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 16 of 22)
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made themselves masters of the town of Pereaslaw, in
Lesser Bulgaria ; and taking advantage of the dissen-
sions of the Russic dukes, established- themselves in the
Ukraine. The calamities which weighed heavily upon
these territories, were succeeded by others still more
terrible ; when the hordes of the Tatars, at first led by
Genkiscan, and subsequently by other chiefs, com-
menced the struggle, which lasted five centuries,
between barbarism and civilisation, between Europe
and Asia that dreadful struggle during which Poland
alone preserved the other powers from destruction,
otherwise inevitable, and which, at a later period, was
the principal cause of her ruin.

The Russic power, weakened as it was by the Polish
and Tatar arms, still thought itself sufficiently strong to
make an attack upon the Lithuanian possessions. The
grand duke of Lithuania, Guedymiri, already famous by
the victories he had gained over the Teutonics, placed
himself at the head of an army, traversed Volhynia,


overtook twelve Russic dukes near the river Pierna,
gave them battle, defeated them, made himself master
of the whole Ukraine, took possession of K'iow in 1320,
established a governor-general in the conquered terri-
tories, and returned into Lithuania. His son, the Grand
Duke Olgierd, inheriting the high qualities of his father,
attacked the Tatars in Podolia (which was still groaning
under the yoke), near Sine Wody, totally defeated them,
and united, in 1331, the two provinces to Lithuania,
which formerly extended from the Baltic to the Black

The Tatars, subdued by Olgierd, having rebelled, the
Grand Duke Vitold, son of Keystut, and nephew of the
above mentioned Olgierd, marched against them at the
head of an army, attacked them several times on the bank
of the Don, and made them feel the weight of his sword.
Vitold, ere long, penetrated the confines of Asia ; and
powerful princes sought his alliance and protection.
One of the Tatar princes, Tacktamisz, being twice
beaten, and then driven from his states by Timur-
Kutluk, of the horde of Kapchake, one of the lieu-
tenants of Tamerlan, solicited Vitold to protect him
against his enemy. Vitold kindly received the illus-
trious exile, granted him a residence in the town of
K'iow, promised to reinstate him in his domains, and to
punish Timur-Kutluk the usurper. Although many of
Vitold's friends advised him to abstain from taking any
part in the measures required to effect these objects,
warning him of the immense numerical superiority of


the Tatars, and reminding him of the military experience
and valour they had derived from their wars with
Tamerlan ; Vitold, unshaken in his decision and
nothing daunted, assembled an army composed of
Tatars and the Russic dukes, his tributaries, as well as
of Lithuanians and Poles, under experienced leaders :
ambitious of glory, panting for conquest, and hating
repose, he led his forces against Timur-Kutluk.

The latter, having learned that Vitold was advancing
at the head of a hostile army, sent to him an envoy
with a message, couched in the following words :

" Valiant prince, deliver into our hands Takhtamysz,
formerly a powerful chief, now an exile and our enemy :
such is the will of the khan, my master."

Vitold replied " I am on my way to see him P
then, having crossed the Sula, Khorolem, and several
other rivers, he came in sight of the army of Timur-
Kutluk, encamped on the opposite bank of the Vorskla.

Well acquainted with the high renown of Vitold, as
well as with his military talents, he did not appear dis-
posed to combat with him. He sent a second time an
envoy, bearer of the following question :

" I ask you the cause of this war. I have never
offended you. I have never invaded your states. What
then do you want from me ?"

Vitold answered, ' ' God is preparing to give me the
dominion over all nations ; my will is, that you be my
son, and my tributary, or my prisoner."

Timur-Kutluk, according to several historians, was


not averse to peace under certain conditions ; but Vitold
required that Timur-Kutluk should restore all the pro-
vinces of Takhtamyszj and that money should be
coined, bearing Vitold's image.

