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Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Богдан Хмельницький
Hetman of Zaporizhian Host

In office
30 January 1648 – 6 August 1657
Preceded by Dmytro Hunia
Succeeded by Yurii Khmelnytsky
Personal details
Born 1595
Subotiv, near Chyhyryn, Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Died August 6, 1657(1657-08-06)
Chyhyryn, Hetmanate, Ukraine
Nationality (Ukrainian)
Spouse(s) Hanna Somkivna,
Helena Czaplińska (ru),
Hanna Zolotarenko,
Religion Greek Orthodox

Bohdan Zynoviy Mykhailovych Khmelnytsky (Ukrainian language: Богдан Зиновій Михайлович Хмельницький ) or Bogdan Khmelnitsky (Russian: Богдан Хмельницкий), Polish language: Bohdan Zenobi Chmielnicki

(c. 1595 – 6 August 1657), was the Hetman of the Zaporozhian Host of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (now part of Ukraine). He led an uprising against the Commonwealth and its magnates (1648–1654) which resulted in the creation of a Cossack state. In 1654, he concluded the Treaty of Pereyaslav with the Tsardom of Russia, which led to the eventual loss of independence to the Russian Empire.


Early life

A variant of Clan Syrokomla arms, used by Khmelnytsky as a noble.

Although there is no definite proof of the date of his birth, it has been suggested by Ukrainian historian Mykhaylo Maksymovych that it is likely 27 December 1595 (St. Theodore's [1] day). As it was the custom in the Orthodox Church, he was baptized with one of his middle names—Theodor, translated into Ukrainian as Bohdan.

The latest biography of Khmelnytsky by Smoliy and Stepankov, however, challenges the 27 December date and suggests that it is more likely he was born on 9 November (feast day of St Zenoby,[2] 30 October in Julian Calendar) and was baptised on 11 November (feast day of St. Theodore in the Catholic Church)[3]

Khmelnytsky was probably[4] born in the village of Subotiv, near Chyhyryn in Ukraine at the estate of his father Mykhailo Khmelnytsky. Even though his father, a courtier of Great Crown Hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski, was of noble birth himself and belonged to the Clan Massalski, Abdank or Syrokomla, there was and is still controversy as to whether Bohdan belonged to the szlachta (Polish term for noblemen) himself.[5] Some sources state that in 1590 his father Mykhailo was appointed as a sotnyk for the Korsun-Chyhyryn starosta Jan Daniłowicz, who continued to colonize the new Ukrainian lands near the Dnieper river.[6] According to the above-mentioned-source, Mykhailo established Chyhyryn and later his own family estates of Subotiv (5 miles from Chyhyryn) and Novoseltsi. This, however, didn't prevent Khmelnytsky from considering himself a noble and his father's status as a deputy Starosta (elder) of Chyhyryn helped him to be considered as such by others. Later on, however, during the Uprising he would stress his mother's Cossack roots and his father's exploits with the Cossacks of the Sich.

There is also no concrete evidence in regard to Khmelnytsky's early education. Several historians believe he received his elementary schooling from a church clerk until he was sent to one of Kiev's Orthodox fraternity schools. He continued his education in Polish at a Jesuit college, possibly in Jarosław, but more likely in Lviv, in the school founded by hetman Żółkiewski. He completed his schooling by 1617 and acquired a broad knowledge of world history and learned Polish and Latin. Later he learned Turkish, Tatar and French. Unlike many of the other Jesuit students, he did not embrace Roman Catholicism but remained Greek Orthodox.

