The name “Ukraine” was then used more often in the sense in which the Old Russian word “outskirts” appears in written sources from the twelfth century, when it was about various border territories. And the word “Ukrainian”, judging also on the basis of archival documents, originally meant border service people who ensured the protection of external borders.Vladimir Poutine, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, 12 july2021
For Putin the word “Ukraine” has only a geographical meaning and no meaning to designate a nation and a state. In his eyes, they are recent Western constructions against Russia and Orthodoxy.
However, this word has had a political and national meaning since the 17th century. Bogdan Khmelnitsky’s engravings describe him as “Duke of the Nation (People) of Ukraine” and King of Poland John III Sobieski calls himself as “Grand Duke of Ukraine”. We need to come back to the emergence of the term and its connection to the complex policy implemented by the King of Poland on the Cossacks in Ukraine.
Geographical and ethnological description of Ukraine
First, the term “Ukraine” designates, for geographers, a region and a people. The term “Ukraina”, which appeared in the 12th century, would be translated “in the country” or “the land of the people” or even the “principality” of the Rus’ of Kyiv. Russian historians and then Putin have put forward that this term, translated into Russian “okraïna”, designates the “periphery” or the “border” of the empire, Poland-Lithuania or Kyiv. The term “Ukraine” appears in French under the Pen of Guillaume le Vasseur de Beauplan who is a spectator of the events that take place in the middle of the 17th century.
The geographer served from 1631 for the King of Poland, notably in Podolia, Volhynia and on the lands of the Cossacks along the Dnieper. He campaigned for the Grand Hetman of the Crown and Polish Senator Stanisław Koniecpolski. He travels to Sea of Azov and Crimea. For him, the term can be changed by “wild fields”. He is repeateting the imperial view of Poland who wants since the sejm of 1590 to take Ukraine as all country.
In 1648, he gave a first map of Ukraine. Then he wrote Description d’Ukraine qui sont plusieurs provinces du Royaume de Pologne en 1660. This map was improved at the beginning of the 18th century by Guillaume Delisle, a pupil of the Cassinis. The term is adopted and included in geography books and dictionaries. Ukraine seems to regroup two palatinates (voivodies) of Lesser Poland: Kiyv and Bratslav. It is therefore located in the south-east of the Kingdom of Poland after the palatinates of Ruthenia, Podolia and Volhynia. It is thus truly at the creation of the hetmanate that the term “Ukraine” associated with “land of the Cossacks” designates a people, a territory and a social and political organization.
Secondly, it is thus also a diverse, poorly known people that is described. The success of Beauplan’s texts and maps made the term “Ukrainian land of the Cossacks” popular. In his Description d’Ukranie of 1660, he gives the image of a Cossack nation different from the Poles and Russians.
Subsequently, the Description historique de l’Empire russien by Philipp Johann von Strahlenberg from 1757 explains that the word Ukraine is used less and less.
During the 18th century, the Russian Empire, which conquered most of the Ukrainian territories, set up a policy of Russification which also involved changing terminology, as can be seen in dictionnaire de géographie or Les fastes de la Pologne et de la Russie . Despite everything, the term, still remembered, became during the 19th century that of a nation and then of a country.
Union of Lublin: Sigismund II Augustus, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania and Russia
In 1569, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania decided to unite definitively in the face of the threat from the Muscovites and the Ottomans. From this date a single king is at the head of the entity of the Republic of the Two Nations without anything being able to separate them as under the Jagiellons Jean Albert and Alexandre in the 15th century. He is elected by the grand sejm.
On an engraving of Sigismund II Augustus, the titulature is “King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Russia, Prussia, Mazovia, Samogia, Livonia, Severia etc”. The list of titles is completed by a series of about forty coats of arms. This title seems to become exemplary for the kings of Poland.
The term “Russia” is used in the title and not “Ukraine”. This term refers to “Ruthenia” or “Kyiv Rus'”. Princes from the region of Moscow and Vladimir created a new kingdom and took the title of “Tsar of Muscovy” to attach themselves to Byzantium and Orthodoxy. The two terms Ruthenia/Kyiv Rus’/Duchy of Russia and Muscovy/Kingdom of Russia which are found on the different engravings should therefore not be confused.
