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 7 of 22)
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in the light of an insult, and demanded reparation at
the hands of their koshovy, more especially as they


had fulfilled the conditions exacted from them as
regarded their conduct during dinner : they threatened
to break off the alliance, and to pass over on the instant
to the side of the Russians, if the maitre d'hotel was not
given up to them to be punished according to their
summary mode of procedure.

As it was to be apprehended that some of the
Russian agents might take advantage of this untoward
incident, the unhappy maitre d'hotel was delivered up
to them. After they had jostled and pitched him about
for some time from one to the other, he was ultimately
despatched by a stab with a knife through the heart.
Charles arrived too late to save him. According to
the Zaporogue custom, a guest, provided he be not a
Jew, invited to a dinner-party, is entitled to carry off
with him whatever he may take a fancy to, with the
exception of money or arms. The reader must pardon
this slight digression illustrative of Zaporogue manners.

After the battle of Pultawa, in which a great num-
ber of them fell, the rest of the Zaporogues followed
Mazeppa into Turkey, which they quitted however
after his death.

At a subsequent period, the Empress Catherine II.
of Russia, flattered the Zaporogues by having 'her
name inscribed in letters of gold in their public regis-
ters, and employed them during the rebellion of 1768,
under Zelezniak, against the Polish nobles. After the
suppression of this revolt, partly by the aid of the
Russian troops (Catherine's policy having in the mean-


time changed as regarded this insurrection), a portion
of the Zaporogues perished on the scaffold : another
portion, faithful to Poland, took refuge in Turkey
under Nekrassa, whilst the remainder fled to their fast-
nesses. But Catherine, uneasy at their existence, sud-
denly despatched General Tekeli with considerable
forces to crush them in their retreats. Surprised, sur-
rounded, and attacked at all points, the Zaporogues,
after a determined but ineffectual resistance, were com-
pelled to surrender : the sitche was declared from
thenceforth broken up ; the ancient Zaporogue territory
incorporated with Russia (where it now forms the
modern governments of Ekaterinoslav, Kharkof, and
Tauride) ; and the very existence of the Zaporogues
themselves, as a separate community, annihilated. A
considerable body of them dispersed themselves in
various directions. Amongst the remarkable incidents
to which this obstinate, although ultimately fruitless
resistance of the Zaporogues gave rise, and which
characterised their last struggles for existence as a
nation, may be particularized the heroic exploits of
the last of the Zaporogue chieftains, Sava.

Amongst other grave accusations laid to the charge
of the Zaporogues, the chaste Czarina Catherine
reproached them with leading a debauched and licen-
tious life ! At a later period, those amongst them who
made their submission to Russia, and declared them-
selves willing to marry, received, by virtue of the Ukase
of the 30th June, 1792, the right of territory over the


island of Taman and all the country situated to the east
of the Black Sea, between Kuban and the sea of Azof,
as far as Labinskay Krepost, occupying in all a space
of 1700 geographical miles.

They are now no longer known under the name of
the Zaporogues, or Cossacks of the Lesser Russia, but
under the designation of the Cossacks of the Black Sea
(Tsharnomortscy). They form twenty- six regiments
constantly attached to the army of the Caucasus, and
scarcely ever make their appearance on the left banks
of the Dnieper.

A single river separates them from the Cossacks of
the Don, but there is a proverb extant among the Rus-
sians, that a Cossack of the Black Sea is equal to three
Cossacks of the Don; nor is there the least doubt that
in point of ferociousness, of indomitable courage, and
bodily strength, they are, as they themselves believe,
infinitely superior to the latter. Proud, independent
by nature, and waging eternal warfare in the neigh-
bourhood of the Caucasus, they look with contempt on
the Cossacks of the Don. In their songs they make
frequent allusions to Poland and to the town of K'iof.
Their favourite colour is that of Poland, namely, crim-
son ; they detest the Russians ; they bear for the most
part Polish names ; and there are still some vestiges of
the Polish character amongst them. They are distin-
guished from the rest of the Cossacks by the peculiar
symbol of their tribe, and to which they formerly
appeared to attach a sort of religious veneration, viz.,


by a lock of hair, which rising from the top of the head
falls down behind the right ear. Their lances too are
much shorter than those of the Cossacks of the Don.

