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Ostap Dashkevych, descendant of prince Rurik, co-founder of Ukrainian Registry Cossack Army at the beginning of XVI century, who equipped all his people with firearms

Registered Cossack's attire

Registered Cossacks, (Ukrainian language: Реєстрові козаки, Reyestrovi kozaky , Polish language: Kozacy rejestrowi ) are warriors, who were recorded in official registries as cossacks. Registered cossacks were one of the important social groups of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and later (after 1654) in Muscovy and the Russian Empire. Those warriors could have been cossacks already or became such after being admitted to the registry.

Registered Cossacks were a military formations of Commonwealth army from 1572[1] soon after the Union of Lublin when most of territory of modern Ukraine was passed to the Crown of Poland. Registered Cossacks formations were based on the Zaporizhian Cossacks that already existed at the lower stream of Dnieper amidst Pontic steppes as well as self-defense formations within settlements in the region of modern Central and Southern Ukraine.


Historically, the first official project on the creation of Cossack formations for a border service was brought to attention at the State Council of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1524 by Semen Polozovic and Kristof Kmitic. However due to the lack of funds, the idea was never realized. Later the major (starosta) of Cherkasy, Ostap Dashkevych, brought that idea to attention once again at the 1533 council in Piotrków Trybunalski. Dashkevych tried to prove that to protect borders across Dnieper it is necessary to keep an army of 2,000 soldiers and several hundreds cavalrymen. He also pointed to the importance of establishing forts on the river's islands to keep the Tatar's raids at check.

On July 21, 1541 the King of Poland Sigismund I the Old issued an edict to the major (starosta) of Cherkasy Andrei Glebovich Pronsky (?-1557, a descendant of Pronsk princes),[2] in which he strictly warned the last to control the Cossack raids against Tatar's uluses. With the start of the Livonian War in the 16th century, the voivode of Kiev Konstanty Wasyl Ostrogski and major of Cherkasy Alexander Wisnowecki recruited cossacks to their armies, while in 1568 Sigismund II Augustus sent a proposition to the Zaporizhian Sich to join not only the expedition to foreign lands, but rather sign up for the royal service.

The registered cossacks were finally created for the first time on the King's edict of Sigismund II Augustus on June 5, 1572[1] when the King confirmed the orders of the Crown Hetman and the Voivode of Rus Jerzy Jazłowiecki for a state service.[3] The first senior and a court marshal was Jan Badowski.[1] The registered cossacks were the only military cossack formation recognized by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.[1]

Appointed Seniors
Year Hetman Notes
1572 Jan Badowski[3]
1575 Bohdan Ruzhynsky
1578 Michał Wiśniowiecki[3]
1600 Havrylo Krutnevych[3]
1603 Ivan Kuchkovych[3]
1618 Petro Konashevych[3]
1622 Olifer Holub[3] elected by cossacks
1623 Mykhailo Doroshenko[3] the last senior, replaced by commissar

Batory and wars in Livonia, Moldavia and Muscovy

The most well known of the first recorded cossack reforms came from the King of Poland Stefan Batory.[4] At first Batory tried to control cossack forces who waged their own wars in Moldavia and Wallachia as well as other parts of the Ottoman Empire. On April 4, 1578 he issued four Universals to all local government officials asking to support Jan Tarlo in investigation of the cossack raids. Particularly, the famous Moldavian coup-d'etat when the Zaporizhian leader Ivan Pidkova overthrew the Ottoman-installed Hospodar of Moldavia Peter the Lame in 1577 under a pretense of being related to the beheaded brother John III the Terrible. Tarlo obtained a special orders on investigation and prosecution. Batory also ordered the voivode of Kiev Konstanty Wasyl Ostrogski to sent a punitive expedition and asked majors of Khmilnyk, Bar, Bratslav, Vinnytsia, Bila Tserkva and others to support him. At the same time Batory sent his ambassador Marcin Bronewski to the Khan of Crimea proposing cooperative actions against the Zaporizhian Sich.