The tsar wants to be the continuator of the orthodox Byzantine empire as well as that of the former Rus’ principality of Kyiv by taking the title of emperor of all the Rus’. This is a message to the ruler of Lithuania and Poland. In 1558, the Patriarch of Constantinople recognized the titles of Tsar Ivan IV while the princes of the west refused him this recognition. He remained only “Grand Duke of Moscow” until the 18th century.
Henri de Valois king of France and Poland
Prince Henri de Valois was elected to the throne of Poland in 1573 but on the death of his older brother in 1574, he became king of France. The two titles are put on the engravings but the crown of France is put first since it is more prestigious.
Prince Stepan Batory of Transylvania was elected to the crown of Poland in 1576. He married Anne Jagellon, daughter of Sigismund I and sister of King Sigismund II August. From then on he used the title: “By the grace of God, King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Russia, Prussia, Mazovia, Samogia, Kiwonia, Volhynia, Podlachia and Prince of Transylvania” as can be seen on a document from 1579.
The titles are reminiscent of those of Sigismund II Augustus of House Jagiellon. On the engravings, the character has few titles highlighting his status as “King of Poland” and “Grand Duke of Lithuania” which are the most important titles. He also has the title of “Duke of Russia”.
Wladyslaw IV and John Casimir Vasa: King of Poland and Sweden
Sigismond III Vasa is king of Poland in 1587 then king of Sweden in 1592. In 1610 Ladislas IV his son is designated tsar by the victory of Stanisław Żółkiewski who takes Moscow. He was then king of Poland from 1632. In 1648 John II Casimir Vasa his brother succeeded him. In 1607, his cousin Charles was crowned king of Sweden after years of civil war.
According to an engraving his title is “Wladyslaw IV, King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ruthenia, Prussia, Masovia, Samogitia, Livonia, and also Hereditary King of the Swedes, Goths and Vandals, elected Grand Duke of Muscovy”.
The Vasa branch of Poland will always claim the throne of Sweden which in their eyes has been usurped. But this title is not claimed later by the kings of Poland who succeed them.
Hetmanate and Grand Duchy of Ruthenia
In 1648, the Cossacks led by the hetman Bohdan Khmelnitsky revolted against the king of Poland, this conflict which opens is seen by some as a “war of liberation”. On December 27, 1648 the hetman was crowned by the Patriarch of Jerusalem in Kyiv. But defeated in 1649, King John II Casimir Vasa signed the Treaty of Zboriv and recognized the hetman as the sole leader of the Cossacks, thus creating a new territorial and political entity called the hetmanate.
But the conflict continues because of the opposition of the Polish Catholic primates to recognize the privileges given to the Orthodox. In 1653, the Tsar decided to go to war and support the Cossacks against Poland. The assembly gathered in Moscow decides that the “Cossack land” comes under the protection of Russia because of the unification of Orthodox Christians under the aegis of the Church of Moscow. The assembly of Pereïaslav in 1654 with the envoys of the Cossacks ratifies the decision by a treaty (now lost). On January 8, 1654 the hetman sent a letter to the tsar “sovereign of great and small Russia” which was included in the title from February 1654. For Russia it was a founding act of “reunification of the Rus’ “under the aegis of the ‘Orthodox Church. In 1655 the Tsar added “White Russia” to his titles.
The war rages in Poland-Lithuania known as the “Deluge (Potop)”. Batoh’s defeat against the Cossacks in 1652 marked the beginning of this period when the Polish army was destroyed. Sweden and Russia invade the territory of the Republic. In 1657, Bohdan Khmelnitsky died and the question of Cossack status remained unresolved. The hetmanate is agitated by a period of division and internal conflicts called “ruin” by historiography. In 1658 his successor the hetman Ivan Vyhovsky signed the Treaty of Hadiach which established a new entity, the “Grand Duchy of Ruthenia” or “Grand Principality of the Rus'”. This text was complicated to put in place seeing both the opposition of some of the Cossacks wanting to continue the Orthodox rapprochement with Russia and that of the Polish and Lithuanian Catholic nobles seeing the arrival of potential rivals of the hetmanate. The hetman becomes prince of the kingdom but his diplomatic prerogatives disappear. Religious tensions increase for fear of Polish domination over the Orthodox. The Ukrainian peasant population sees in it a guarantee of noble privileges. A revolt is born. The Polish defeats against the Russians only amplified the opposition to the treaty which was very quickly forgotten.
