Hetmanate (Ukraine)

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HETMANATE (UKRAINE). A Ukrainian Cossack polity (16481781) ruled by a hetman, the Hetmanate is also referred to as "Little Russia." The Hetmanate emerged as a result of the Khmelnytsky Uprising (1648), which swept Polish authority from central Ukraine. In order to consolidate his position, Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky was forced to seek the protection of the Muscovite tsar (by the Pereiaslav Agreement of 1654). Khmelnytsky's successor, Hetman Ivan Vyhovskyi, repudiated the Muscovite arrangement and negotiated the Hetmanate's adherence, as the Rus' princedom, to a triune Polish-Lithuanian-Rus' Commonwealth (Treaty of Hadiach, 1658). Such an arrangement was not acceptable to Muscovy, parts of Ukrainian society, or the Polish elite, and it was only partially implemented. As a result, the Hetmanate split into pro-Polish and pro-Muscovite factions, each with its own hetman, army, and administration. Attempts by competing hetmans and their foreign allies to take control of Ukraine resulted in a period of continuous warfare and anarchy known as the "Ruin" (16591679). With the final sanctioning of the Hetmanate's partition (the "Eternal Peace" between Poland and Muscovy in 1686) and the elimination of the pro-Polish hetmans on the Right Bank (the western bank of the Dnieper), the Hetmanate stabilized on the Left Bank of the Dnieper.

This truncated Left-Bank Hetmanate remained under tsarist authority on the basis of the Pereiaslav Agreement. It maintained its own military, administrative, fiscal, and judicial system. Under the rule of the hetmans Ivan Samoilovych (16721687) and Ivan Mazepa (16871709), Cossack officers established themselves as a landed gentry, creating a more dynamic administration and an invigorated cultural life, including a distinctive political thought and historical literature. However, the Petrine reforms increasingly clashed with Ukrainian autonomy and drove Hetman Mazepa to break with Russia and side with Sweden, resulting in defeat at Poltava (1709).

In the eighteenth century, the Ukrainian elite developed a political outlook that combined a strong commitment to "Little Russian rights and liberties" with loyalty to the "all-Russian" tsar. Such a loyalist stand did little, however, to mitigate the leveling of Ukrainian autonomy. The first attempt to rule the Hetmanate directly, initiated by Tsar Peter I the Great (1722), was a failure, and the Hetmanate's autonomy, including the election of a hetman, was restored in 1727. Between 1727 and the 1760s the local administration and judicial system of the Hetmanate functioned without interference, but the imperial authorities vacillated in their dealings with the Hetmanate's central administration, at times merely supervising it and at other times assuming some of its functions.

Between 1750 and 1764, the Hetmanate experienced another respite. Because of his good connections with the imperial court (his brother was closely linked with Empress Elizabeth), Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky was able to restore Ukrainian autonomy virtually to the level exercised by Mazepa. But Catherine II the Great, the new empress (ruled 17621796), envisioned the empire as a well-ordered police state, an ambition entirely at odds with the concept of regional autonomy. Thus, the office of hetman was abolished in 1764, and with the creation of the Kiev, Chernihiv, and Novhorod-Siver'skyi vicegerencies (1781), the Hetmanate ceased to exist as a political entity.

See also Cossacks ; Khmelnytsky, Bohdan ; Khmelnytsky Uprising ; Mazepa, Ivan ; Ukraine ; Ukrainian Literature and Language.


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Zenon Kohut