Zaporizhian Sich

Zaporizhian Sich / getmanat.orgThe formation of Sich is associated with the process of the establishment of Ukrainian Cossacks. The emergence of large settlements, which would be a permanent base for an attack on the Crimean Khanate, is associated with the name Vishnevetsky. In the first half of the 50s of XVI. He founded a castle on an island of Small Khortytsya, which became the important point for large-scale campaigns against the Tatars. Later the location of the Cossacks’ capital changed several times and in the history of Cossacks there are several Siches: Tomakivska (1564-1593), Bazavluk (1593-1638), Mykytynska (1638-1652) Chortomlyk (1652-1709), Oleshkivska (1711-1734) and New Sich (1734-1775). 
 
On the territory of Sich there was a building, the so-called "kish" (or "kuren"). This building was covered with reeds or horse skin. In this building a chieftain lived.
 
Cossacks were very devout and took care of their church.  
 
There were not women there and no one had a wife, even the chieftain. When Cossack was married, his wife and children werе living somewhere in the countryside. When there was no war the Cossack also lived there, but when the ataman declared war, the couriers went to those farms and called Cossacks to war.
 
The form of Sich was a republic. Here there was no feudal land or serfdom; formal equality between all Cossacks dominated (the right to use land). In Sich the electoral system of government was dominant, Cossack Council, which was the highest authority oversaw the work.
At the council they decided all the important questions of the life in Sich, issues of war and peace, diplomatic relations, Cossack election, the distribution of land.
 
Elected hetman ran Sich (after 1648 - chieftain). The Getman was at the head of judicature and represented the Army in diplomatic negotiations.
Sich was home to anyone, regardless of nationality. According to the legend, anyone could become a Cossack, if able to be baptized. It was believed that in this way the applicant denied his faith and became an Orthodox Christian. According to the register of 1581, the Ukrainian Cossacks was 83% Belarusian and Poles – 10%, the rest  were Russians, Germans, Tatars.
 
Sich had most of the features of a state: territory, population and government. However, it cannot be called a state in the modern sense this word. First, Sich was the rule of Lithuania and finally, the Moscow's king. There was no full-fledged economy, financial system, economic infrastructure, their own currency. There were no stone buildings in the cities. Even during the development of Sich its population did not exceed 100 thousand people. In fact, from the times of its founding to the complete elimination Sich retained its autonomous status.
Zaporizhian Sich / www.uamodna.com
 
The political system of Sich was based on the principles of Cossack democracy. It was about the people within the same social class - the Cossacks. Only they had the right to decide on issues, could be elected, had to hold the military, administrative and judicial office. In Sich, though, there were persons who did not belong to the Cossack state, they were neither slaves nor serfs. Income inequality existed, but was only an economic, not a legal one.The richer had no right or privilege over the poorer.
 
Differences between the Cossack aristocracy and plebs did not exist in the legal sense. The group was complete without privileges, all people were equal. Some of them lived in the very Sich,
 
The relationship between people was not governed by the rules of written law, customary law or military society. Cossack justice ensured respect for the traditions and taboos that had the force of law.
 
Cossack Council elected Hetman as well as military officers, who were at the disposal of the Hetman. Military officers were a the clerk (run military office), a judge and others. With Kosh system, during the was Cossacks lived in a Kosh - a field camp. Kurin was a minor the military-administrative unit in Kosh. Each Kurin had its own chief, who used to be elected.
 
Zaporizka Sich, carried out a historical mission of protecting the native land and rescuing the Ukrainian nation, protecting Ukraine from the Turkish-Tatar aggression. Cossacks strengthened the fortifications of the cities and towns, created a military defense system protecting the borders of Ukraine, which existed for three centuries.
 
Always there were posts with guards watching the roads and river crossing. Owning to the original Cossack alarm system, people knew about the progress of the Tatar hordes, and were able to organize resistance to the enemy.
 
It is in Zaporizka Sich that the army was created. It was an organizational form of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Zaporizka army had its own navy, artillery, cavalry and infantry. It had a Cossack military art, superior strategy and tactics of feudal European armies.
 
Sich heroically defended their independence. The Lithuanian government, and later the Polish government, being unable to liquidate Sich, refused to legally recognize its existence. In order to prevent the migration of peasants to Sich and completely isolate Zaporizhzhia from the rest of Ukraine, the Polish government built a fortress Kodak on the Dnieper. However, the attempts to destroy Polish Sich were unsuccessful.
 
In addition to their management, Sich Cossacks had also their own right, which was not a written law, but rather an «ancient custom, verbal law and common sense. If in Ukraine at the time there were different sources of law (Lithuanian statutes, a Magdeburg right), at the Zaporizhzhia Sich Cossack customary law was the most important value upon which the principles of teamwork were formed.
 
The rights and duties of officers were formed according to customs and traditions. Cossack Right asserted the social relations created among Cossacks. They regulated the military-administrative organization of Sich, installed the rule of military action, the judiciary, the order of using the land, defined crimes and punishments. Cossack Right was recognized by foreign states, and Cossacks strongly defended it, fearing that the written law may limit Cossack liberties.
 
Sich’s fate after the national liberation war of Ukrainian people.
Zaporizhzhia Sich played a leading role in the national liberation war of Ukrainian people during 1648-1657, but after its completion the majority of Cossacks were not included in the Cossack Registry. This caused discontent among the Cossacks and worsening of  their relations with the Hetman's power.
During the period of ruins several groups of Cossacks were fighting for the hetman's power. Some of them supported candidates such as hetman Ivan Briukhovetsky, M. Khanenko, who promised to end tyranny and exploitation of Cossacks.
 
Situation in Sich complicated after the Truce in Andrusovo in 1667, when a joint control of Russia and the Rich Pospolita was established over Sich. Moreover, Sich had to provide military assistance to both countries, each of which sought to use the Cossacks in order to eliminate independence.
In April 1775 Russian Empress Catherine II decided to liquidate Sich.
 
Lilia Stasiuk
 

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