Service with the Cossacks

Upon completion of his studies in 1617, Bohdan entered into service with the Cossacks. As early as 1619 he was sent along with his father to Moldavia, as the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth entered into war with the Ottoman Empire. His first military engagement was a tragic one. During the battle of Cecora (Ţuţora) on 17 September 1620, his father was killed, and young Khmelnytsky among many others, including future hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski, was captured by the Turks. He spent the next two years in captivity in Constantinople, as a prisoner of an Ottoman Kapudan Pasha (presumably Parlak Mustafa Pasha).[7] Other sources claim that he spent his slavery in Ottoman Navy on galleys as an oarsman where he picked up a knowledge of Turkic languages.[6]

While there is no concrete evidence as to how he returned to Ukraine, most historians believe he either escaped or his ransom was paid. Sources vary as to by whom — his mother, friends, the Polish king — but perhaps by Krzysztof Zbaraski, ambassador of the Rzeczpospolita to the Ottomans, who in 1622 paid 30,000 thalers in ransom for all prisoners of war captured at the Battle of Cecora. Upon return to Subotiv, Khmelnytsky took over the running of his father's estate and became a registered Cossack in the Chyhyryn Regiment where he later became a pysar (a historical officer title among cossacks). Since 1625 he participated in several sea raids together with Zaporozhian Cossacks onto Constantinople. In those raids he earned his title of a sotnyk (a leader of a hundred). In the meantime, his widowed mother married again, to Belarusian noble Vasyl Stavetsky, and moved to his estate, leaving Bohdan in charge of Subotiv. In a year she had another son, Hryhoriy, who curiously enough later preferred to take his mother's name and was known as Hryhoriy Khmelnytsky. For a short time he also served as a koniuszy to hetman Mikołaj Potocki, but relatively quickly they parted their ways after a personal conflict. Bohdan Khmelnytsky later married Hanna Somkivna, a daughter of a rich Pereyaslavl Cossack and they settled in Subotiv. By the second half of the 1620s they already had three daughters: Stepanida, Olena, and Kateryna. His first son Tymish (Tymofiy) was born in 1632, and another son Yuriy was born in 1640.

During this time Bohdan Khmelnytsky was running his estate and advanced in his service in the Regiment. He first became a sotnyk and later advanced to the rank of a regiment scribe. He certainly had significant negotiation skills and commanded respect of his fellow Cossacks as on 30 August 1637 he was included in a delegation to Warsaw to plead the Cossacks' case before the Polish King Władysław IV. Serving in the army of a Polish magnate and great commander, hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski, he participated in a rather successful campaign as the Commonwealth army, part of which was Bohdan's regiment, scored a decisive victory over the Crimean Khanate in 1644. During this time, as some archival documents show, he also had a meeting in Warsaw with the French ambassador Count De Bregie, during which he discussed the possibility of Cossack participation in war in France. Sources vary as to whether in April 1645 he traveled to France (to Fontainebleau) to discuss further details of Cossack service in France; this claim is supported by Ukrainian historiography but disputed by Polish scholarship.[8] In October 1644 around two thousand Polish infantry soldiers (some scholars think they were Cossacks, but the French sources do not actually name them as such) went to France by sea via Gdańsk and Calais, where they participated in the siege and capture of Dunkerque.

The Czapliński Affair

In the meantime another trouble was brewing at home. Upon the death of magnate Stanisław Koniecpolski, an advocate of fair treatment of Cossacks, his successor Aleksander redrew the maps of his possessions and laid claim to Khmelnytsky's estate, which he claimed was his. In his attempt to find protection from the powerful magnate, Khmelnytsky wrote numerous appeals and letters to different representatives of the Polish crown — but to no avail. At the end of 1645 the Chyhyryn starosta Daniel Czapliński officially received authority from Koniecpolski to seize the Subotiv estate. In summer of 1646 Khmelnytsky, using his favorable standing at the Polish court, arranged an audience with King Władysław IV to plead his case. Władysław, who wanted Cossacks on his side in the wars he planned, gave him a royal charter, which protected his rights to the estate. However, such was the structure of the Commonwealth at that time, and the lawlessness of its eastern realms, that even the King was not able to avert the confrontation with the local magnates. In the beginning of 1647 Daniel Czapliński openly started to harass Khmelnytsky in an attempt to force him off the land. On two occasions Subotiv was raided: considerable property damage was done and Khmelnytsky's son Yuriy was badly beaten. Finally, in April 1647, Czapliński succeeded in evicting Khmelnytsky from the land, causing Khmelnytsky to move with his large family to a relative's house in Chyhyryn.