In 1660, peace treaty was signed with Sweden in Oliva. Russia continues to support the Cossack revolt but the Polish army enters the territory of the Cossacks on the left bank of the Dnieper under Russian domination since the Treaty of Pereïaslav of 1654.
Negotiations open when neither of the two belligerents manages to gain the upper hand over the other. During the Treaty of Androussovo in 1667, Belarus and western Ukraine (region of Kiyv, Volhynia, Podolia and Galicia) returned to Poland but the cities of Smolensk, Chernihiv and Kyiv remained under the control of the tsar. The treaty proposes to return Kyiv two years after signing. The Orthodox clergy fiercely opposed it and the city was never returned. From then on the hetmanate or “Cossack land” was separated into three: the Right Bank under the protection of the King of Poland, the Left Bank under the protection of the Tsar since the Treaty of Slobodyshche of 1660, and the very largely independent Sich Zaporogue until its destruction by the Tsar in 1709.
Ukraine, a “lost land” to be reconquered
In 1668, the hetman Petro Doroshenko placed himself under the protection of the Muslim Empire. In 1669 General Michał Wiśniowiecki was elected King of Poland in a period of trouble. The same year Jan Sobieski, a brilliant Polish general, became grand hetman of the crown.
In 1674, when Jean Sobieski ascended the throne, war raged with the Ottoman Empire. In 1675, the King of Poland proposed to the Cossack colonel Ostap Gogol to become hetman of the right bank. In 1676 the king became the protector of the Cossacks of the right bank. He is sacred in Krakow and invites the hetman to the ceremony of February 2, 1676. He appoints many hetmans in a policy of regaining control of this area with a view to reconquering “Lost Ukraine and Podolia” as well as the city of Kyiv considered a Polish “hereditary” land according to historian Taras Chukhlib.
The engraving of his triumphal entry into Krakow in 1675 is made from a drawing by Francesco Gratta the Younger. This military march shows several allegorical figures, ancient and modern, passing under a temple of virtue. The king is in Roman costume on a horse and leads the troop towards the queen on a balcony. It is preceded by three figures in the center joining hands, they are from right to left the allegory of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. The King of Poland also had many engravings made on his victories over the Ottomans as Grand Hetman of the Crown. About this region, he is in competition with the tsar. This area is very important to guarantee his kingdom from Tatar or Ottoman invasions. He knows that “he who has the Cossacks keeps the Ukraine” (Taras Chukhlib p.277) as he had remarked then Grand Hetman of the Crown.
I have to admit it’s a corpse disgusting, not Ukraine, because it’s probably not the one they took from their ancestors.Who died there, if not the Rus’ people? What burned down if not the glorious city (Kyiv)? Where did the smoke go, if not on the churches and the houses of God? Whose graves and graves were swept away, if not your parents or your children, lost for nothing? To whom was the desert left, if not driven like cattle to the captivity of Christian souls?Universel du roi Sobieski en 1675
We see in this text that the king recognizes the Cossacks’ right to live in Ukraine, which belongs to them. They are the ones who die in wars and no one else. He recognizes a certain freedom of worship in them and forgives them their former betrayals. This policy should also make it possible to better fight the Ottomans and reconquer Podolia. In 1675, the king decided to ally himself with the tsar against the Ottomans. The stake was of great importance since they themselves had tried to unify the Cossacks under the aegis of Youri son of the great Khmelnitsky named between 1677 and 1678, as “prince of Little Russia”, “Dux Cosacorum” or ” Dux in Ukraine”. He “did not use the title of Prince Sarmatiae” to please the one he described as “My clearest and strongest king of Poland!” After attempts with the Ottomans, the king of Poland approaches the hetman and promises to keep his titles if he joins him in exchange the Ukraine would regain its status of the treaty of 1658 and that the Orthodox faith would not be threatened there but this attempt remains a letter dead.
An engraving from the end of the 17th century presents him as a simple “General of the Cossacks”. The titles given by the Ottomans were never greeted by military victories, they were not remembered. In 1683 a large Cossack assembly of the right bank recognized the suzerainty of the king of Poland as “as father and pastor”, according to the letter they sent to the king on July 23, 1683. They agreed to go to war against the Ottomans in the south. On August 24, 1683, the king appointed Stefan Kunitsky as hetman, giving him a necklace, a mace and a seal with “the ancient arms of Ukraine” (the armed Cossack). He is described in several gazettes as “General of the Cossacks” as in the engraving by Yuri Khmelnitsky. He conquered all of Wallachia, Podolia and the land of the Tatars.
