded ; nevertheless, it is not until long after-
wards, that the Pelooses or the Komans can be reason-
ably considered as the true stock of the Kosaque race,
from whom the Mamelukes also derive their origin.
Sherer, in his " Annals of Russia Minor/' (La Petite
Russie,) traces back the origin of the Cossacks to the
ninth century ; but he does not support his assertion
by any facts clothed with the dignity of historical truth.
It appears certain, however, that the vast pasture lands
between the Don and the Dnieper, the country lying on
the south of Kiow, and traversed by the Dnieper up
to the Black Sea, was the principal birthplace of the

When, in 1242, Batukhan b came with five hundred
thousand men to take possession of the empire which
fell to his share of the vast inheritance left by Tchingis
Khan, he extirpated many nations and displaced many
others. One portion of the Komans flying from the
horrors of this ^terrific storm, and arriving on the bor-
ders of the Caspian Sea, on the banks of the la'ik, (now
Ouralsek,) turned to the left, and took refuge between
the embouchures of that river, where they dwelt in
small numbers, apart from their brethren, in a less fer-
tile climate. These were, incontestably, the progeni-


tors of the Cossacks of the laik, who are, historically,
scarcely important enough for notice ; and who, obscure
and ignoble, were supported chiefly from the produce
of their fisheries, and the plunder acquired during
their predatory excursions. In religion they were
rather idolaters than Christians.

At the approach of this formidable invasion towards
the Don, that portion of the Komans located on the
left bank took refuge in the marshes, and in the
numerous islands formed by that river near its em-
bouchure. Here they found a secure retreat ; and
from thence, having, from their new position, acquired
maritime habits and seafaring experience, they not
only, themselves, resorted to piracy as a means of
existence, but likewise enlisted in a formidable con-
federacy, for purposes of rapine and pillage, all the
roving and discontented tribes in their surrounding
neighbourhood. These latter were very numerous.
The Tatars, ever but indifferent seamen, had not
the courage to join them in these piratical expeditions.
This division of the Komans is indubitably the parent-
stock of the modern Cossacks of the Don, by far the
most numerous of the Cossack tribes: by amalgamation,
however, with whole hosts of Tatar and Calmuck
hordes, lawless, desperate, and nomadic as themselves,
they lost, in some degree, the primitive and deeply-
marked distinctive character of their race.

The Komans of the Dnieper offered no more ener-
getic resistance to the invading hordes of Batukhan


than had been shown by their brethren of the Don :
they dispersed in various directions ; and from this
people, flying at the advance of the ferocious Tatars,
descended a variety of hordes, who occasionally figure
in history as distinct and independent nations. Some
of them hastened to implore the hospitality of Bella
IV., king of Hungaria: they made their appearance
as supplicants for his protection ; lands were distributed
to them, a chief assigned as their ruler, and efforts
were made to polish and soften down their rude and
ferocious manners. As long as the danger lasted,
they remained quiet ; but, after a while, incapable of
subjection to the yoke of a calm and peaceful existence,
they broke out into open revolt, massacred the chief
who had been set over them; and resumed their
former life of rapine and pillage. Being consequently
attacked with considerable forces, they were defeated
and pursued with great virulence; and ultimately
found a permanent resting-place in the wild islets of
the Dnieper, below the cataracts, where dwelt already
a small number of their ancient compatriots, who had
escaped the general destruction of their nation. This
spot became the cradle of the Cossacks of the Ukraine,
or of the tribes known in after times as the Polish

When Guedynum, Grand Duke of Lithuania, after
having defeated twelve Russian princes on the banks
of the Pierna, conquered K'iow with its dependencies,
in 1320, the wandering tribes scattered over the


steppes of the Ukraine owned his allegiance. After
the victories of Olgierd, of Vitold, and of Ladislas
lagellon, over the Tatars and the Russians, large
bodies of Scythian militia, known subsequently by the
comprehensive denomination of Cossacks, or Kosaques,
served under these conquerors: and after the union
of -the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with Poland, in 1386,
they 'continued under the dominion of the grand dukes
of Lithuania, forming, apparently, an intermediate

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Online LibraryHenryk KrasinskiThe Cossacks of the Ukraine; comprising biographical notices of the most celebrated Cossack chiefs ... With a memoir of Princess Tarakanof, and some particulars respecting Catharine II., of Russia, and her favourites → online text (page 1 of 22)