In May 1647 Khmelnytsky arranged a second audience with the King to plead his case, but found the King unwilling to go into an open confrontation with a powerful magnate. In addition to the loss of the estate, his first wife Hanna died, leaving him alone with the children. While he promptly remarried to Motrona, his second wife, he was still unsuccessful in all of his attempts to find justice in regard to his estate. During this time, he met several higher Polish officials to discuss the Cossacks' issue of the war with the Tatars and used this occasion again to plead his case with Czapliński, still unsuccessfully.

While Khmelnytsky found no support from the Polish officials, he found it in his Cossack friends and subordinates. The case of a Cossack being unfairly treated by the Poles found a lot of support not only in his Chyhyryn regiment, but also with others including the Sich. All through the autumn of 1647 Khmelnytsky traveled from one regiment to another, and had numerous consultations with Cossack leaders throughout Ukraine. His activity raised suspicion among the Polish authorities already used to Cossack revolts; he was promptly arrested. Koniecpolski issued an order for his execution, but the Chyhyryn Cossack polkovnyk who held Khmelnytsky was persuaded to release him. Not willing to tempt fate any further, Khmelnytsky headed for the Zaporozhian Sich with a group of his supporters.

The Uprising

Bohdan Khmelnytsky

Bohdan Khmelnytsky (left) with Tugay Bey (right) at Lviv", oil on canvas by Jan Matejko, 1885, National Museum in Warsaw.

While it might appear that the Czapliński Affair was the immediate cause of the Uprising, it was only an impetus that brought a successful and talented Cossack to the forefront of popular discontent among the people of what is now Ukraine. Religion, ethnicity, and economics factored into this discontent. While the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth remained a union of two nations: of Poland and Lithuania, a sizable population of Orthodox Ruthenians remained ignored. That left them oppressed by the Polish magnates and their wrath was directed at the Poles' Jewish traders, who often ran their estates for them. The advent of the Counter-Reformation further worsened relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Many Orthodox Ukrainians saw the Union of Brest as a threat to their Orthodox faith, and coupled with the frequent abuse of the Orthodox clergy this added a religious dimension to the conflict. This could have been one of the many other frequent Cossack revolts that had been put down by the authorities, but the stature and skill of, and respect for, the seasoned 50-year-old negotiator and warrior Khmelnytsky perhaps made all the difference.

Initial successes

Flag of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Bohdan (Б) Khmelnytsky (Х), hetman (Г) of Army (В) of Zaporozhia (З) and of his (Е) king's (К) majesty (МЛС) of Rzech Pospolita.

At the end of the year Khmelnytsky finally made his way to the south, to the estuary of the Dnieper river. On December 7, 1648 his small (300–500-man) detachment, with the help of registered Cossacks who went to his side, disarmed the small Polish detachment guarding the area and took over the Zaporozhian Sich — much to the jubilation of many of the Cossacks. An attempt to retake the Sich by the Poles was decisively fought off as more registered Cossacks joined his forces. At the end of January 1649 a Cossack Rada was called and Khmelnytsky was unanimously elected a hetman. A feverish activity followed. Cossacks were sent with hetman's letters to many regions of Ukraine calling on Cossacks and Orthodox peasants to join the rebellion, the defence of Khortytsia was improved, arrangements were made to acquire and make weapons and ammunition, and emissaries were sent to the Khan of Crimea, İslâm III Giray. Initially, Polish authorities took the news of Khmelnytsky's arrival at the Sich and reports about the rebellion quite lightly. The two sides exchanged lists of demands: the Poles asked for Cossacks to surrender the mutinous leader and disband, while Khmelnytsky and the Rada demanded that the Commonwealth restore the Cossacks' ancient rights, stop the advance of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, yield the right to appoint Orthodox leaders of the Sich and of the Registered Cossack regiments, and remove the Commonwealth troops from Ukraine.[9] These demands of Khmelnytsky were taken as an affront by the Polish magnates and an army headed by Stefan Potocki moved in the direction of the Sich. Had the Cossacks stayed at Khortytsia they might have been defeated as in many other rebellions. But this time, instead of waiting for the Poles, Khmelnytsky marched against them. The two armies met on 16 May 1648 at Zhovti Vody, where, aided by the Tatars of Tugay Bey, the Cossacks inflicted their first crushing defeat on the Commonwealth. This was repeated soon after, with the same success, at the Battle of Korsuń on 26 May 1648. What made these Cossack successes different was the diplomatic and military skill of Khmelnytsky: under his leadership, the Cossack army moved to battle positions following his plans, Cossacks were proactive and decisive in their maneuvers and attacks, and most importantly, he not only managed to persuade large contingents of registered Cossacks to switch to his side, but also got the support of the Crimean Khan — his crucial ally for the many battles to come.

