Pereyaslav Rada of 1654 – the story of Zaporozhie Cossacks joining Rus

The article below was first published on Dzen on the 18th of January 2021, but it seems to be from 2020. It covers the historical background for Pereyaslav Rada (Accord), the result of which was the so-called unification of Ukraine and Russia”. It this regard, it is worth noting that “Ukraine” was not established as a geopolitical term at that time. One rather spoke of the Zaporozhie Getmanate (or of “Gulyaj-Pole” – “Free-for-all field” in the sense of the lawlessness on those territories). Before 1800-s, “Ukraine” featured in its dictionary form of “borderland”. The term “Ukraine” first became descriptive of a geographic location in the political sense in the first half of the 1800-s. And it was only after the October revolution of 1917 that “Ukraine” acquired the true meaning of geopolitical entity.

As an aside, I am puzzled by some in the Communist circles who distance themselves from the factually correct statement that “Ukraine was created by Lenin (as a geopolitical entity)”. In doing so, not only do they do a disservice to Lenin’s legacy, but also play into the hands of the Ukrainian nationalists. There is nothing wrong with Lenin creating Ukraine in the sensibilities of that difficult time. The similar sensibilities governed the establishment of the Far-Eastern Republic on the shores of the Pacific, and the creation of then tiny Belorussian Republic. What Lenin did made sense in that historical context, short-term. But he could not foresee and cannot be held responsible for how the decision played out long-term. That was something for the future generations to solve. And that future is happening now.

For more details, see the earlier article How Malorossia Was Turned into the Patch-quilt of Discord that is “Ukraine”.

Ukraina – thus were called the South-Western Russian lands of Rzeczpospolita. This name was never official, it was used only in private conversations and became common in folk poetry. It is difficult to define the boundaries of the lands, known as “ukrainnyi”, more so that this name was not permanent and at different times covered varying stretches of land…

With this in mind, let us continue to the article at hand…

Pereyaslav Rada: How Ukrainians were seeking to come under the wing of the Russian Tzar, while in Moscow they’ve been thinking for the longest time

January 18, 2021

Pereyaslav Rada, 1654

The beginning of January 2020 was marked in Ukraine by regular “Bandera” marches of nationalists, which caused a timid protest from the ambassadors of Israel and Poland. Meanwhile, in addition to the birthday of one of the leaders of the Ukrainian nationalists, another historical date falls on January, which is carefully hushed up and ignored by the current authorities of Ukraine. Meanwhile, no matter how hard Zelensky and Co. tried to sweep the inconvenient facts under the rag, it was that date that determined the choice of the Malorossian (Rus Minor, Ukrainian) people for several centuries to come.

With the confident steps towards reunification. The author is unknown.

Of course, historians are right when they call the events of 1648-1654 the “liberation war of the Ukrainian people against the Polish domination.” However, some historians consider them as the struggle of the Russian people for self-determination and reunification within the framework of a single national state. Moreover, this struggle began (which is often forgotten), almost half a century before the speech of Getman Bogdan Hmelnytsky, when the getman of the Lower Zaporozhye Army, Krystof Kosinsky, raised an uprising in 1592 and asked the Russian Tzar Fedor I Ioannovich for inclusion as a part of the state. Furthermore, similar petitions were presented in 1622 by Metropolitan Isaiah Kopinsky-Borisovich of Kiev and All Russia, in 1624 by Metropolitan Job (Boretsky), author of the treatise “Protestation and pious Justification”, with the following words: “With Moscow we have the same faith and worship, the same origin, language and custom.”

Boyar Buturlin takes the oath of Getman Hmelnitsky’s loyalty to the Russian Tzar. Engraving of 1910.

In the middle of the XVII century, during the course of successful military operations against the Polish troops, Bogdan Hmelnitsky sent Alexei Mihailovich a message asking him to accept allegiance of the Getmanate. And one cannot say that Moscow responded quickly, as evidenced by the discussions at the Zemsky Sobor in 1653, which lasted almost six months. And in the end, they decided: “To accept Getman Bogdan Hmelnitsky with the Zaporozhian Army, their cities and lands.”

