Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa
(Ivan Mazepa Koledynski, 1639-1709) - Hetman
(Chief Executive) of Ukraine during 1687-1709.
He descended from a Ukrainian noble family
from the city of Bila Tserkva. Hetman's father
Stefan was a nobleman and possessed the
village of Mazepintsy. His mother Marija, was
descended of the noble family of Makievsky.
Mazepa was educated first in the
then in a Jesuit college in Warsaw. From 1659 he served
as a page at the court of the Polish king,
John II Casimir.
He was fluent in the Polish, German, Italian languages
and had a perfect command of Latin language. Mazepa's
contemporaries pointed to his exceptional ability for
winning their favor through his personal charm, great
erudition and eloquence. After return home Mazepa
served under Hetman Petro Doroshenko, and in
Hetman Ivan Samoylovych.
He rose quickly through the Cossack ranks and in
1682 he was promoted General Yesaul. In addition
he often was commissioned to carry out important
diplomatic missions. When Russia failed to
conquer Crimea in 1687 Hetman Ivan Samoylovych
was accused of this failure, deprived of title and
sent into exile to Siberia. On July 25th 1687 Ivan
Mazepa was elected the Hetman through press of
Prince Vasily Golytsin
who was a favorite of then
During 21 years of his rule Hetman
Mazepa followed a traditional policy of strengthening
and supporting the Cossack officer class. Due
to generous gifts received from Tsar Peter I Mazepa
became an owner of more than 20,000 estates.
Due to this he was one of the richest landowners
of Europe. Being a zealous protector of
Orthodoxy he contributed to the building of many
churches in the so-called Ukrainian Baroque style.
Under his rule the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy built new
premises and increased number of students to 2000.
Mazepa supported Peter I on his
campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. Cossacks
participated in an attack on the key Turkish fortress
of Azov that was finally taken in 1696. An old Hetman
gave a lot of valuable advice regarding Polish affairs to
the young Russian tsar and relation between Mazepa
and Peter I was extremely friendly and trusting.
However, at the beginning of eighteenth
century some tensions appeared in relations between
the Tsar and Hetman. The Great Northern War began
in 1700. The two main enemies fighting for the
possession of the Baltic Sea coast were the
Russian Tsar Peter I and the 18-year old
Swedish King Charles XII. Being defeated
several times at the beginning of the war,
Tsar Peter I decided to modernize the Russian
Army, its armament and command. Under
such new state policy Ukrainian traditional
autonomy (guaranteed by the Pereyaslav
Treaty of 1654) was seriously threatened.
During this war the Russian Tsar
set up an unheard-of claim to Ukrainian Cossacks.
Instead of defending the nation against attack by
the Poles, Turks and Tatars they were forced to fight
Swedes in central Poland and ever farther. All
these campaigns proved impossible for Cossack
regiments to battle on a par with regular European
armies. Cossacks suffered heavy losses (up to 70%
of numerical strength) and lowered morale, as their
commanders were Russians and Germans who
often did not much value their lives and often used
them as cannon fodder.
The general Cossack discontent with
Tsar's policy finally forced Mazepa to look for another
protector. When Polish ally of Charles XII
began to threaten Ukraine with aggression, Mazepa asked
for military support. The Russian
Tsar, preparing to repulse a coming Swedish invasion
refused to comply with this request. By this action
Peter I broke the Pereyaslav Treaty of 1654, and
Hetman Mazepa considered himself disengaged.
As the army of
turned to Ukraine Hetman
Mazepa allied himself with him on October 28,
1708 in hope to avoid total devastation of his land.
However, only about 3,000 Cossacks and Cossack
officers followed him. A few days later a Russian
detachment under the command of Alexander
Menshikov razed the Cossack capital Baturyn,
killing the defending garrison and the entire
population (about 6000 inhabitants) including
old men and children. This massacre and
terror employed by Russians changed the
intentions of many potential Mazepa's
supporters. Meanwhile Peter I initiated a
new Hetman election and Ivan
Skoropadsky was elected the Hetman
on November 11, 1708.
The decisive battle of the Great
Northern war - the battle of Poltava took place
on June 27th 1709 and the Swedes were defeated
by superior Russian army. This victory secured an
outlet to the Baltic Sea for Russia and turned it
later into powerful European Empire. Charles XII
and Mazepa managed to escape and make their
way to the Ottoman Empire. Sultan refused to
extradite hetman to Russia. Mazepa died on
September 21st 1709 in exile in
Ottoman-ruled town Bendery.