On July 27, 1578 Batory sent Jancsi Bereg to Zaporizhian Sich offering to redirect cossack raids from Moldavia to Muscovy. To further discuss the proposition on September 15, 1578 a delegation headed by Andriy Lykhansky arrived to Lviv. On September 16, 1578[3] it was agreed to gather 500 Cossacks who will get paid 15 florins per year. The officer in charge was appointed the starosta of Cherkasy and Kaniv Prince Michał Wiśniowiecki, while his deputy was Jan Oryszowski.[3] As the headquarters of the cossacks was given a town of Trakhtemyriv (today - a village of Hryhorivka Rural Council in Kaniv Raion) with its monastery where was located the cossack's hospital. Cossacks were also given a banner that denoted their relationship to the state army.[3] Cossacks were promised to get paid on the Saint Nicolas Day (see Saint Nicholas) in Cherkasy by a scribe who, at time, was Jancsi Bereg.[3] Cossacks did get paid after the Siege of Pskov in 1581. Even though the register consisted of only 500 names, in reality the whole contingent of registered cossacks was accounted for around 4,000.

That Batory's military reform, however, was not effective. The Polish government promised to pay the cossacks salary, but often did not follow that promise. Cossacks often proudly pledged their allegiance to serve the King of Poland and hoped for the same financial compensation at least as the regular army. Due to some hold ups in pay-ups cossacks continued their military engagements with Tatars and Moldavians.[3]

Number of registered cossacks
Year Number
1572 300[1]
1578 600[1]
1583 600[5]
1590 1,000[6]

In 1590 the Sejm issued a new declaration of recreating the cossack units.[3] On July 25, 1590 there was issued another King's edict on which were registered 1,000 cossacks for policing purposes to prevent uncontrolled attacks from cossacks onto neighboring countries.[3] Cossacks were paid from 5 to 12 zloty each quarter, while for the headquarters was picked the Zaporizhian Sich.[3] In 1590s, however, as the Polish interests were aimed in securing the Swedish crown, the cossack movement came somewhat out of control, particularly, the one led by Kosynsky and, later, Nalyvaiko who also was assisted by the Kosh Otaman Hryhoriy Loboda.[7]


Registered Cossacks formed an elite among Cossacks, serving in the military under commanders (starshyna) and main otaman, who were responsible before Grand Crown Hetman (Commonwealth highest military commander). A substantial percent of Cossacks formed skilled light cavalry units (choragiew), excellent skirmishers trained in mounted archery (and later using firearms), making lightning raids, harassing heavier, slower formations and disengaging. Those units were often used as support for heavy elite Commonwealth cavalry, the husaria, and were much cheaper to form than a hussar unit. Cossack units were also known for their tabor formation.

Registered Cossacks had many privileges, including personal freedom, exclusion from many taxes and duties, and the right to receive wages (although the Commonwealth military was plagued with fiscal problems, leading to extremely delayed wages, often paid in items like clothes or weapons instead of coin).

Many Cossacks were skilled warriors, and Cossacks' major income source came from raids on the southern neighbors of the Commonwealth (Ottoman Empire and its vassals). However only a small number were actually 'registered Cossacks' — the exact number was from few hundred to few thousands and varied in time, usually being increased during wartime. This has led to many social and political tensions, especially as szlachta (Polish and Ukrainian gentry) continually attempted to force Cossacks into submissions as peasants, while Cossacks demanded the significant expansion of the Cossack register. Furthermore, the Cossack-szlachta conflict was aggravated as Cossacks often supported Commonwealth monarchs (like Wladyslaw IV Waza), who were often at odds with Polish szlachta, wishing to further limit the monarch's powers. The tensions between Cossacks and Polish szlachta grew and from the late 16th century resulted in several uprisings (the greatest of which was the Khmelnytsky uprising of 1648), with registered Cossacks often forced to choose sides between supporting their own people or the szlachta-backed Commonwealth forces.

Cossack Hetmanate

According to the Treaty of Zboriv, signed on August 17, 1649, the number of Registered Cossacks increased up to 40 thousand. Table. The Seats and the Number of Registered Cossacks in 1649.[8]

# Seat of a Cossack regiment Number of Registered Cossacks
1 Bila Tserkva 2990
2 Bratslav 2662
3 Cherkasy 2990
4 Chernihiv 998
5 Chyhyryn 3220
6 Kalnyk 2050
7 Kaniv 3167
8 Kiev 2002
9 Korsun 3470
10 Kropyvna 1993
11 Myrhorod 3009
12 Nizhyn 991
13 Pereyaslav 2986
14 Poltava 2970
15 Pryluky 1996
16 Uman 2977



Hrushevsky, M. Illustrated History of Ukraine. "BAO". Donetsk, 2003. ISBN 966-548-571-7

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