Establishment of the Cossack Hetmanate

Coat of arms of the Cossack Hetmanate.

At Christmas 1648, Khmelnytsky made a triumphant entry into Kiev, where he was hailed as "the Moses, savior, redeemer, and liberator of the people from Polish captivity ... the illustrious ruler of Rus". The Patriarchs of Jerusalem Paiseus who was visiting Kiev at this time referred to Khmelnytsky as the Prince of Rus, the head of independent Ukrainian state, according to the contemporaries.[10] In February 1649, during negotiations in Pereiaslav with a Polish delegation headed by senator Adam Kysil, Khmelnytsky declared that he was "the sole autocrat of Rus" and that he had "enough power in Ukraine, Podilia, and Volhynia ... in his land and principality stretching as far as Lviv, Chełm, and Halych."[11]

I already did more than was thinking before, now I will obtain what I revised recently. I will liberate out of the Polish woe all of the Ruthenian people! Before I was fighting for the insults and injustice caused to me, now I will fight for our Orthodox faith. And all people will help me in that all the way to Lublin and Krakow, and I won't back off from the people as they are our right hand. And for the purpose lest you won't attack cossacks by conquering peasants, I will have two, three hundred thousands of them.

(Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the Prince of Ruthenia)[10]

It became clear to the Polish envoys that Khmelnytsky had positioned himself not just as a leader of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, but of Ukraine, and stated his claims to the heritage of the Rus. A Vilnius panegyric in Khmelnytsky's honor (1650–1651) explained it this way: "While in Poland it is King Jan II Casimir Vasa, in Rus it is Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky."[12]

After the period of initial military successes the state-building process began. His leadership was demonstrated in all areas of state-building: in the military, administration, finance, economics, and culture. With political acumen he made the Zaporozhian Host under the leadership of its hetman the supreme power in the new Ukrainian state, and unified all the spheres of Ukrainian society under his authority. Khmelnytsky built a new government system and developed military and civilian administration.

During this time a new generation of statesmen and military leaders came to the forefront: Ivan Vyhovsky, Pavlo Teteria, Danylo Nechai and Ivan Nechai, Ivan Bohun, Hryhoriy Hulyanytsky. From Cossack polkovnyks, officers, and military commanders, a new elite within the Cossack Hetman state was born. Throughout the years, this elite preserved and maintained the autonomy of the Cossack Hetmanate in the face of Russia's attempt to curb it. But it was also instrumental in the onset of the period of Ruin that followed and eventually destroyed most of the achievements of the Khmelnytsky era.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky's banner that was taken at the battle of Berestechko. It was later taken by the Swedes in Warsaw 1655 and is now to be seen at Armémuseum, Stockholm, Sweden.