The Mongolian chief requested a delay of three days
for his final answer, ardently expecting the arrival of
reinforcements under Ediga Holoossa, a renowned
Tatar chief, who soon made his appearance. Having
heard the conditions of peace, he exclaimed, that he
would rather perish than accept them ; and he imme-
diately demanded an interview with the grand duke of
Lithuania, which was granted. The two chiefs met
each other in the space between the two armies. Vitold
was one of the greatest captains of the age, and a
renowned conqueror. Ediga Holoossa was one of the
ablest chiefs of Tamerlan, whose praise, admiration,
and even jealousy, he excited. After the usual greet-
ings, the Tatar addressed him, " Great prince, Timur-
Kutluk, with good reason, called you father, for you are
older than he ; but as I am more advanced in years than
you, let my image be stamped on your coinage ; bow
down your proud head before your master, and be my
slave." At these words, Vitold's anger was roused to
the highest pitch ; he retired from the Tatar's presence,
reviewed his army, and placed it in battle array. The
two Tatar chiefs made a final effort to bring about a
reconciliation, and they would perhaps have succeeded,
had not a Pole, named Szczukoski, who, seeing the cele-
brated Vitold, for the first time in his life, undecided and


wavering, thus rashly addressed him : " Great prince,
if the charms of a young and beautiful spouse, perchance
attach you so strongly to the pleasures of this world,
permit us at least to perish, or humble the pride ot
these innumerable hordes." These words wounded the
pride of Vitold, and he gave immediate orders for the

Both armies amounted together to five hundred
thousand men. The Tatars were, at first, unable to resist
the impetuous shock of Vitold's troops, far less nume-
rous than the Tatar host, which, in the hyberbolical
language of some of the historians, was said to be
" countless as the sand of the sea." The bravery of
Vitold was assisted by a few cannon, employed, for the
first time in the north of Europe in this conflict.
These, though ill-served, committed great ravages in
the ranks of the Tatars : but they failed to produce,
in his favour, the successful result which, at the battle
of Cressy, the use of artillery, then of modern intro-
duction into European warfare, assured to the English.
Ediga thrice rallied his troops, and by a desperate effort,
captured the scanty artillery. Vitold performed pro-
digies of valour ; but, being at length overwhelmed by
superior numbers, he was completely defeated. After
having lost forty thousand men, and seventy-five princes,
he was indebted for his life, to the swiftness of his
courser. This famous battle was fought on the 12th
August, 1399, on the banks of the Vorskla. The loss
of the Tatars was enormous. After the victory, Ediga


Holoossa pillaged K'iow, returning laden with booty
and glory into his deserts ; and having learned that
Vitold was assembling a fresh army, he offered the
latter an advantageous peace, which was accepted.

Some historians have wrongly recorded that Vitold
was conquered by Tamerlan, who died in 1395, four
years before this battle took place. The mistake may
have arisen from the confusion of the names of Timur-
Kutluk and Timur-Lankh (Tamerlan.) It is to be re-
marked that, although Vitold was worsted in the battle of
Vorskla against Timur-Kutluk, yet he always preserved
his ascendancy over the Transdnieperian Tatars, inas-
much as he brought away several of their tributary
khans at the battle of Grundwald.( b )

The whole of the Ukraine, as well as the country
which extends to the Black Sea, comprehending Wal-
lachia, remained under Lithuanian dominion till 1453,
when Mahomet II., sultan of Turkey, after the taking
of Constantinople, changed the political condition of the
east. Shortly after this conquest, the Ottomans achieved
another over the vassals of Lithuania, already united to
Poland. A long series of unfortunate wars, comprehend-
ing those with the Cossacks, ravaged the Ukraine and
all the south of Poland up to the time of the treaty of
Karlovitz, concluded in 1699. The Ottomans, then
swearing eternal friendship to Poland, united them-
selves to their natural ally, in order to combat the Mus-
covite power, which was beginning to extend itself in
every direction. The history of its wars from Peter the


Great to Nicholas I. is too well known to require our
notice here. With regard to the Transdnieperian
Ukraine, it passed with the city of Ki'ow, by the illegal
treaty of Andruszof, in 1688, under the dominion of the
czars of Russia. This treaty, concluded in the reign of
Sobieski, was a most unfortunate one for Poland, who,
by the consequent troubles, was weakened and disorgan-
ised ; and the same treaty subsequently brought down
gradual calamities upon Polish Ukraine ; especially in
the year 1768, during the revolt of Zelezniaque and
Gonta, which was fostered and organised by Russia.

After the second dismemberment of Poland, Polish
Ukraine passed also (according to all appearances, pro-
visionally) under Russian domination.

