Oleksandr Palii, A History of Ukraine, 09.02.2018
It did not take the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth much time to turn from a state tolerant to different peoples into a state which was alien to Ukrainians and in which they did not enjoy equal rights, even formally.
Under pressure from the government the Ukrainian magnate elite began to switch to Catholicism, with just a handful of landlords and the gentry remaining on the side of their people.
The Polish king called on the Cossacks to leave their settlements beyond the rapids in order not to irritate Turkey. He did not recognize the Cossacks in towns and villages (except for the commanders of several thousand “registered” Cossacks) as nobility, even though the Cossacks performed noble military service in the interests of the Commonwealth. The Polish government started demanding from the Cossacks the performance of the same duties as it did from ordinary townspeople and peasants.
Polish Hussar, painting by Józef Brandt, 19th century.
The first uprising in 1591-1593 was led by Kryshtof Kosynsky (1545–1593), a hetman of the registered Cossacks since 1591 and a member of the gentry from Podlasie. The insurgents were successful in the first couple of battles, but later suffered a crushing defeat.
The fight was continued by Severyn Nalyvaiko (on the main picture, 1555–1597), a native from Husiatyn (now in Ternopil Oblast), a town of artisans. Nalyvaiko was praised for his exceptional bravery and he was a skilled cannoneer. He had an axe to grind — his father had been tortured by the servants of a Polish magnate. Nalyvaiko hinself started a war against the Turks and their appointee in Moldova and won. In the summer of 1594, Nalyvaiko’s Cossacks destroyed the Turkish fortress Tighina (now Bender in Moldova) as they chased the retreating Tatars.
The Polish hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski wrote that “all of Ukraine has become Cossack”. Nalyvaiko asked the king to appoint him hetman of the southern steppes between the Dnister and the Boh River. The insurgents were encircled by the Poles near the Solonytsia River (in the vicinity of Lubny in the Poltava region). Under cannon fire, experiencing a lack of food and water and seeing their exhausted women and children most of whom were in the camp, part of the Cossacks made a peace agreement. However, after seizing the leaders of the insurgents, the Poles violated the agreement and started killing everybody indiscriminately. The Cossacks took up arms, but it was too late. A mere 1,500 Cossacks, who broke through the encirclement and went to Zaporizhia, survived. Nalyvaiko was executed in Warsaw after savage tortures.
Polish nobility with the coat-of-arms and dressed in the costumes of different voivodeships of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
After these events, anti-Polish uprisings erupted one after another in Ukraine. The biggest ones were led by Mark Zhmailo (1625), Taras Triasylo (1630), Ivan Sulyma (1632), Pavlo Pavliuk (1637), Ivan Ostrianyn and Dmytro Hunia (1638). The Cossacks seized fortresses, including the large Kodak fortress on the Dnipro.
The Poles complained that the registered Cossacks did not want to fight for them against their fellow Ukrainians: “It is easier to plow with a wolf than to fight with the Cossacks against their people.”
Following each new uprising, the Polish government reduced the number of registered Cossacks and further restricted their rigts. All those developments led to a big war.
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