The king is victorious with his troops and the cossacks against the Ottomans in front of Vienna in 1683. In 1685, the sejm of the king of Poland recognizes “all the cossacks of the sich and the Ukrainians under the orders of Kunitsy, the right to to settle in Ukraine, and that they will be given back their former freedoms and privileges”. The king offers them protection if they recognize that they are subjects of the Republic. The king thus offers them a form of autonomy through a constitution and in exchange he can create troops in a period of financial crisis.
The policy of the king is rewarded with success, the troops (approximately 3000 Cossacks) of Mohyla are effective and make it possible to reconquer the Ottoman zones. The hetman signed several documents “Andriy Mohyla Hetman of S.A.R. – Army of Zaporozhe”. But the tsar in 1688 sent a letter to the king demanding that the use of this title be stopped.
The policy of the king is rewarded with success, the troops (approximately 3000 Cossacks) of Mohyla are effective and make it possible to reconquer the Ottoman zones. The hetman signed several documents “”Andriy Mohyla Hetman of S.A.R. – Army of Zaporozhe”. But the tsar in 1688 sent a letter to the king demanding that the use of this title be stopped.
Jan III Sobieski: Duke of Ukraine or Duke of Russia?
The documents issued in the name of King Jan III Sobieski use the titulature introduced by Sigismund, but new features appear.
The term “Ukraine” appears under King Jan III Sobieski abandoning the term “Russia” or “Ruthenia”. Several engravings have the following title “King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ukraine”. The engraving in honor of his 1676 coronation uses this term. It represents the approach of the King of Poland to Wawel Castle, before which allegorically, in the form of dancers, represent Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. In both versions of the engraving, the signature in French or in Latin is with the term “Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ukraine”.
The term “Ukraine” also appears on two engravings of portraits of the king and queen from a series by United Provinces designer Nicolaes II Visscher engraved by Pieter Stevens. In 1679, he produced a map of the Kingdom of Poland with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Ukraine. The three entities are in capital letters. The king wants to stand out from his predecessors. It is also a sign of good will towards the “tsar of all the Russias” in a policy of rapprochement and peace.
On important engravings like that of his coronation, it is the term Ukraine that the king decides to put forward. He wants to follow in the footsteps of the famous hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky as the protector of Ukrainians.
Competition with Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky
An engraving of the hetman shows that he bore the title “Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Zaporovia, Initiator of the Peasants’ Rebellion, Cossack Insurgents and the ‘dux’ of the people of Ukraine”. The word leader in Latin “dux” having given the word duke, so it can also be translated as “duke of the Ukrainian people” which would be closer to the title of the king “grand duke of Lithuania and Ukraine”. The “dux” refers in ancient Rome to the commander of the troops or warlord. The engraving made by Guillaume Hondius of the hetman opposes the title of the king by showing that the title comes to him from the people and not from an election of nobility. When he entered Kyiv in 1648, the Orthodox Metropolitan of the city Sylvester and the Patriarch of Jerusalem Paised I welcomed him as “prince (princeps)”. This engraving is the work of an artist from the court of Poland, would he have met the hetman in talks with the republic?
This image of the hetman becomes canonical and is found in many icons. She obtained great popularity after Poltava as a foil to that of Mazepa accused of treachery by the Tsar. But this image was commissioned by King John Casmir Vasa as a sign of rapprochement with the hetman. The latter had been defeated during the battle of Bila Tserkva which allows the king to sign a favorable agreement with reduction of the Cossacks and territorial gain in his favor. The hetman then attempted a rapprochement with Poland by agreeing to pacify the palatinate of Kyiv.
King Sobieski takes as a model both the images of these predecessors and that of the hetman. He is shown 3/4 as a warrior on the engravings with the title “Duke of Ukraine”. It uses the title both to recall the engraving of the hetman and to show the possibility for the Cossacks to return to the agreements of 1658. The engravings are written in Latin allowing distribution to the elites of Ukraine.