Our notice of the principal towns of the Ukraine shall
be preceded by a description of Ki'ow (which the
Russians spell Kief), the capital of the province. The
origin of K'iow appears to date from a time very far
anterior to our own era ; it may be traced back, in the
opinion of some annalists, to the period when the
Greeks (Cheronites), who laid the first stone of this
city, carried on an active commerce with Byzan-
tium, the modern Constantinople. On the right bank
of the Dnieper, the true patriarch of Polish rivers,
which pours its broad floods into the Euxine, stands the
sacred city of Ki'ow, crowning a rugged steep, that
rises from the bosom of the moving sands on the river's
brink. It is divided into two portions, the upper town,
called Pieczarsk, and the lower, called Dolny Kiov. The


former contains the noble cathedral of St. Sophia, con-
secrated in 1037, a masterpiece of architecture and
magnificence ; and in the same portion of the city, there
are subterranean vaults or catacombs, containing the
bones of many saints or Russian martyrs. Under the
ruins of the ancient church of St. Basil, are alabaster
tablets with Greek inscriptions, bearing the date 260
of the Christian era. K'iow has always been the seat of
extensive commerce, and several times has been sur-
rounded with ramparts, the scene of many a warlike
achievement. When, in 1018, Boleslaus the Great,
king of Poland, entered this city in the character of a
conqueror, it contained eight spacious squares, and
more than four hundred churches, with their gilded
towers, shedding floods of reflected radiance when the
sunbeams played upon them. These churches contained
immense riches, supposed to have been taken from
Theodosia (Kaffa). A great part of this wealth was
conveyed into Poland by Boleslaus ; and at a later date,
when Mieczyslaw II. occupied the Bohemian throne,
the Bohemians carried the same into Prague. Although
the greatest number of these churches were dedicated
to the worship of the Greek Church, yet there was a
Roman Catholic cathedral; and there were also some
Roman Catholic churches. In the beginning of the
tenth century, the Russian duke Oleg, first took this city
from the Slavonians. In 988, Vladimir the Great,
established his residence in this city; and, after having
espoused Anne, or Anastasia, sister of Basil and Con-


stantine, who occupied the throne of Constantinople,
embraced Christianity, together with a great number of
his subjects. In the same year, the patriarch of Con-
stantinople gave to K'iow its first metropolitan bishop,
in the person of Bishop Michael. In 1018, Boleslaus
the Great, and in 1077, his great grandson, Boleslaus
the Bold, entered this city as victors. In 1228, it was
plundered by the Tatars. In 1320, the grand duke of
Lithuania, Gedymen, took possession of it in his turn.
In 1399 and 1414, Ediga, who conquered Vitold,
committed in it many acts of ravage and destruction,
from which it never recovered. In 1650, Chmielnicki
(Khmielnitski), made himself master of it with his
Cossacks ; but in the following year, Prince Janus Ead-
ziwill, always successful against these Cossacks, drove
them out of it. In 1660, it was occupied by the Mosco-
vites, and has remained in the power of the Russians
ever since 1686. Ki'ow possesses an academy and a
gymnasium. For a long time the schools of the govern-
ment of K'iow were under the direction of the university
of Vilno ; but in recent years, they have been transferred
to that of the university of Kharkof. A bishop of Ki'ow,
J. A. Zaluski, is known in the annals of Poland, by his
having formed a library composed of two hundred
thousand volumes. This noble collection was ordered,
in 1795, to be transported from Warsaw to Petersburg.
In the vast gardens of Pietcharsque, abounding in all
the most delicious fruits of the season, there are vines
producing grapes, from which wine is sometimes made.



In these gardens, situated in the upper town, black
grouse are sometimes to be seen. Kiow has from a re-
mote period been greatly celebrated for its exquisite
confectionary, elsewhere unsurpassed. At the festival of
St. John, towards the end of June, the highest ranks of
society belonging to the Ukraine, and even the proprietors
of all the Russic lands, assemble at Kiow ; many trans-
actions are effected, and immense sums change hands.
The whole city is crowded with wealthy visitors ;
estates are sold and purchased; balls and brilliant
parties exhilarate the young and the gay.

In 1831, during the war with the Russians, Kiow
yearned to be united to Poland, its long-lost mother
country. This happiness it was not destined to enjoy;
and now, sad and solitary, seated in Moscovite darkness,
sullied by acts of infamy, it groans as an unfortunate
heroine in chains, directing its straining gaze towards
regions whence the adored hero, the life of its life, is
expected to arrive, to release it from its bondage, and to
fill with the thrillings of rapture, the heart now rent by
despair. It is worthy of remark, that though the
government of Kiow is composed of a population pro-
fessing the religion of the Greek church, yet, in 1831,
the insurrection here was much more formidable to
Russia, than it was in any other government forming a
part of Russian Poland.

