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Mazepa, Ivan (c. 1639–1709; Ruled 1687–1709)

MAZEPA, IVAN (c. 16391709; ruled 16871709)

MAZEPA, IVAN (c. 16391709; ruled 16871709), hetman of Ukraine. Born in the Kiev region into a noble Ukrainian family, Mazepa was educated at the Kievan Mohyla Academy and the Jesuit College in Warsaw, and he also studied military affairs in the Netherlands. His father's pro-Polish attitude allowed the young Mazepa to become a diplomat in the service of the Polish king, John II Casimir Vasa. While at the king's court, Mazepa was alleged to have had amorous misadventures that were subsequently immortalized by nineteenth-century romantic writers and composers. In 1669 Mazepa left the royal court and entered the service of the pro-Polish Right-Bank hetman Petro Doroshenko. Doroshenko was not willing to accept the Truce of Andrusovo (1667), which in effect partitioned the Hetmanate between Poland and Russia; defying both powers, he made an alliance with the Ottoman Empire (1668). While on a diplomatic mission to the Crimean Tatars, Mazepa was captured by pro-Russian Cossacks, who delivered him to Moscow (1674). Mazepa's capture proved fortuitous, for Doroshenko not only failed to unite the Hetmanate but plunged it into a series of wars that depopulated and destroyed the Right-Bank Hetmanate. Meanwhile, Mazepa's imprisonment was brief, as the Russians decided that he would be more useful to the pro-Russian Left-Bank hetman, Ivan Samoilovych. Mazepa rose quickly in the camp of his former enemy, becoming Samoilovych's general aide-de-camp in 1682. After the failure of a joint Muscovite-Ukrainian campaign (first Crimean campaign, 1687), Samoilovych was deposed and exiled to Siberia, and with Russian backing Mazepa was elected hetman of Ukraine (1687).

Mazepa's primary internal focus was on the stabilization of Ukrainian society. He based his rule on consolidating an aristocratic elite (Cossack officers and nobles), granting them estates and new privileges. Other decrees attempted to regulate the Cossacks (1691), burghers, and peasants (1701). Mazepa allied himself closely with the clergy, confirming their privileges and granting property to monasteries. No hetman was a greater patron of the Orthodox church, education, or culture. He financed many church construction projects, some from his private funds, and donated many precious liturgical books, bells, and other church goods. He obtained the status of an academy for the Kievan Mohyla Collegium (1701). Mazepa was also a patron of literature and wrote a number of poems himself.

Politically, Mazepa relied on Muscovy and developed a close relationship with Peter I. He hoped to utilize Russian power to bolster his rule and recover Right-Bank Ukraine (which he occupied in 1704 on Peter's instructions). However, this alliance proved costly, for Peter ordered Cossack forces into foreign wars and construction projects. Moreover, Peter's drive toward a regulated empire was increasingly violating Ukrainian rights and liberties, pushing Mazepa to break with Russia and seek the protection of Swedena disastrous move, as the Swedish-Ukrainian forces were defeated by Peter at Poltava (1709). Mazepa retreated with the Swedish king to Ottoman-controlled territory and soon died in Bendery (now in Moldova). In the Russian empire, Mazepa was viewed as a heinous traitor, and "Mazepism" remained a code word for Ukrainian separatism. Ukrainian national historians regarded Mazepa as a hero in the struggle for Ukrainian independence.

See also Cossacks ; Hetmanate (Ukraine) ; Northern Wars ; Peter I (Russia) ; Ukraine ; Ukrainian Literature and Language .


Babinski, Hubert F. The Mazeppa Legend in European Romanticism. New York, 1974.

Krupnyckyj, Borys, ed. Hetman Mazepa und seine Zeit (16871709). Leipzig, 1942.

Ohloblyn, Oleksander. Het'man Ivan Mazepa ta oho doba. 2nd ed. New York and Kiev, 2001.

Subtelny, Orest. "Mazepa, Peter I, and the Question of Treason." Harvard Ukrainian Studies 2, no. 2 (January 1978): 158183.

. The Mazepists: Ukrainian Separatism in the Early Eighteenth Century. Boulder, Colo., 1981.

Zenon Kohut

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