Khmelnytsky's initial successes were followed by a series of setbacks as neither Khmelnytsky nor the Commonwealth had had enough strength to stabilize the situation or to inflict a defeat on the enemy. What followed was the period of intermittent warfare and several peace treaties, which neither side put much faith in or cared to abide by. From the spring of 1649 on, the situation turned for the worse for the Cossacks, as the frequency of Polish attacks increased and they were becoming more and more successful. The resulting Treaty of Zboriv on 18 August 1649 was unfavourable for the Cossacks. This was followed by another defeat at the battle of Berestechko on 18 June 1651, where the Tatars betrayed him again and even held the hetman captive. The result was a crushing defeat for the Cossacks and a high number of casualties (estimated to be around 30,000 Cossacks), along with the Treaty of Bila Tserkva, which favoured the Polish–Lithuanians. That treaty was soon violated, and in the years that followed the two sides were almost in the perpetual state of warfare. In this situation the Crimean Tatars played a decisive role — not allowing either side to prevail. It was in their interests to keep both Ukraine and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from getting too strong and becoming an effective power in the region.[13]

Under the circumstances, Khmelnytsky started looking for another foreign ally. Even though the Cossacks established their de facto independence from Poland, the new state needed legitimacy that was essential in 17th century Europe, and this legitimacy could be provided by a foreign monarch. In search of a protectorate, Khmelnytsky approached the Ottoman sultan in 1651 and formal embassies were exchanged. The Turks offered vassalship similar to their other arrangements with contemporary Crimean Peninsula, Moldavia and Walachia. However, the idea of a union with the Muslim monarch didn't rest well with the general populace and the Cossacks from whom Khmelnytsky drew his support.

The other possible ally was Orthodox Russia. They, however, remained quite cautious and stayed away from the hostilities in Ukraine. In spite of numerous envoys and calls for help from Khmelnytsky in the name of the shared Orthodox faith, the Tsar preferred to wait until the threat of a Cossack-Ottoman union in 1653 finally forced him to action.[13] The idea that the Tsar might be favourable to taking Ukraine under his hand was communicated to the hetman and the diplomatic activity intensified.

Treaty with Moscovy

After a series of negotiations, it was agreed that the Cossacks would accept the tsar's overlordship. To finalize the treaty, a Muscovite embassy led by boyar Vasili Buturlin came to Pereyaslav, where on 18 January 1654 the Cossack Rada was called and the treaty concluded. There is still no unanimity among historians as to the true intentions of both Muscovy and Khmelnytsky in signing this agreement. For Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich the treaty legitimized Moscow's claims to the territory of Kievan Rus' and strengthened his influence in the region. For Khmelnytsky the Treaty of Pereyaslav offered first and foremost a legitimate monarch's protection and support from a friendly Orthodox power. There have been a number of conflicting opinions as to what kind of union Khmelnytsky had in mind, whether it was to be a military union, a suzerainty or a complete incorporation of Ukraine into the Tsardom of Russia.[14]

The two sides had somewhat different ideas of the treaty and the union, as exemplified by an incident during the oath of allegiance to the Tsar: the treaty was almost broken when the Moscovite envoy refused to reciprocate with an oath from the ruler to his subjects, as was the custom with the Polish king. At one point, for this reason, Khmelnytsky stormed out of the church and threatened to cancel the entire treaty. It was only after some consideration that this demand on the part of the Cossacks was rescinded and the treaty stayed. Due to both sides having different goals in Ukraine, the liberties that were allowed to Khmelnytsky due to his stature were denied to his successors. That, in the end, eventually led to the complete incorporation of Ukraine into the Tsardom of Moscovy and later into the Russian Empire.

Final years

Church of Subotiv (Ukraine) where Khmelnytsky was buried.

As a result of the Treaty of Pereyaslav the geopolitical map of the region had changed — a new player, Russia, entered the scene, and the Cossacks' former allies, the Tatars, went to the Polish side. That intensified the conflict, as the Tatars were now unrestrained in their warfare against Khmelnytsky. Tatar raids depopulated whole areas of Ukraine. Cossacks, aided by the Tsar's army, took revenge on Polish possessions in Belarus, and in the spring of 1654, the Cossacks drove the Polish from much of the country. To complicate the situation even further, another power joined the melee — Sweden. They were the old adversaries of both Poland and Russia, but did not attack Russia, instead being quick to occupy their share of Lithuania before the Russians could get there. That put Khmelnytsky into a delicate situation in regard to the Tsar, as he had been negotiating with the Swedes for some time, coordinating their attacks on the Commonwealth. Besides being hostile to Sweden in general, this also displeased Russia because Russia had its eyes on the Swedish Baltic provinces. In 1656 with the Commonwealth increasingly war-torn but also increasingly hostile and successful against the Swedes, the ruler of Transylvania, George II Rákóczi, also joined in - a last straw effort of Charles X of Sweden to save the war effort due to the massive Polish popular opposition against the Swedes. Under blows from all sides the Commonwealth only survived thanks to its steely unity in the face of destruction.