In 1684, he knows that the Cossacks are “for the Republic the most dangerous poison and at the same time its most powerful shield”. In 1652, his older brother Marek Sobieski, starost of Krasnystaw, had been captured after the defeat at Batoh and beheaded with the remains of the Polish army (thousands of dead were counted). Despite the disastrous memories of relations with the Cossacks, the king knew that he could not create a new policy for the Republic without them. Since 1676, he even imagined, starting from the Ukraine (he was born in Olesko, in the Palatinate of Ruthenia, which makes him say that he loves the Cossacks “since childhood”) and the Cossacks, making hereditary the crown. By numerous engravings, he recalls his victories against the Ottomans at the battle of Khotin or Lviv where the Cossacks did not play a negligible role.
A great campaign of propaganda by the engravings proposes to assert its rights on Ukraine and the Cossacks in the eyes of the European powers. In this logic it highlights its image with a clear text in Latin.
A caricatural image of the hetman is made after 1651 without it being possible to know if it is King Jan Kasimir Vasa or Jan Sobieski who is responsible for it. The quality of the work does not allow it to be attributed to Hondius. The term “dux” is replaced by “ductor” or “guide” or “driver” which removes its military value of command. But this engraving is also found with the term “dux”.
The ears refer to the myth of Midas decked out in donkey ears by Apollo after betting on a satyr instead of Apollo in a lyre contest. King Midas out of shame has to put on a cap to hide them. The ears also refer to those of the animal known for its laziness and stupidity. So the caricature brings the hetman out of humanity, and the Cossacks following him are as stupid as a donkey. But it is possible that this caricature predates the reign of King Jan III since his policy was rather in favor of the Cossacks.
The king’s policy, although sometimes referred to as “Cossackism”, did not achieve its ends. King Jan III Sobieski failed to find a fair solution to Polish-Ukrainian relations. This relationship deteriorates every year and upon his death only the hetman Mazepa was able to propose a more stable relationship for the Cossacks gathering around him a certain unity of Cossack claims according to historian Tatiana Tairova-Yakovleva.
Conclusion: la succession de Sobieski
With the death of Sobieski the title of duke of Ukraine is lost. Frederic August of Saxony or Stanislas Leszczynski use a title without the term “Ukraine”. The engraving of Augustus II shows him in bowl-capped armour, the model is very close to some of Sobieski’s engravings. Territorial claims on the left bank of the Dnieper are no longer on the agenda of a monarch elected with the help of the tsar.
Although King August II used the Cossacks against the Turks, their help was no longer essential since the king could count on his army from Saxony. Its political rapprochement with Russia is marked by a desire to leave the Cossack troops to the tsar. In 1702, he decided to dismiss the Cossack regiments from the Kiyv region and then ordered the dismantling of the camps on the left bank from 1711.
The Ukrainian “Ruin” ends with the arrival of the hetman Mazepa in 1687 at the head of the left bank. Remaining twenty years in power, he managed to unify Ukraine and give autonomy to the hetmanate until the defeat of Poltava and his death in 1709. This is what an engraving recalls which is inscribed “hetman of all ‘Ukraine’ in Latin.
Білецький (Платон Олександрович), Українське мистецтво другої половини XVII-XVIII століть, Київ, Мистецтво, 1981. (Biletsky, Platon Alexandrovitch), Art ukrainien de la seconde moitié des XVII-XVIII siècle)
Чухліб (Тарас), Гетьмани і монархи. Українська держава в міжнародних відносинах 1648 – 1714 рр. – К.: Інститут історії України НАНУ, 2003 (Chukhlib (Taras), Hetmans et monarque. L’Etat ukrainien dans les relations internationales 1648-1714)
Plokhy (Serhii), Tsars & Cossacks – A Study in Iconography, Cambridge, Harvard Papers in Ukrainian Studies, 2002.( Plokhy (Serhii), Tsar et les cosaques. Une étude de l’iconographie)
Таирова-Яковлева (Татьяна), Между Речью Посполитой и Россией. Правобережная Украина в эпоху гайдамаков, Нестор-История, 2020 (Tairova-Yakovleva (Tatyana), Entre la République des Deux-Nations et la Russie. L’Ukraine de la rive droite à l’ère des Haïdamaks)
Widacka (Hanna), Jan III Sobieski w grafice XVII i XVIII wieku, Warszawa, Państ. Wydaw. Naukowe, 1987 (Widacka (Hanna), Jan III Sobieski et son image XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles)