Cossack Uprisings

The Cossack uprisings (also rebellions, revolts) were a series of military conflicts between the cossacks and the states claiming dominion over the territories the Cossacks lived in, namely the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and Russian Empire during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Both states tried to exert control over the independent-minded Cossacks. While the early uprisings were against the Commonwealth, as the Russian Empire gained increasing and then total control over the Ruthenian (Ukrainian) lands where the Cossacks lived, the target of Cossacks uprisings changed as well.

The origins of the first Cossacks are disputed. Traditional historiography dates the emergence of Cossacks to the 14th to 15th centuries. Towards the end of the 15th century, the Ukrainian Cossacks formed the Zaporozhian Sich centered around the fortified Dnipro islands. Initially a vassal of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the increasing social and religious pressure from the Commonwealth caused a series of uprisings, and the proclamation of an independent Cossack Hetmanate, culminating in a rebellion under Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the mid-17th century. While the Cossacks were useful to the Polish-Lithuanian states in the war periods, they proved to be more problematic in the peacetime, due to their raids on the Commonwealth neighbours (primarily, the Ottoman Empire and its allies). Further, the Polish nobility tried to assert control over the Cossack territories, turn them into feudal latifundia, limit the growth of the militant Cossacks, and even reverse it, by turning the Cossacks into serfs. Afterward the Khmelnytsky Uprising, the Treaty of Pereyaslav brought most of the Cossack Hetmanate under Russian control.

The Zaporozhian Cossacks were not the only notable group of Cossacks; others included the Don Cossack Host, Dlobodsk Cossacks, Terek Cossacks and Yaik Cossacks. As the Tsardom of Muscovy took over the disputed Cossacks lands from the Poland-Lithuania, eventually all Cossacks came under the Russian rule, but the Tsarist and later Imperial government had only a limited control over the Cossacks. The Cossacks provided refugee for runaway serfs and bandits, and often mounted unauthorized raids and pirate expeditions against the Ottoman Empire. While the Cossack hosts in the Russian Empire served as buffer zones on its borders, the expansionist ambitions of the empire relied on ensuring control over the Cossacks, which caused tension with their traditional independent lifestyle. As the empire attempted to limit Cossacks autonomy in the 17th and 18th centuries this resulted in rebellions led by Stenka Razin, Kondraty Bulavin and Yemelyan Pugachev. In extreme cases, whole Hosts could be dissolved, as was the fate of the Zaporozhian Sich in 1775. In this last phase of their history, the Cossacks lost most of their autonomy to the Russian state.

Cossack uprisings, like the Cossack people themselves, have been portrayed variously in the Polish, Russian and Ukrainian historiographers.

Read more about Cossack Uprisings:  List of Uprisings

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Famous quotes containing the word cossack:

    Silence is to all creatures thus attacked the only means of salvation; it fatigues the Cossack charges of the envious, the enemy’s savage ruses; it results in a cruising and complete victory.
    Honoré De Balzac (1799–1850)