Russia attacked Sweden in July 1656 when Sweden was deeply involved with its situation in Poland. That war ended in status quo two years later, but it complicated matters even further for Khmelnytsky, as his ally was now fighting his overlord. In addition to diplomatic tensions between the Tsar and Khmelnytsky, a number of other disagreements between the two surfaced, notably in regard to Russian officials' interference in the finances of the Hetmanate and in the newly liberated Belarus. One thing that infuriated the hetman the most was the separate treaty the Tsar concluded with the Poles in Vilnius in 1656. The Hetman's emissaries were not even allowed to attend the negotiations. That prompted Khmelnytsky to write an irate letter to the Tsar accusing him of breaking the Pereyaslav agreement. In his anger, Khmelnytsky compared Swedes to the Tsar, claiming that the Swedes were more honourable and trustworthy than the Russians.[13]

In addition to diplomatic tensions with Russia, the Cossack army with their Transylvanian allies in Poland suffered a number of setbacks. As a result, Khmelnytsky had to deal with a Cossack rebellion on the home front. Troubling news also came from Crimea, as Tatars, in alliance with Poland, were preparing for a new invasion of Ukraine. Though already ill, Khmelnytsky continued to conduct diplomatic activity, at one point even receiving the Tsar's envoys in his bed.[7] On 22 July he suffered cerebral hemorrhage, became paralyzed after his audience with the Kiev Colonel Zhdanovich whose expedition to Halychyna failed due to mutiny within his army.[15] Less than a week later, Bohdan Khmelnytsky died at 5 A.M. on 27 July 1657. His funeral was held on 23 August, and his body was taken from his capital Chyhyryn to his estate at Subotiv for burial in his ancestral church. In 1664 a Polish noble Stefan Czarniecki captured Subotiv and ordered the bodies of the hetman and his son Tymish to be exhumed and desecrated.[16]

Khmelnytsky remembered

File:Chmielnicki ukraine banknote 5 new.gif

A five Ukrainian hryvnia banknote depicting Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky.

It is hard to overestimate Khmelnytsky's contribution and role in the history of Eastern Europe. He not only shaped the future of Ukraine but significantly changed the balance of power in Eastern Europe. As with any other prominent personality his role in the events and his actions were viewed differently by his various contemporaries, and even now different people sometimes have quite opposing views on his legacy.

Khmelnytsky in Ukrainian history

In Ukraine, Khmelnytsky is generally regarded as a national hero[17][18][19] and a father of the nation.[citation needed] A city[20] and a region of the country bear his name. His image is prominently displayed on Ukrainian banknotes and his monument in the centre of Kiev is the focal point of the Ukrainian capital. There have also been several issues of the Order of Bohdan Khmelnitsky — one of the highest decorations in Ukraine and in the former Soviet Union. With all this positive appreciation of his legacy, even in Ukraine it is far from being unanimous. He is mostly criticised for his union with Russia, which in the view of some, proved to be disastrous for the future of the country. This particular view, among others, was expressed by a prominent Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko, who was one of Khmelnytsky's very vocal and harsh critics.[21] Furthermore, his local reputation was damaged by his alliance with the Crimean Tatars, which permitted the latter to take a large number of Ukrainian peasants as slaves (this may be interpreted as an illustration of the relative indifference of the cossacks as a military caste toward the 'kholopy', the lowest stratum of the Ukrainian people). The traces of this are still found in folk songs. On the balance, the view of his legacy in present-day Ukraine is more positive than negative, with some critics admitting that the union with Russia was dictated by necessity and an attempt to survive in those difficult times.

Khmelnytsky in Polish history

Khmelnytsky's role in the history of the Polish State has been viewed mostly in a negative light. The rebellion of 1648 proved to be the end of the Golden Age of the Commonwealth and the beginning of its demise. Even though it would survive the rebellion and the period of Deluge that followed, within a hundred years it would be no more — its remains would be divided between Russia, Prussia, and Austria in the partitions of Poland. Many blamed Khmelnytsky for the decline of the Commonwealth. This view is contrasted with a far more comprehensive appreciation of Khmelnytsky's legacy by Polish historians, like Ludwik Kubala, who in his works compared him with Oliver Cromwell.[22] A more balanced appreciation prevails — that the fundamental ills of the Commonwealth resulted in the rebellion that Khmelnytsky led.

Khmelnytsky in Russian and Soviet history

Original model of Mikhail Mikeshin's Khmelnytsky Monument

In their assessment of Khmelnytsky's legacy the official Russian historiography stressed the fact that Khmelnytsky entered into union with Moscow's Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich with an expressed desire to "re-unify" Ukraine with Russia. This view corresponded with the official theory of Moscow being an heir of the Kievan Rus' and thus a gatherer of its former territories.[23]

In this light Khmelnytsky was viewed as a national hero of Russia for bringing Ukraine into the "eternal union" of all the Russias — Great, Little and White Russia. As such, he was much respected and venerated in Imperial Russia. His role was presented as a model for all Ukrainians to follow — to aspire for closer ties with Great Russia. This view was expressed in a monument commissioned by the Russian nationalist Mikhail Yuzefovich, which was installed in the center of Kiev in 1888[24][25]

The original variant of the monument (created by Russian sculptor Mikhail Mikeshin) appeared too xenophobic for the Russian authorities, as it was to depict a vanquished Pole, Jew, and a Catholic priest under the hoofs of the horse. A more moderate version was installed, but the inscription on the monument read "To Bohdan Khmelnitsky from one and indivisible Russia."[26]

The view of Khmelnytsky as a prominent, positive figure in the Russian history is further displayed in Mikeshin's Monument to the Millennium of Russia in Novgorod, where Khmelnytsky is shown as one of Russia's prominent figures.[27]

Soviet historiography followed in many ways the Imperial Russian theory of re-unification while adding the class struggle dimension to the story.[23] Thus, Khmelnytsky was not only praised for re-unifying Ukraine with Russia, but also for organizing the class struggle of oppressed Ukrainian peasants against Polish exploiters.

Khmelnytsky in Jewish history

Jewish history's assessement of Khmelnytsky is overwhelmingly negative given that he had made eradication of Jews from Ukraine one of his goals. Indeed, between 1648–1656, Khmelnytsky's rebels murdered many Jews.[28] Stories about massacre victims who had been buried alive, cut to pieces, or forced to kill one another spread throughout Europe and beyond. These stories filled many Jews with despair, and resulted in a revival of the ideas of Isaac Luria, and the identification of Sabbatai Zevi as the Messiah.[29] Orest Subtelny writes:

Between 1648 and 1656, tens of thousands of Jews—given the lack of reliable data, it is impossible to establish more accurate figures—were killed by the rebels, and to this day the Khmelnytsky uprising is considered by Jews to be one of the most traumatic events in their history.[30]

Preceded by
Post created
Herb Viyska Zaporozkogo (Alex K).svg
Hetman of Ukraine

Succeeded by
Yuriy Khmelnytsky

See also

  • Bohdan Khmelnitsky Bridge in Moscow
  • List of Ukrainian rulers
  • Order of Bohdan Khmelnitsky, a state military award in Ukraine
  • With Fire and Sword, a historical novel by the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz, published in 1884.


  1. "Житие и страдание святого преподобномученика и исповедника Феодора и брата его преподобного Феофана1 начертанных" and
  2. Страдание святого священномученика Зиновия епископа Эгейского, и сестры его Зиновии &#8224 Православные имена -
  3. Смолій В.А., Степанков В.С. "Богдан Хмельницький", Альтернативи, ISBN 966-7217-76-0, 2003
  4. While Subotiv or Chyhyryn are the most common places given regarding his place of birth historian Stanisław Barącz supports the view that he was born in Zhovkva (Żółkiew)
  5. Whether Khmelnytsky was or wasn't a noble is still uncertain. He himself claimed nobility when it suited him, and it wasn't often disputed by his contemporaries. Chmielnicki himself once wrote in the letter to King Jan Kazimierz that he was "born Chmielnicki"--however, that surname was never associated with the Abdank Coat of Arms hesed. His father, a noble himself, was married to a Cossack woman and according to the Polish Statute of 1505 that might have put Bohdan's szlachta status under scrutiny. There are other theories: that his father or grandfather were stripped of their noble status or--perhaps most controversial--the theory of 19th-century Polish historian Tomasz Padura, who claimed (without giving sources) that Chmielnicki's father was a Jewish convert to Catholicism.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bohdan Khmelnitsky (Russian)
  7. 7.0 7.1 V. A. Smoliy, V. S. Stepankov. Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Sotsialno-politychnyi portret. page 51. Lebid. Kiev. 1995. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "SS51" defined multiple times with different content
  8. V. A. Smoliy, V. S. Stepankov. Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Sotsialno-politychnyi portret. page 70, Lebid, Kiev. 1995.
  9. V. A. Smoliy, V. S. Stepankov. Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Sotsialno-politychnyi portret. page 91, Lebid, Kiev. 1995
  10. 10.0 10.1 Hrushevsky,M. History of Ukraine-Rus. New ed. Bao. Donetsk, 2003.
  11. V. A. Smoliy, V. S. Stepankov. Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Sotsialno-politychnyi portret. page 203, Lebid, Kiev. 1995
  12. Display Page
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Orest Subtelny. Ukraine. A history. University of Toronto press. p. 133. 1994. ISBN 0-8020-0591-8.
  14. Display Page
  15. Hrushevsky, M. Illustrated History of Ukraine. "BAO". Donetsk, 2003. ISBN 966-548-571-7 page 330
  16. Some Ukrainian historians dispute the fact of his grave being desecrated. In 1973 an expedition investigated the site of the church and discovered remains of people that had not been found before.
  17. Culture Shock! Ukraine by Anne Meredith Dalton, Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, 1999, ISBN 1-55868-420-4 (page 56)
  18. Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust by Michael C. Steinlauf, Syracuse University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-8156-0403-3 (page 148)
  19. Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives by Michael Strmiska, ABC-CLIO, 2005, ISBN 1-85109-608-6 (page 228)
  20. [1]
  21. Олексій КОНОВАЛ
  22. Розділ XI. Володимир Голобуцький. Запорозьке козацтво
  23. 23.0 23.1 A Laboratory of Transnational History: Ukraine and Recent Ukrainian Historiography by Georgiy Kasianov and Philipp Ther, Central European University Press, 2009, ISBN 963-9776-26-2 (page54/55)
  24. Ems Ukase
  25. Mikhail Yuzefovich was also known for his contribution to the Ems Ukase, which further restricted the use of Ukrainian in Ukraine.
  26. "Вашъ Кіевъ" :: Старый Киев :: история Киева
  27. The Monument to the Millennium of Russia / «Velikiy Novgorod» - City portal
  28. [2]
  29. Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism, Random House, 2001, p25-28.
  30. Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History, 1988, pp. 127-128.

Further reading

  • Orest Subtelny. Ukraine. A history. University of Toronto press. 1994. ISBN 0-8020-0591-8.
  • V. A. Smoliy, V. S. Stepankov. Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Sotsialno-politychnyi portret. Second Edition. Lebid, Kiev. 1995. ISBN 5-325-00721-1.


External links

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