Ivan Mazepa

Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa (also spelled Mazeppa;[1] Ukrainian: Іван Степанович Мазепа, Polish: Jan Mazepa Kołodyński; March 30 [O.S. March 20] 1639  October 2 [O.S. September 21] 1709)[2] served as the Hetman of Zaporizhian Host in 1687–1708. It is claimed that he was awarded a title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1707 for his efforts for the Holy League.[3]

Ivan Mazepa
Іван Мазепа
Hetman of Zaporizhian Host
In office
25 July 1687  11 November 1708
Preceded byIvan Samoylovych
Succeeded byIvan Skoropadsky Pylyp Orlyk (hetman in exile)
Personal details
Born30 March 1639 (NS)
Bila Tserkva, Kiev Voivodeship, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Died2 October 1709(1709-10-02) (aged 70) (NS)
Bender, Moldavia
NationalityRuthenian (Ukrainian)
Spouse(s)Hanna Polovets (1642-1704)

Mazepa was famous as a patron of the arts, and also played an important role in the Battle of Poltava (1709), where after learning that Tsar Peter I intended to relieve him as acting Hetman of Zaporizhian Host and to replace him with Alexander Menshikov, he deserted his army and sided with King Charles XII of Sweden. The political consequences and interpretation of this desertion have resonated in the national histories both of Russia and of Ukraine.

The Russian Orthodox Church laid an anathema on Mazepa's name in 1708 and refuses to revoke it to this day. Anti-Russian elements in Ukraine from the 18th century onwards were derogatorily referred to as Mazepintsy (Mazepists).[4][5] The alienation of Mazepa from Ukrainian historiography continued during the Soviet period, but post-1991 in independent Ukraine there have been strong moves to rehabilitate Mazepa's image, although he remains a controversial figure.

Early life

Mazepa was probably born on 30 March 1639,[2] in Mazepyntsi, near Bila Tserkva, then part of the Kiev Voivodeship in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (today – Drozdy rural council, Bila Tserkva Raion), into a noble Ruthenian-Lithuanian family. His mother was Maryna Mokievska (1624–1707) (known from 1674–75 by her monastic name Maria Magdalena),[6] and his father was Stefan Adam Mazepa (?-1666). Maryna Mokievska came from the family of a Cossack officer who fought alongside Bohdan Khmelnytsky. She gave birth to two children – Ivan and Oleksandra. Stefan Mazepa served as an Otaman of Bila Tserkva (1654), a Cossack representative of the King of the Polish-Lithuanian Rzecz Pospolita, and a Czernihów podczaszy (Cup-bearer of Chernihiv, 1662).

Ivan Mazepa was educated first in the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, then at a Jesuit college in Warsaw. As a page Mazepa was sent to study "gunnery" in Deventer (Dutch Republic) in 1656–1659, during which time he traveled across Western Europe.[7] From 1659 he served at the court of the Polish king, John II Casimir (reigned 1648–1668) on numerous diplomatic missions to Ukraine.[7] His service at the Polish royal court earned him a reputation as an alleged catholicized "Lyakh"[8] – later the Russian Imperial government would effectively use this slur to discredit Mazepa. During this time there arose the legend of his affair with Madam Falbowska that inspired number of European Romantics, such Franz Liszt, Victor Hugo, and many others.[7]

In 1663 Mazepa returned home when his father fell ill. After the death of his father (ca. 1665) he inherited the title of the Czernihów cupbearer.[7] In 1669–1673 Mazepa served under Petro Doroshenko (Hetman of Rightbank Ukraine from 1665 to 1672) as a squadron commander in the Hetman Guard, particularly during Doroshenko's 1672 campaign in Halychyna, and as a chancellor on diplomatic missions to Poland, Crimea, and Ottoman Empire.[7] In 1674–1681 Mazepa served as a "courtier" of Doroshenko's rival Hetman Ivan Samoylovych after was taken hostage on the way to Crimea by the Kosh Otaman Ivan Sirko in 1674.[7] In 1677–1678 Mazepa participated in the Chyhyryn campaigns during which Yuri Khmelnytsky, with the support from the Ottoman Empire, tried to regain power in Ukraine.[7] The young educated Mazepa quickly rose through the Cossack ranks, and in 1682–1686 he served as an Aide-du-Camp General (Heneralny Osaul).


In 1687 Ivan Mazepa accused Samoylovych of conspiring to secede from Russia, secured his ouster, and was elected the Hetman of Left-bank Ukraine in Kolomak,[9] with the support of Vasily Galitzine. At the same time Ivan Mazepa signed the Kolomak Articles, which were based on the Hlukhiv Articles of Demian Mnohohrishny.