The other branch of this famous race, which took
refuge in Turkey under Nekrassa, and received a grant
of lands on the Danube, was known under the name of
the Cossacks of Nekrassa. During the last war of the
Russians against Turkey, in 1828, they remained faith-
ful to Turkey, and testified by the horrible carnage
they made of the Russian troops, several cavalry regi-
ments of which they exterminated to the last man,
their hatred towards Russia. Occasionally they took
the Russian Cossacks by surprise by imitating their
language and assuming their dress. They spread great
terror amongst the Don Cossacks, upon whom they
would likewise also fall by surprise, and whom they
succeeded sometimes in deceiving by a similar strata-
gem. They never gave them quarter. The Emperor
Nicholas offered them very advantageous conditions to
induce them to return to Russia, but they have hitherto
rejected every proposition to this effect. By the treaty
of Adrianople the designation of " Cossacks of Ne-
krassa" is suppressed : they constitute at present a
species of Ottoman militia,, and may one day prove a
powerful element of aggression against Russia.

Such was this singular community of Zaporogues;
unique, perhaps, in its kind, and concerning which we
have gathered all the information possible, and con-
sulted every accessible authority. Amongst others,


Sherer, Annales de la Petite Russie, Memoires Secretes
de la Russie, Miller, Bushing, Boauplan, Chevalier,
Lessur, Neemeevicz, the Memoirs of Colonel Lagawski,
Norberg, &c. The time perhaps is not far distant
which may once more bring this remarkable race of
warlike adventurers upon the scene of northern Asiatic,
if not of European, affairs. As regards Russia more
especially, their existence is fraught with considerations
of the most serious importance.



Mazeppa His Extraction Intrigue with the wife of Kontsky disco-
veredHis Punishment Preservation- Appointed Aide-de-camp to
Doroszenko and Samoilovitch Ingratitude towards his Benefactor
His Election Shameful Conduct to his Sons His successful
Intrigues against Sofia, hated sister of Peter the Great, never
clearly explained His Inroads against the Tatars of Otchokaf
His Successes cheering to Peter the Great in his Check at Azof-
The taking of that Place chiefly attributed to Mazeppa Favours
lavished on his Cossacks The leading Idea of Mazeppa against
Peter the Great and the Kussians His Intention to return to
Poland with his Cossacks Stratagem to escape Correspondence
with Charles XIL and Turkey His skill in deceiving the Czar
His Stratagem for getting rid of his Enemies His Danger Bund
Confidence of the Czar in his Fidelity His Precautions before
joining the Swedish King His Deputation to the Czar, and his
Intention discovered His Speech to the Cossacks Its Effect
Sack of Baturin by Menzikof - Mazeppa's Effigy Torture of
Thirty Prussian Officers The Czar's offers to Mazeppa rejected
Treaty with the Zaporogues His advice to besiege Pultawa
Accidental Success of the Russians Unfortunate Position of the
Cossacks Danger of Mazeppa and the King of Sweden Arrival
in Turkey Mazeppa's Remorse, and Death at Bender.

MAZEPPA was the son of a Polish gentleman esta-
blished in Podolia/ and by one of those fortunate
circumstances which often exercise a great influence
on human destiny, and also by his family connexions,


attracted the attention of John Kazimer, king of
Poland, who spared no expense in giving him an
excellent education, and made him page at his

The beauty, accomplishments, and enterprising spirit
of the young page did not fail of making a deep im-
pression on many a fair lady in fashionable circles.
He was introduced to the wife of Martin Kontsky,
grand general of artillery; and felt inspired at the
first sight with a passion which, by frequent opportu-
nities of seeing the beloved object, and the difficulty
of gratifying its fancy, became every day stronger,
more dangerous, and daring. For a while the passion
of the two lovers by -their mutual prudence and care-
fulness was not known; and its secret gratification
added new charms to its existence. Such a thing, how-
ever, could not possibly be long concealed at a court,
where jealous and watchful eyes were constantly
directed on both parties. A lady, whose advances
Mazeppa received with coldness, soon discovered the
true object of the latter 's affection, and indirectly
apprised the husband of the conduct of his beautiful
and guilty spouse.

Mazeppa, watched secretly, was caught by the out-
raged husband, who, indignant at the extent of his
domestic misfortune, and excited by the thirst of
revenge, ordered his men to scourge him unmercifully
till he lost his consciousness, to pour a sort of salt
liquid on his body, and cover it with tar. The young


page was then tied by cutting strings to the back of a
wild and indomitable Ukrainian horse, sought and pre-
pared beforehand for that purpose, and was thus left
to his destiny.