We will now take a view of other places formerly
belonging to this palatinate. Loiovygrod, on the right
bank of the Dnieper, is at the north of Kiow. Near


this borough,- on the 31st July, 1640, Prince Janus
Radzivill, grand hetman of Lithuania, gained a complete
victory over 38,000 rebellious Cossacks. Vasilkof and
Montvidovka were, in the olden time, fortresses on the
ancient frontier of Polesia. Ovrucz, a small town on the
Naryna, formerly, as well as at the present time, the
chief town of the district ; it now belongs to the govern-
ment of Volhynia. Trylisc and Romanof, on the Ka-
miencza, Staviski fortified against the incursions of the
barbarians ; it has also been rendered famous by an
act of heroic courage on the part of a Pole named
Zglobitski. This heroic man was the first to leap upon
the walls, and plant thereon the Polish standard; his
hands were struck off in succession, and he seized the
standard with his teeth, and held it so firmly, that
no force could wrest it from him. He died with the
consolation of preserving the standard from the hands
of the enemy, and beholding his countrymen victorious.
This noble act of devotedness took place under Czar-
niecki, in the wars against the Cossacks.

Korsun, a borough, situated upon the Eos : it was
founded by Stephen Batory, in 1581 ; it was here
that Khmielnitski, with the Cossacks that revolted in
1648, surprised and defeated the Poles under Martin
Kalinowski and Nicholas Pototski.

Zytomirz, with a population of 6,000, is at present
the chief town of the government of Volhynia, after
having formerly stood in the same relation with regard
to the district of the palatinate of K'iow. There is


here a school, as also a small theatre, in which Polish
pieces are sometimes acted.

Bialotcerkief, a borough, of 3,000 souls, with an im-
mense castle, belongingto the wealthy family of Branetski.

Trehtymirow, a borough, which was formerly assigned
by Stephen Batory as a residence for the attaman of the

Kaniof, upon the Dnieper, an ancient starosty that
belonged to the nephew of King Stanislaus Poniatowski,
who had an interview, in 1787, with Catherine II. in
this town.

Berdyczef, with a population of 10,000, principally
Jews. This town belonged, and probably still belongs
to the illustrious family of the princes Kadzivill ; it is
incorporated in the government of Volhynia. It is re-
markable for the horse-fairs which are held there twice
in a year. The most considerable is that which is held
in the month of August ; it lasts three or four weeks. It
may be stated, without exaggeration, that there are
often to be seen in the fair 100,000 horses of every kind,
from all parts of Russia, Poland, Austria, and Turkey ;
and even at times, a few from Persia. In my boy-
hood, I twice visited this fair ; and I remember having
seen in it, a Persian stallion, as white as snow, with the
exception of his mane and tail, which were as black as
coal, exciting the admiration of all beholders ; he was
purchased at a high price. There are also many wild
horses, which are sold at a ducat each ; sometimes six
shillings each.


Jahorlik, a borough, situated at the confluence of the
Jahorlik and the Dniester. There was, here, a kind of
obelisk, which marked the boundaries between Poland
and Turkey, after the treaty of Karlowitz in 1699.
With regard to the towns and boroughs situated in
Transdnieperian Ukraine, and which belonged to the
ancient palatinate of Kiow, before the treaty of Grzy-
multov, by which they were ceded, in 1686, to Mus-
covy, we will follow the Polish geographer, Swieqki

Hadziacz, upon the Pszczola, memorable for a treaty
concluded here between Poland and the Cossacks, on
the 16th of September, 1658.

Pultawa, upon the Vorskla, at the present day the
chief town of the government of this name, and re-
markably associated with the defeat of Charles XII. on
the 8th of July, 1709.

Batourin, a town founded by Stephen Batory, king
of Poland. In 1664, John Casimir here concentrated
his formidable forces, ere he marched against the Cos-
sacks, who then threw themselves into the arms of
Moscovy. Prince Menzikoff took this town by assault,
in the time of Peter the Great, in 1709 ; and after
having destroyed the magazines of provisions which
Mazeppa had there amassed for the use of Charles
XII., he put all the Cossacks to the sword, as accom-
plices of the latter, and set fire to the town.

Jeremiof ka, formerly belonging to Prince Jeremiasz


Pereaslaw, upon the Trubitza, a town formerly
flourishing, which contained a college of Jesuits, founded
by Zolkiewski, nephew of the renowned general of
that name. The Cossacks under Khmielnitski pillaged
it, committing every kind of excess.