Gradually, Mazepa accumulated great wealth, becoming one of Europe's largest land owners. A multitude of churches were built all over Ukraine during his reign in the Ukrainian Baroque style. He founded schools and printing houses, and expanded the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the primary educational institution of Ukraine at the time, to accommodate 2,000 students.

In 1702, the Cossacks of Right-bank Ukraine, under the leadership of hetman Semen Paliy, began an uprising against Poland, which after early successes was defeated. Mazepa convinced Russian Tsar Peter I to allow him to intervene, which he successfully did, taking over major portions of Right-bank Ukraine, while Poland was weakened by an invasion of Swedish king Charles XII.

The Great Northern War

In the beginning of the 18th century, as the Russian Empire lost significant territory in the Great Northern War, Peter I decided to reform the Russian army and to centralize control over his realm. In Mazepa's opinion, the strengthening of Russia's central power could put at risk the broad autonomy granted to the Cossack Hetmanate under the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654. Attempts to assert control over the Zaporozhian Cossacks included demands of having them fight in any of the tsar's wars, instead of only defending their own land against regional enemies as was agreed to in previous treaties. Now Cossack forces were made to fight in distant wars in Livonia and Lithuania, leaving their own homes unprotected from the Tatars and Poles. Ill-equipped and not properly trained to fight on par with the tactics of modern European armies, Cossacks suffered heavy losses and low morale. The Hetman himself started to feel his post threatened in the face of increasing calls to replace him with one of the abundant generals of the Russian army.

Change of sides

The last straw in the souring relations with Tsar Peter was his refusal to commit any significant force to defend Ukraine against the Polish King Stanislaus Leszczynski, an ally of Charles XII of Sweden, who threatened to attack the Cossack Hetmanate in 1708. Peter expected that king Charles of Sweden was going to attack and thought that he could spare no forces. In the opinion of Mazepa, this blatantly violated the Treaty of Pereyaslav, since Russia refused to protect Ukraine's territory and left it to fare on its own. As the Swedish and Polish armies advanced towards Ukraine, Mazepa allied with them on 28 October 1708. However, only 3,000 Cossacks followed their Hetman, with the rest remaining loyal to the Tsar. Mazepa's call to arms was further weakened by the Orthodox Clergy's allegiance to the Tsar. Learning of Mazepa's treason, the Russian army sacked and razed the Cossack Hetmanate capital of Baturyn, killing most of the defending garrison and many common people. The Russian army was ordered to tie the dead Cossacks to crosses and float them down the Dnieper River to the Black Sea.

Those Cossacks who did not side with Mazepa elected a new hetman, Ivan Skoropadsky, on 11 November 1708. The fear of further reprisals and suspicion of Mazepa's newfound Swedish ally prevented most of Ukraine's population from siding with him. Surprisingly, the only significant support that he gathered came from the Zaporizhian Sich, which, though at odds with the Hetman in the past, considered him and the nobility he represented a lesser evil compared with the Tsar. The Sich Cossacks paid dearly for their support of Mazepa, as Peter The Great ordered the Sich to be razed in 1709 and a decree was issued to execute any active Zaporizhian Cossack.

Decisive battle

The Swedish and Russian armies spent the first half of 1709 maneuvering for advantage in the anticipated great battle, and trying to secure the support of the local populace. Finally in June the Battle of Poltava took place. It was won by Russia and Peter The Great , putting an end to Mazepa's hopes of transferring Ukraine into the control of Sweden, which in a treaty had promised independence to Ukraine. Mazepa fled with Charles XII to the Turkish fortress of Bendery, where Mazepa soon died.

Mazepa was buried in Galați (now Romania), but his tomb was disturbed several times and eventually lost as a result of the Sfântul Gheorghe (St. George) Church demolition in 1962.[10]

Historical legacy

Mazepa's decision to abandon his allegiance to the Russian Empire was considered treason by the Russian Tsar and a violation of the Treaty of Pereyaslav. However, others argue that it was Imperial Russia who broke the treaty by not even trying to protect the Cossack homeland during busy fighting abroad while Ukrainian peasants were complaining about the conduct of local Muscovite troops. Many Cossacks had died while building Saint Petersburg, and the Tsar planned to deploy Cossack troops far from their homeland.[11][12]