The horse suddenly liberated after being tormented,
and unable to shake the weight off its back, dashed
at a furious speed into the deserts of his native
steppes. Hunted by wolves, as well as by some Cos-
sacks, who thought it an apparition of an evil spirit,
the horse traversed torrents, ravines, rivers, crossed
the Dnieper, and gallopped with incredible speed into
a small town in the Eastern Ukraine on the market
day ; and there, excited by hunger, fear, and fatigue,
fell dead. Mazeppa, restored to life, and hospitably
taken care of by the Cossacks, adopted their manners
and religion, and became the favourite aide-de-camp of
Doroszenko ; on the retirement of the latter, he became
the aide-de-camp of Samoilovitch, an able Cossack
chief, by whom he was treated in the most friendly
manner ; an ungrateful return for which, however, was
subsequently manifested by Mazeppa ; who, taking
advantage of the unfortunate expedition of Samoilo-
vitch into the Crimea, became his principal accuser,
deposed him, and was unanimously chosen their leader
in his stead.

Not satisfied with his new position, which he owet!
to his craft and ingratitude, and dreading the influence
and revenge of the two sons of Samoilovitch, his bene-
factor, he unjustly ordered one of them to be slain,


and sent the other through his intrigues to Siberia.
These acts displeasing even his own partisans did him
much harm and thwarted some of his mighty projects.

Mazeppa, being well aware that only warlike suc-
cesses could secure his authority among the Cossacks,
in 1689 attacked the Tatars of Oczakaf, and vanquished
them in several engagements. The following year he
accompanied the expedition of Galiczyn into the Crimea
with his Cossacks, which ended in the discomfiture
of the Tatars. Mazeppa was rewarded by rich pre-
sents and decorations. Soon after, by some means men-
tioned by several historians but never well explained,
he attracted the eye of Peter the Great, by hinting
to him a dark intrigue, secretly put in motion, by
which his sister Sofia and her favourite Galiczyn were
humbled for ever.

After the defection of Khmielnitski with his Cos-
sacks from Poland to Russia, there were for a long time
a certain part of the Polish Cossacks whose chiefs
(attamans) were nominated by the kings of Poland.
One of them, Paley, after defeating his rival Samuel,
and exciting the jealousy of the Polish lords by his
intrigues and wealth, passed over with numerous
partisans to the Russians and acknowledged the supre-
macy of Mazeppa, who at that time was the sole chief
or attaman of all the Cossacks, but that act of sub-
mission did not satisfy the daring adventurer. Paley
was soon sent by his intrigues to Siberia, where he
remained till the battle of Pultawa, and Mazeppa


obtained some advantages in several minor military
expeditions, which gratified the vanity of Peter the
Great, who, in spite of the loss of 30,000 men, could
not master the town of Azof at first. When, however,
that crafty prince, obstinate in his views for the con-
quest of the Crimea, pressed that town with great
vigour, Mazeppa, who got by accident secret intelligence
in that town, requested his master to allow his Cossacks
to storm it, which was accepted. The Cossacks, ani-
mated by the thirst of plunder and encouraged by the
presence of their chief, had already climbed its walls,
when its commander surrendered the fortress at dis-
cretion. Peter the Great, well aware of the importance
of that town, which he attributed to Mazeppa's strata-
gem, did not fail to consider him as his best friend, and
never failed to show him marks of his consideration;
but as that prince had a sagacious eye, and was more
than once frustrated in his views by the Cossacks, he
ordered his generals to watch them closely, and did
all he could to humble them, and, dividing them,
quelled their insurrections by great atrocities.