And already on the 18th of January 18 (8th by the old style) 1654, the famous Pereyaslav Rada took place, during which it was decided to transfer the Zaporozhian Army under the sceptre of the Moscow sovereign Alexei Mikhailovich (father of Peter I). This was basically the end of the process of the “Cossack” territories of Rzeczpospolita (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) – Kiev, Chernigov and Bratslav military districts joining the Russian state.

“On the 250th anniversary of the ascension of Malorossia. Bogdan Hmelnitsky swears allegiance to the Russian Tzar. An engraving based on a drawing by the artist R. Stein. Niva magazine.

On the 27th of January, many residents of Kiev swore an oath of allegiance to the Russian Tzar, on the 29th of January so did the nobility, servants, household people and commoners of Metropolitan Sylvester and Archimandrite Joseph, on the 3rd of February – the residents of Nizhyn, on the 6th of February – residents of Chernigov (all dates are according to the new style).

During the winter of 1654, the oath was taken by in total 183 cities, towns, villages of 17 regiments on the territory of the Zaporozhye army. Of course, there were those who refused to support the decision of the Pereyaslav Rada to become a subject of the Russian Tzar.

On the 28th of February, Polish King Jan II Casimir appealed to the members of the city councils and the Orthodox “rabble” with calls to “come to their senses” and return to the citizenship of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and on the 6th of June he called on the Zaporozhye army to do the same.

However, the appeals remained just that – appeals, and in May the Russian-Polish war of 1654-1667 began, the active phase of which ended with the Andrusov truce.

Bogdan Hmelnitsky

Returning to the Pereyaslav Rada, its period and the subsequent events can be compared with the referendum on joining Russia, to which one could respond positively (swear in), or negatively (refuse to take the oath). Of course, there were those who refused, for example, three of the 16 colonels. Among them is Ivan Bogun from Belotserkovsk, whose motives were reported to the Polish king by the crown convoy Andrei Potocki: “Bogun is one of those Cossacks for whom the highest state position is not to be either under your Royal Grace or under the Tzar.” So it’s not a matter of refusing Moscow’s patronage, as the “Ukrainian independentists” claim, but of rejecting any patronage as such.

Kiev in May 1954, during the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the reunification of Ukraine with Russia. Festive people’s procession along Kreshchatyk. the banner reads: “Long live the centuries-old friendship of Russian and Ukrainian peoples”

For more than two and a half centuries, the decisions of the Pereyaslav Rada have not been questioned. An attempt to revise them was made in 1918 in the wake of revolutionary chaos and the occupation of Ukrainian lands by Germany and Austria-Hungary. The following year, a certain ataman (getman) Zeleny (Danila Terpilo), in front of his gang, “abolished the decision of the Cossack assembly on the unification of the Getmanate and the Moscow Kingdom.” However, he didn’t last long after that…

Finally, after the proclamation of Ukrainian independence under Pan Kravchuk, the impostors from the so-called “Great Rada of the Ukrainian Cossacks” “elected” Vyacheslav Chornovol from Galicia as “getman of Ukraine”, who proclaimed “the abdication of the oath of allegiance to the Tzar of Moscow, given in 1654 during the Pereyaslav Rada.” As you know, the newly-minted “getman” died under mysterious circumstances on the 25th of March 1999 in a car accident near Borispol. By a strange coincidence, while being a Ukrainian nationalist, Chornovol was a supporter of the federal structure of Ukraine, which was not to everyone’s liking…

Monument to the 300th anniversary of the reunification of Ukraine with Russia and the sign of the 1992 “renunciation of the oath”

Returning to the historical significance of the Pereyaslav Rada, we note that without a close alliance with Russia, Ukraine will not be able to develop, as fully evidenced by the entire logic of the last decades of its post-Soviet history.