The image of a disgraceful traitor persisted throughout Russian and Soviet history. The Russian Orthodox Church anathemaised and excommunicated him for political reasons. Until 1869, his name was even added to the list of traitors publicly cursed in Russian churches during the Feast of Orthodoxy service, along with Pugachev, Razin and False Dmitry I. Later, a positive view of Mazepa was taboo in the Soviet Union and considered as a sign of "Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism". During the years of Perestroika, however, many historical works saw light that viewed Mazepa differently. After Ukraine's independence in 1991, Mazepa was proclaimed a national hero in Ukraine's official historiography and mainstream media, as he was the first post-Pereyaslav Treaty hetman to take a stand against the Tsar, who failed to abide by the Treaty. This view however is still disputed by pro-Russian factions.[13][14][15] Russia has repeatedly condemned Ukraine for honoring the figure of Ivan Mazepa.[16] According to an April 2009 survey by the Research & Branding Group, 30 percent of the population of Ukraine views Mazepa as "a man who fought for the independence of Ukraine", while 28 percent view him "as a turncoat who joined the enemy's ranks".[15]

During an event in Mazepyntsi to mark the 370th birthday (20 March 2009) of Hetman Mazepa, President Viktor Yushchenko called for the myth about the alleged treason of Mazepa to be dispelled. According to Yushchenko, the hetman wanted to create an independent Ukraine, and architecture thrived in Ukraine over the years of Mazepa's rule: "Ukraine was reviving as the country of European cultural traditions".[17] The same day, around 100 people held a protest in Simferopol against the marking of the 370th birthday of Mazepa.[13][14] In May 2009 the Russian foreign ministry stated in an answer to Ukraine's preparations to mark the 300th anniversary of the battle of Poltava and plans to erect a monument to Mazepa that those were attempts at an "artificial, far-fetched confrontation with Russia".[15]

Mazepa's portrait is found on the 10 hryvnia (Ukrainian currency) bill.[15]

In August 2009, a monument to the hetman was unveiled in Chernihiv.[18] The opening was accompanied by clashes between the police and opponents of the Mazepa.[16]

After researching his genealogy in 2009, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko did not rule out that his family is connected with the family of Mazepa.[19]

In August 2009, Yushchenko decreed the resuming of a halted construction of an Ivan Mazepa monument in Poltava.[20] A monument to Mazepa was to be erected on Slava Square in Kiev in 2010 to fulfill a decree of Yushchenko.[21] In May 2010 Kiev city civil servants stated the city was ready to establish a monument as soon as the Cabinet of Ukraine would fund this project.[16] According to them the situation was similar to other unrealised monuments such as the "Unification Monument" and a monument to Pylyp Orlyk who in 2010 were conceived in 2002 and 2003 but still not built in 2010.[16][24] The Poltava City Council on 25 February 2016 voted in favor of the monument.[23] On 6 May 2016 President Petro Poroshenko unveiled the Mazepa monument in Poltava.[25]

The Ivan Mazepa Street in Kiev, which runs past the Pechersk Lavra, was partly changed to Lavrska Street in July 2010.[26] The move was met with protests.[27]

In Galați (Romania), Mazepa is remembered in the name of two central neighbourhoods (Mazepa I and II) and with a statue in a parc on Basarabiei street.[10]


(translation by Dimitri Horbay in the newspaper Svoboda 22 March 1958)[28]

While all for peace sincerely preach,
Not all in one direction reach.
Some right, and some left do range,
Yet all are brothers, how very strange.

There is no love, nor does harmony rank
Since we quenched our thirst at the Zhovti's bank.
Through disagreement, non are saved.
By our own endeavor have we become enslaved.

Aye, brothers, 'tis time to see
That we all cannot masters be!
Not all are grace with knowledge wide
Enough, to over all preside.


Cultural legacy

The historical events of Mazepa's life have inspired many literary and musical works:

In 2009 the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, instituted the Cross of Ivan Mazepa as an award for cultural achievement and service.