Though Mazeppa left Poland with revengeful feelings,
and greatly contributed to the victories of Peter the
Great, it seems he never lost completely the memory of
Poland. In his heart he desired to be an independent
sovereign, but he never wished to be under the Russian
yoke, and was besides this infinitely superior, by his
education, to the generality of the Russian generals, who
cast on him a jealous eye, and he was more than once


obliged to submit tamely to great insults from his haughty
master. Once, when the latter openly avowed the
project either of exterminating the Cossacks, or of bend-
ing them to the same obedience as his Russian subjects,
Mazeppa ventured to remonstrate ; when Peter the Great,
excited by wine, threatened to punish his remark by a
cruel death. From that time the hetman was more pru-
dent, and adapted his language, his conduct, and even
his dress, to his master's taste ; the better to deceive him,
and so escape the watchful eyes of his numerous ene-
mies, he feigned sudden illness, went to bed, displayed
signs of sinking life, spake often of God, frequently con-
fessed, and in his confessions more than once hinted
into the ear of the priest that his services were not
sufficiently great for repaying his master's favours, for
whom he was always ready to sacrifice his life. He
bequeathed part of his wealth to the priests, purchased
indulgences, kissed their hands, showing them humi-
liating submission, and though of vigorous health, he
manifested all the signs of a speedy departure to the
other world. During his dreams he often pronounced
some words favourable to the czar, to whom everything
was reported. In the meantime the hetman was
secretly preparing the insurrection among the Cossacks ;
his friends were hinting to them that the czar intended
to make them slaves, to govern them as peasants,
and transport them to Siberia, and that unmistakable
documents were found on that subject; that those who
were faithful to the Russians were traitors ; and some of



them who were suspected to be so, were skilfully ex-
posed to great dangers in their conflicts with the Turks
and Tatars, where they perished. He found means to
establish a correspondence with the sultan of Turkey in
the most secret manner, as well as with Charles XII.
For the latter he professed the greatest admiration, and
promised to join him with all his men, to exterminate
the Russian corps scattered in the Ukraine, provided he
might have the duchy of Severy ceded to him as a
principality, and also the title of hetman of all the
Cossacks, whom he wished to bring back to the Polish

Charles XII., however, seems to have been very
careless about Mazeppa's promises, and had not much
reliance on the Cossacks. Thanking Mazeppa for his
offers, he advised him to postpone his defection. This
unlucky delay placed the Cossack chief in a very
dangerous position. Already alarming rumours re-
specting his projects were propagated, and even the
czar was apprised of them ; but Mazeppa played his
cards so well, that the czar, considering as traitors all
who suspected Mazeppa's fidelity, sent him, under a
strong escort, his two principal accusers, Iskra and
Kotczubey. Mazeppa was obliged to sacrifice them for
his safety, and they were both killed by three strokes of
sharp hammers on their heads in his presence (a punish-
ment reserved to traitors among the Cossacks). The
czar also, wishing to give him a more decided mark of
his imperial favour, invited him to proceed to Kiof,


to lay with him the first stone of the fortress of that
town. Mazeppa, who had left his bed, convoked all
the subordinate chiefs, and sent his own nephew Woy-
naroski to the czar, requesting him to govern the
Cossacks with more liberality. Before, however, that
deputation reached Moscow, one of his letters was in-
tercepted: the czar ordered Woynaroski to be imme-
diately put in irons, and gave peremptory orders to all his
generals to forcibly prevent the junction of the Cossacks
with the king of Sweden. He liberated from Siberia
all persons sent there by Mazeppa's influence. He
also put in circulation the rumour that all the defeats
of the Cossacks by the Swedes were attributable to the
treason of their own hetman, who wished to reduce the
Greek church to the caprices of the Pope and Luther-
anian court. In fact, nothing was spared to blacken his
character, and to lower him in their estimation.

Mazeppa saw that the time was come for action. He
therefore marched towards the Dnieper, collected pro-
visions, put in a good state of defence the towns
of Gotchi, Tchernigof, and especially Baturin, and
joined the king of Sweden with 15,000 Cossacks in the
vicinity of the river Desna. He soon after made a
favourable treaty with the Zaporogues, renewed the
correspondence with the Turks favourable to his cause,
and neglected nothing that could improve the situation
of the Swedish army, and contribute to the success of
his projects.

Peter the Great being well aware of the importance


of the defection of the Cossacks in favour of Charles,
did all he could to stop it ; and having been apprised that
the Swedish king had forgotten to secure the post of
Starodub, which could thwart all the efforts of the
Russians to master the fortress of Baturin, where large
stores of ammunition and provisions were amassed for
the Swedes, he detached his favourite, Menzikof, with a
large body of troops, to storm it. The latter marched
with great haste through difficult tracts, took the town
by surprise, burned and sacked it, and after putting the
inhabitants to the sword, sent thirty Prussian officers as
prisoners, with their general Koenigseck, grand master
of the artillery in Mazeppa' s service, to the czar ; who,
after ordering his clergy to excommunicate Mazeppa,
and to attach his likeness to the gibbet, sent them to
the scaffold, where they perished by the most horrible

The taking of this fortress by Menzikof was, per-
haps, the most important step towards the ultimate
victory of the Russians. Peter the Great, however,
having heard that Mazeppa was indefatigable in victual-
ling the Swedish army, offered him a complete oblivion
of the past should he return to him again; but the
hetman, well aware of his true disposition, and indig-
nant at the atrocities which the czar had inflicted on
his partisans, refused the offer, and wisely continued to
be faithful to his new friend.

Charles XII., after passing the most terrible winter
of 1709 almost without shelter, advanced into the wilds


of the eastern Ukraine; and after several successful
skirmishes besieged the town of Pultawa, situated on the
right bank of the river Worskla, where Peter the Great
soon arrived with 80,000 men and a-^umc-rous'train of
artillery. Without entering into the particular of the
battle of Pultawa, it may be sufficient to state, that
it saved the Russian empire from a revolution, lowered
the political importance of Sweden for centuries, and
was gained over Charles XII., chiefly by a mistake of the
Swedish general Kreutz, and the king's illness. One
portion of the Cossacks under Peter the Great fought
with the others under Mazeppa. After the loss of that
battle, Charles XII., attended by some Cossacks and
the wreck of his army, retreated towards the Dnieper,
constantly harassed by General Menzikof, who pressed
them closely and gave no quarter to any Cossack;
though several thousands of the Swedish veterans, so
often victorious, whose very name struck terror in the
heart of the Russians, surrendered.

Charles XII., beaten, attended by Poniatowski, Ma-
zeppa, and some of his most faithful friends, sick, and
carried on a litter, reached at last with great difficulty
the Dnieper, where some boats were prepared for
transporting him to the other shore, and facilitating his
progress to Turkey. Scarcely had Mazeppa and the
king leaped into a boat when a terrible storm arose, and
the angry waves dashed with such fury from the west
that the greater part of the boats were broken, the
boatmen drowned, and the hetman was obliged for his


own safety to throw immense treasures into the river,
which proved a watery grave to all those who attempted
to swim through it.

After a long,, painful, and harassing journey, during
.five days, with pcaiity provisions, without water, without
shelter, without any visible track, through the romantic
deserts of the mighty Ukraine, Charles XII., with his
suite, and Mazeppa watching constantly the guides
that they might not betray them, directing their steps by
the stars, by the gusts of moaning winds, and the flocks
of screaming birds, reached at last in safety the
Turkish town of Otchakof, where they were most hospi-
tably received by the Turkish pasha.

Mazeppa was attended by the remainder of those
celebrated Zaporogues, under the command of Horo-
dynski their chief, who acknowledged his superiority
before the battle of Pultawa. They received some lands
by order of the grand seignor near the river Ka-
mionka, and at first were allowed to govern themselves
according to their own laws, and found, in their misfor-
tunes, benefactors in those very Turks, whose land they
formerly plundered and sacked so many times in their
expeditions. In consequence of the great annoyance
of the Russians, the scattered remains of the Zaporogues
were obliged to retreat further towards the Crimea, which
they did always governed by Mazeppa, who remained
by the express wish of the king of Sweden near his
royal person at Bender. There the aged, vigorous, and
unfortunate hetman, who had passed through so many


extraordinary scenes, whose long life resembled more
an Ukranian tale than reality ; whose counsels, not well
appreciated by the northern hero, were perhaps the
principal cause of his downfall, charmed more than
once the Swedish king by his flowing eloquence and
brilliant conversation, always pertinent, and adapted to
the meanest understanding.

It is to be remarked, that in all the negotiations which
Peter the Great attempted to make, either with the
king of Sweden or with the Turkish government, he
always requested the delivery of Mazeppa, for whose
person he offered large sums of money. But the Turks,
who never broke the sacred laws of hospitality, whose
noble feelings and generosity are universally acknow-
ledged, constantly rejected such proposals. And Charles,
barbarous once only in his life towards Patkul, too
proud to complain, and having a generous heart, attached
to Mazeppa by the bonds of common misfortune, and
judging men according to their real value, never

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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 7 of 22)