Nizyn, on the Ostrza, which formerly separated the
palatinate of Kiow from that of Czernichow, and the
most eastern of the possessions of ancient Poland.

We now turn to the palatinate of Czernichow (pro-
nounced Tchernikhof ), the territories of which were at
first governed by the Eussic dukes descended from
Vladimir the Great ; but the grand duke of Lithuania,
Gedymin, having annihilated their army on the banks
of the Pierna, incorporated in his own states, in 1320,
the towns and fortresses of Kiow, Bialogrod, Slepowrat,
Kaniow, Czerkassy, Bransk, Pereaslaw, and the duchy
of Severia, even to Puty vel, with all their dependencies.
About the year 1394, Vladislaus Jagellon, king of
Poland, confided to his brother Korybut, the government
of Severia and of Czernichow ; but Korybut, wishing to
make himself independent of the grand duke of Lithua-
nia, Yitold assembled an army, marched against him,
gave him battle, routed him completely near Niedo-
kodow, took possession of his states, made him pri-
soner with all his family, and sent him under a strong
escort to Vilno; he then established starosties in this

Subsequently, Korybut was restored to liberty by
the intercession of the duke of Kazan; and obtained


the castles of Bratslaw and Vinnista, in Volhynia, with
all their dependencies. He then founded Zbaraz and
Visnioviatz, whence the powerful families of princes
Zbaraski and Visniovietski derived their origin. To
the latter of these families belonged Michael Korybut
Wisniowiecki, (pronounced Visniovietski) elected king
of Poland, before Sobieski. These families have been
long extinct. Towards the close of the reign of Casimir
the Jagellon, in 1490, the dukes who governed Severia
repaired to Vilno, to do homage to the king of Poland ;
but as one of the servants of the castle, in opening the
gate, accidentally broke the finger of one of these dukes,
this exasperated them so much that, without delay, they
quitted Vilno, and threw themselves into the arms of
Russia ; becoming subject to that power, till the year
1634, when the victories of the Poles over the Czar
Michael Federovitch, brought about the glorious peace
of Wiazma. By the treaty then made, Smolensk, Se-
veria, and Tchernigovia reverted to the power of the
mother country, and were included in the palatinate of
Czernichow, divided into three districts by the decision
of the diet of 1635. They again, by the truce of
Andruszow, fell, together with all the Transdnieperian
territory, into the power of Russia.

The principal towns and boroughs of the ancient pala-
tinate of Czernichow are: Czernihow, a flourishing
town upon the Desna, at the present day chief town of
the government of the same name in Russia. Novo-
grod Sieverski, formerly the residence of the dukes,


now the chief town of the district. Bransk, a town
memorable for the victory of the hetman Pac over the
Russians. The illustrious Polish family of Tryzna
were the possessors of estates here situated. Konotop,
memorable also for a celebrated victory gained by the
Poles over the Russians in 1664. Glinsk, anciently
the property of the family of the princes Glinski, one of
whose members betrayed his country, and delivered up
to the Russians, the fortress of Smolensk in 1548. This
traitor afterwards met with condign punishment; his
eyes were put out by the czar, and he perished in a
dungeon. This family is extinct. Putywell, an ancient
fortress, adjacent to an immense forest, scarcely inferior
in extent to that of Bialovieza.

In concluding this short geographical view of the
Ukraine, it may be interesting to give a description of
its inhabitants, particularly those of Polish Ukraine.

The population of the Ukraine is composed of seve-
ral races, which have more or less amalgamated with
each other. The Scythians, or Cossacks, were the first
to seize upon the lands and to defend them ; but their
nomadic habits, added to a thirst of predatory excur-
sions, did not allow them to set a just value on these
lands, which lay, for the most part, in fallow, or
altogether uncultivated. Poland, accordingly, established
therein colonies of veteran soldiers, whose services
seemed worthy of a recompense ; and whose posterity
constitute, at the present day, the nobility of the Ukraine.
Besides the Polish and Russian nobles that have long


been established here amidst some Cossacks, several fami-
lies of the latter, tired of their unsettled and turbulent
life, built dwellings and settled here, forming a class of
small proprietors, much more numerous in the Ukraine
than in any other part of the ancient kingdom of
Poland. The grandees have at all times formed and
still form, as it were, a separate caste. There are also
many Jews in the various towns. The huts of the
common people are formed of argillaceous loam, mixed
with the hair of beasts, and covered over with glaize,
or fine clay. These huts are cleaner and more conve-

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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 16 of 22)