See also



    1. "Ivan Mazepa". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 September 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
    2. Katchanovski, Ivan; Kohut, Zenon Eugene; Nebesio, Bohdan Y.; Yurkevich, Myroslav (2013). Historical Dictionary of Ukraine. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810878457.
    3. ПРО МАЗЕПУ У ВІДНІ (About Mazepa in Vienna). Nataliya Tsirka, Vienna. 2007
    4. Magocsi, Paul Robert (2010) [1996]. History of Ukraine: The Land and Its Peoples (2 ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442698796. Retrieved 21 March 2017. The terms mazepintsi (Mazepaites)and mazepinstvo (Mazepaism) came to be used in imperial Russian, Soviet Marxist, and even post Communist Russian discourse as synonyms of treachery toward the state and opportunistic separatism.
    5. Compare: Lew, Khristina (28 January 1996). "Ukraine's Navy, despite difficulties, forges ahead with media center" (PDF). The Ukrainian Weekly. 4. 64. Jersey City, New Jersey: Ukrainian National Association Inc. p. 2. ISSN 0273-9348. Retrieved 21 March 2017. '[...] Sevastopil TV and Radio are fond of running interviews with BSF seamen calling Ukrainian Navy personnel "nationalists, Banderites and Mazepivtsi."'
    6. На Печерську знайдено могилу матері Мазепи (At Pechersk is found a burial of Mazepa's mother). Ukrayinska Pravda
    7. "Encyclopedia of Ukraine". Encyclopediaofukraine.com. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
    8. Hrushevsky, M., page 382.
    9. Katchanovski, et. al., p. 362
    10. Crangan, Costel (28 August 2015). "Cine a fost cazacul Mazepa, războinicul care tulbură Europa chiar şi după 300 de ani de la moarte. Răpus pe pământ românesc, a fost îngropat de şase ori". Retrieved 27 October 2018.
    11. A History of Ukraine, Paul Robert Magocsi, University of Toronto Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0-8020-7820-9, page 244
    12. Ukraine: A History by Orest Subtelny, University of Toronto Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-8020-8390-6, page 164
    13. Events by themes: The mass meeting as token of objecting against celebration in Ukraine of 370th anniversary from the day of birth of Ivan Mazepa, UNIAN-photo service (20 March 2009)
    14. Opponents to marking 370th birthday of Mazepa rally in Simferopol, Interfax-Ukraine (20 March 2009)
    15. Swedish king feted in Ukraine 300 years after landmark battle, The Local (26 June 2009)
    16. (in Ukrainian) В Києві не буде пам’ятника Мазепі The city government is ready to establish a monument, but for this there is neither funding nor of the order of the government, TSN.ua (11 May 2010)
    17. Yuschenko calls for myth of Hetman Mazepa's treason to be dispelled, Interfax-Ukraine (20 March 2009)
    18. "Cultural Life/from 'Web site about Ukraine'". Orpheusandlyra.tripod.com. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
    19. Yushchenko researches his genealogy and connects it with family of Ivan Mazepa , UNIAN (7 December 2009)
    20. President demands resuming halted construction of Ivan Mazepa monument in Poltava Archived 22 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Press office of President Victor Yushchenko (25 August 2009)
    21. Monument to Ivan Mazepa to be erected on Slava Square in Kyiv, Interfax-Ukraine (19 November 2009)
    22. (in Russian) In Kiev, a monument to Philip Orlik, Korrespondent (24 June 2011)
    23. Poltava: a battle for memory, Den (newspaper), (17 March 2016)
    24. The monument to Orlyk was unveiled in June 2011.[22] On 14 October 2015 the Mazepa monument was transported and put on display in Poltava.[23]
    25. (in Ukrainian) In Poltava, unveiled a monument to Mazepa, Ukrayinska Pravda (7 May 2016)
    26. (in Ukrainian) РІШЕННЯ КИЇВСЬКОЇ МІСЬКОЇ РАДИ, Khreshchatyk (10 September 2010)
    27. "Kyivers oppose Ivan Mazepa Street's renaming". Photo.ukrinform.ua. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
    28. Svoboda of 1958 (in English)/(in Ukrainian)
    29. Molitva za getmana Mazepu (2002)
      • The Italian composer Carlo Pedrotti wrote a tragic opera titled Mazeppa in 1861, with libretto by Achille de Lauzieres.


    • Hrushevsky, M. Illustrated history of Ukraine. "BAO". Donetsk, 2003. ISBN 966-548-571-7
    • Orest Subtelny, The Mazepists: Ukrainian Separatism in the Early Eighteenth Century (1981).
    • Thomas M. Prymak, "Voltaire on Mazepa and Early Eighteenth Century Ukraine," Canadian Journal of History, XLVII, 2 (2012), 259–83.
    • Thomas M. Prymak, "The Cossack Hetman: Ivan Mazepa in History and Legend from Peter to Pushkin," The Historian, LXXVI, 2 (2014), 237–77.
    Ivan Samoylovych
    Hetman of Zaporizhian Host
    Ivan Skoropadsky (in Hetmanate)
    Pylyp Orlyk (in exile)
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