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Іван Дмитрович Сірко
Ivan Dmytrovych Sirko
Otaman Ivan Sirko, an imaginary representation by Ilya Repin
Born 1605 (1610)
Died August 11,[1] 1680
Place of birth Myrafa, Bracław Voivodeship
Place of death Hrushivka, Zaporizhian Host
Allegiance Herb Viyska Zaporozkogo (Alex K).svg Zaporozhian Host
Left-bank Ukraine
Years of service 1648-1680
Rank Kosh Otaman
Battles/wars Khmelnytsky Uprising
Russo-Polish War (1654-1667)
The Ruin
Spouse(s) Sofia

Ivan Sirko (Ukrainian language: Іван Дмитрович Сірко , c. 1610–1680) was a Cossack military leader, Koshovyi Otaman of the Zaporozhian Host and putative co-author of the famous semi-legendary Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks that inspired a major painting by the 19th-century artist Ilya Repin.



Ivan Sirko was previously believed to have been born in the stanitsa Merefa near the city of Kharkiv according to his first biography written by Dmytro Yavornytsky in 1890. Historian Yuriy Mytsyik states that this could not be the case. In his book Otaman Ivan Sirko[2] he writes that Merefa was established only in 1658 which way after the birth of the otaman. The author also points out to the fact that Sirko later in his life did actually live in Merefa with his family in his own estate and according to some earlier local chronicles there even existed a small settlement Sirkivka. However, Mytsyik also points out that in 1658-1660 Sirko was a colonel of the Kalnyk Polk (a military and administrative division of Cossack Hetmanate) in Podilia, a position that usually was awarded to the representative of a local population. The author also gives a reference to the letter of Ivan Samiylovych to kniaz G.Romodanovsky (the tsar's voyevoda) in which the hetman refers to Sirko as the one born in Polish lands instead of Sloboda Ukraine as part of Moscovy. Mytsyik also recalls that another historian Volodymyr Borysenko allowed for the possibility that Sirko was born in Murafa near the city of Sharhorod. The author explains the fact that it is possible during that time when people were fleeing the war (known as Ruin) to reestablish a similar town in Sloboda Ukraine.

Further, Mytsyik in his book states that Sirko probably was not really of true cossack heritage, but rather of the Ukrainian (Ruthenian) Orthodox szlachta justifying the fact with the local Podilian nobleman Wojciech Sirko that was married to some Olena Kozynska sometime in 1592. Also in official letters the Polish administration referred to him as urodzonim, implying that he is the Polish subject. The author also states that Sirko was about 174–176 cm and had a birth mark on the lower lip, right side, which Ilya Repin failed to depict in his artwork making a prototype of the otaman from General Dragomirov. Mytsyik also recalls the letter of the Field Hetman of the Crown John III Sobieski (later, the king of Poland) where he referred to Sirko as a very quite, noble, polite, and has a great trust among Cossacks.


As a young man he served in Cossack regiments in France and participated in the siege of Dunkirk. He changed his political orientation several times. In 1654 he came to Zaporozhian Sich became polkovnyk (colonel) and in 1659 together with Russian prince Aleksei Trubetskoi fought against the Crimean Khanate. Although Sirko opposed the alliance with Moscow during the Pereyaslav Rada after he became Koshovyi Otaman of the Zaporozhian Host in 1663 he won several battles against Poles, Tatars and hetman Petro Doroshenko in alliance with Muscovy. In 1664, he was one of the inspirators of an uprising in Right-bank Ukraine against Poland which is known from his letter to the Czar.[3]

He was the first Cossack ataman to accept Kalmyks[4] into his army. Despite his pro-Moscow orientation he distrusted and hated pro-Russian hetman Ivan Briukhovetsky, but at the same time married his son Roman to Briukhovetsky's daughter.[5] In 1668 this rivalry even forced Ivan Sirko to switch sides again and briefly join Petro Doroshenko in his fight against “Muscovite boyars and Voivodes”, but in 1670 once again Sirko pledged loyalty to Russian tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. Afterwards he captured Turkish stronghold Ochakiv and besieged Ismail which he failed to capture. Following the death of Demyan Mnohohrishny in 1672 Sirko entered the struggle for the hetman title, but instead was sent by the Russian tsar to Tobolsk, Siberia. In 1673 he returned to Ukraine and once again fought against Tatars and Turk captured fortresses Arslan and Ochakiv. In 1675 Zaporozhian Cossacks defeated Ottoman Turkish forces in a major battle, however, the Sultan of Turkey Mehmed IV still demanded that the Cossacks submit to Turkish rule. The Cossacks led by Ivan Sirko replied in an uncharacteristic manner: they wrote a letter, replete with insults and profanities, which later became the subject of a painting by Ilya Repin. After his death, Ivan Sirko — one of the most popular otamans in Ukrainian history[citation needed] — was remembered as a legendary Cossack and became a hero of many myths, folk songs and poems.


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Sirko died at his estate Hrushivka (today - Soloniansky Raion, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast) on August 11 (1 according to the old style Julian calendar), 1680. Next day he was buried near the Chortomlynska Sich. In 1709 the Russian Army totally destroyed the Sich and the grave of the otoman was not fixed until 1734. The Cossacks replaced the broken cross with a memorial rock that has survived to the present, but they erroneously marked the date of his death as May 4. In 1967 the Kakhovka Reservoir was threatening the otaman's burial site, forcing him to be reburied near the village of Kapulivka, Nikopol Raion, but without his skull. The skull of Sirko was sent to the Leningrad laboratory for a plastic-archaeological reconstruction for the Ethnographic Institute of the Soviet Academy of Science. It was not until 1987 when writer Yuriy Mushketyk remembered the 'beheaded otaman' and wrote a letter to the Association for Preservation of History and Culture of Ukraine. The journal Pamyatky Ukrainy (Attractions of Ukraine) responded to the call of the writer and after over 20 years with the help of anthropologist Serhiy Seheda the remains of Ivan Sirko were returned to his native land.


The otaman is widely remembered in numerous literary works of Ivan Nechuy-Levytsky, Adrian Kashchenko, Volodymyr Malyk, Mykola Zerov, Borys Modzalevsky, and many others.[specify]


  1. according to chronicler Samiylo Velychko
  2. Otaman Ivan Sirko by Yuriy Mytsyik
  3. «Исполняя с Войском Запорожским службу вашему царскому пресветлому величеству, я, Иван Серко, месяца января 8 числа, пошел на две реки, Буг и Днестр, где Божиею милостью и предстательством Пресвятой Богородицы и вашего великого государя счастьем, напав на турецкие селения выше Тягина города, побил много бусурман и великую добычу взял. Оборотясь же из-под турецкого города Тягина, пошел под черкасские города. Услыша же о моём, Ивана Серка, приходе, горожане сами начали сечь и рубить жидов и поляков, а все полки и посполитые, претерпевшие столько бед, неволю и мучения, начали сдаваться. Чрез нас, Ивана Серка, обращена вновь к вашему царскому величеству вся Малая Россия, города над Бугом и за Бугом, а именно: Брацлавский и Калницкий полки, Могилев, Рашков, Уманский повет, до самого Днепра и Днестра; безвинные люди обещались своими душами держаться под крепкою рукою вашего царского пресветлого величества до тех пор, пока души их будут в телах» // Яворницкий Д.I. Історія запорозьких козаків. Т. II, 1990, с. 262-263.


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