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Bohdan Khmelnytsky

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Bohdan Khmelnytsky

Khmelnytsky, Bohdan (Fedir) Zihovii, born ca 1595-6, died on August, 6, 1657, in Chyhyryn. Hetman of the Zapori-zhian Host from 1648 to 1657, founder of the Hetman state (1648-1782). By birth he belonged to the Ukrainian lesser nobility and bore the Massalski, and later the Abdank, coat of arms. His father, M. Khmelnytsky, served as an officer under the Polish crown hetman S. Zolkiewski and his mother, according to some sources, was of Cossack descent. Little is known about Khmelnytsky's education. Apparently, he received his elementary schooling in Ukrainian and his secondary and higher education in Polish at a Jesuit college, possibly in Jaroslaw, but more probably in Lviv. He completed his schooling before 1620 and acquired a broad knowledge of world history and fluency in Polish and Latin. Later he acquired a knowledge of Turkish, Tatar, and French. The Battle of Cecora (1620), in which he lost his father and was captured by the Turks, was his first military action. After spending two years in Istanbul, he was ransomed by his mother and returned to Ukraine.

There is no reliable information about Khmelnytsky's activities from 1622 to 1637. Only one fact is certain that in the 1620s he joined the registered Cossacks. Sometime between 1625 and 1627 he married Hanna Somko, a Cossack's daughter from Pereiaslav, and settled on his patrimonial estate in Subotiv near Chyhyryn. By 1637 he attained the high office of military chancellor. By the Ordinance of 1638 the Polish king revoked the autonomy of the Zaporizhian Host and placed the registered Cossacks under the direct authority of the Polish military command in Ukraine. The office of military chancellor, which Khmelnytsky had held, was abolished and Khmelnytsky was demoted to a captain of Chyhyryn regiment. In the fall of 1638 he visited Warsaw with a Cossack delegation to petition King Wladyslaw IV Vasa to restore the former Cossack privileges.

In the next few years Khmelnytsky devoted his attention mostly to his estates in the Chygyryn region, but in 1645 he served, with a detachment of 2,000-2,500 Cossacks in France, and probably took part in the siege of Dunkirk. By this time his reputation for leadership was such that King Wladyslaw, in putting together a coalition of Poland, Venice, and other states against Turkey, turned to him to obtain the support of the Zaporizhian Cossacks. These events contributed to his reputation in Ukraine, Poland, and abroad, and provided him with wide military and political contacts.

Khmelnytsky, however, had been regarded with suspicion for many years by the Polish magnates in Ukraine who were politically opposed to King Wladyslaw. In spite of the fact that Khmelnytsky received a royal title to Subotiv in 1646, the Chygyryn assistant vicegerent Czaplinski raided the estate, seized movable property, and disrupted the manor's economy. Khmelnytsky's small son was severely beaten at the marketplace in Chygyryn. Under these conditions of violence and terror Khmelnytsky's wife died in 1647. At the end of December 1647, Khmelnytsky departed for Zapor-izhia with a small (300-500-man) detachment. There he was elected hetman. This event marked the beginning of a new Cossack uprising, which quickly turned into a national revolution.

The great uprising of 1648 was one of the most cataclysmic events in Ukrainian history. It is difficult to find an uprising of comparable magnitude, intensity, and impact in the history of early modern Europe. A crucial element in the revolt was the leadership of Hetman B. Khmelnytsky, whose exceptional organizational, military, and political talents to a large extent accounted for its success.

Khmelnytsky was married three times. His first wife, who was the mother of all his children, died prematurely. His second wife, Matrona, whom he married in early 1649, was the- former wife of his enemy D. Czaplynski. In 1651 while Khmelnytsky was away on a military campaign, she was executed for conspiracy and adultery by his son Tymish. In the summer of 1651 Khmelnytsky married Hanna Zolotarenko, a Cossack woman from Korsun and the widow of Col Pylyp (Pylypets). Surviving him by many years, she entered a monastery in 1671 and adopted the religious name of Anastasiia. Khmelnytsky had two sons and four daughters.

Khmelnytsky was buried on August, 25, 1657, in St Elijahs Church in Subotiv, which he himself had built. His greatest achievement in the process of national revolution was the Cossack Hetman state of the Zaporizhian Host (1648-1782). His statesmanship was demonstrated in all areas of state-building in the military, administration, finance, economics, and culture.

Dmytro Vyshnevetsky   Ahapii Honcharenko