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The Cossack Republic

Cossack
Cossack
The word Cossack means a free and independent man. Cossacks were first mentioned in writing in 1492. In the 16th century the Cossacks united in a single military organization. The first fortifications were built on Mala Khor-tytsia Island, in the lower reaches of Dnieper, beyond the rapids. Hence the name, Zaporizhia.

The word "sich" comes from Ukrainian "sikty", meaning "to chop up", cut because the Cossacks cut trees to make their fortifications of wood. Fighting the enemies of the Eastern Orthodox faith and for the independence of the native land was the predominant idea of the Sich host. The end of the 16th century witnessed joint peasant-Cossack revolts against the Polish social, economic, religious and cultural oppression. In 1648 a national liberation war broke out in Ukraine, led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky. That same year the Polish army lost several battles to the Cossack forces. On December 23, 1648, Kyiv joyously welcomed the victorious Cossacks.

Squeezed between the three powerful countries Muscovy, Poland and the Ottoman Empire with its vassal Crimeam Khanate, Ukraine had to seek allies. This led to the Treaty of Pereyaslav (1654), a military and political alliance with Russia. In 1667 Moscow and Warsaw divided Ukraine between the two of them, the Right Bank went to Poland and the Left Bank to Muscovy. For the Ukrainian people it was sheer political disaster.

The Ukrainian Cossacks played an important role in European political history, in 1621 a Cossack host led by Hetman P. Sagaidachny, in an alliance with Poland, defeated the Turko-Tatar army and stopped the Ottoman Empire's onslaught in Europe. Cossacks were in the front ranks of Russian forces in the Rus-so-Turkish wars of the 18th century, and in battles against the Crimean Tatars.


 
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