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Hetman Mazepa in contemporary western european sources 1687—1709
At the mention of the name Mazepa, most English-speaking people think of Byron's mythical hero bound on a horse galloping through the wilderness, rather than about an historical person. The historical Mazepa is quite different from the one depicted in literature.
Mazepa was Hetman or Chief Executive of the autonomous Ukrainian Military Republic, known also as the Hetmanstate (1649—1764), first under a Polish protectorate, and from 1654 under a Russian one. At that time protectorate Status was a very conmon condition even for such countnes as Holland under Spain, Prussia under Poland, Livonia and Estonia under Sweden, and the Balkan countries under Turkey. Although the Ukrainian Military Republic or the Hetmanstate was a protectorate, nevertheless, as the German historian Hans Schumann observed, the Hetmanstate had its own territory, people, specific democratic System of government, and military forces, namely the Cossacks. The Hetmanstate lasted until 1764, when Catherine II forced the last Hetman, Cyril Rosumovsky (1750—1764), to abdicate. There was a clear distinction between the Ukraine and Russia at that time as can be seen on the contemporary maps by G. de Beauplan, P. Gordon, J.B. Homann, and others.
It is true that Mazepa's prerogatives were limited by the so-called "Kolomak Terms," but he still exercised the full power of his civil and military authority and was regarded as the Chief-Executive by the contemporary foreign diplomats in Moscow. For example, Jean de Baluze (1648—1718), the French envoy in Moscow, visited Mazepa in 1704 at his residence in Baturyn, and made the following remark about him: "... from Muscovy I went to the Ukraine, the country of the Cossacks, where for a few days I was the guest of Prince Mazepa, who is the supreme authority in this country." Another French diplomat, Foy de la Neuville, who met Mazepa, remarked that "... this Prince is not comely in his person, but a very knowing Man, and speaks Latin in perfection. He is Cossack born." And the English envoy in Moscow, Charles Lord Whitworth (1675—1725), remarked in his report of November 21, 1708 that Mazepa in the Ukraine "governed so long with little less authority than a soveraign Prince."
Mazepa's contemporary, the brilliant English Journalist, Daniel Defoe (1661—1731), wrote in his book about Tsar Peter I that "... Mazepa was not a King in Title, he was Equal to a King in Power, and every way Equal if not Superior to King Augustus in the divided Circumstances in which his Power stood, even at the best of it." Indeed, Mazepa was aware of his position and "considered himself a little less than the Polish King." In fact, the Russian government communicated with the Hetmanstate through the Russian Foreign Office ("Posolskij Prikas").
The main goal of Mazepa's policy was to consolidate all of the Ukraine and to strengthen the office of the hetman. The hetman having had rich experience, realized that any attempt to rid the Ukraine of Russia would fail and cause disaster to his country.
Mazepa was neither a Russophile nor a Russophobe. He considered the terms of the Pereyaslav Treaty (1654) as a basis for coexistence with Moscow, since this was a situation inherited from his predecessors.
Mazepa also believed that with Russia's assistance, he could realize the goals of the Ukrainian national policy in regard to Poland and Turkey, namely, to liberate and to unify the Ukraine under one hetman. Therefore, he decided to be loyal, to Moscow and through his personal charm and eloquence won the favor of the Tsar, Peter I. The Austrian envoy in Moscow, Oto Pleyer, in his report of February 8, 1702, remarked that "Mazepa is very much respected and honored by the Tsar."
Mazepa's great intelligence helped him to perceive the situations and men who could serve his purposes. But his most distinguished characteristic was his ability to communicate with all types of people. The Hetman was so very well informed about international politics that the French diplomat, Jean Baluze, remarked in his report of 1704 that "... in contrast to the Muscovites he follows and knows what is happening in foreign countries." Baluze also confessed that Mazepa was very cautious in divulging information.
As the Great Northern War began in 1700, "the relations between Mazepa and Peter I were as good as they had ever been between a Hetman and a Tsar." Mazepa was involved in this war from the very beginning. The tsar demanded not only combat troops, but also insisted that the Ukrainian Cossacks build fortresses at their own expense.
In return for their services, the Cossacks received little gratitude. They received no pay, and were beaten, mistreated, and insulted in many ways. The English historian, L.R. Lewitter, observed in his essay "Mazepa" that "the treatment meted out to the civilian population of the Ukraine by the Russian army, with its daily routine of plunder, arson, murder, and rape, was more reminiscent of a punitive expedition than of allied troops movements." The American historian, Robert K. Massie, also remarked that "there were constant protests that Russians were pillaging Cossack homes, stealing provisions, raping wives and daughters."
The Ukrainians were treated by the Russian army so badly that this treatment was more reminiscent of a punitive expedition than of a friendly action. In fact, the Russian behavior was so outrageous that the Tsar himself in his letter of June 24, 1708, to Mazepa, wrote that he had issued to the Russian troops an order "to pass by modestly without doing any harm or destruction to the inhabitants of the Ukraine (in the original "Little Russia"), under penalty of our extreme anger and punishment by death."
Such conduct on the part of the Russians must have caused gloom in Mazepa's heart. In addition, rumors were spread in military circles that the Tsar intended to abolish the autonomy of the Ukraine and annex it as part of the Russian Empire. Moreover, the rumor was that the Tsar did not hide his intention of entrusting the office of Hetman to his favorite, A. Menshikov. These rumors were confirmed by a letter to Mazepa from a friend, the Countess Anna Dolska. The Countess in her letter described a conversation with two Russian generals, Sheremetjev and Renne. She told Mazepa that when she made a friendly remark about him, Renne said: "O Lord, have pity on that good and clever man. The poor man does not know that the Count Alexander Danilovich (Menshikov) digs a grave for him, and after he is rid of him (Mazepa), then he himself will become the Hetman of the Ukraine." Sheremetjev confirmed Renne's words. Concerning Dolska's remark that none of Mazepa's friends wanted to warn him, Sheremetjev said, "We must not say anything. We suffer ourselves, but we are forced to keep quiet."
After his chancellor, Philip Orlyk, finished reading the letter Mazepa said, "I know well what they want to do with me and all of you. They want to satisfy me with the title of a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire. They want the officer corps annihilated, our cities turned over to their administration, and their own governors appointed. If our people should oppose them, they would send them beyond the Volga, and the Ukraine will be settled by their own people."
There is evidence that the Tsar authorized his envoy to the Vienna Court, a German diplomat in the Russian service named Baron Heinrich von Huyssen, to request the Emperor Joseph I to grant Mazepa the title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Huyssen left his memoirs and notes to Peter van Haven (1715—1757), a Dutch scholar whom he met on the boat returning from St. Petersburg to Germany before his sudden death in 1742. In them, Huyssen reported that he obtained from Joseph I the title of Prince for Menshikov, the title of Graf for G.I. Golovkin, Peter's Chancellor, and the title of Prince for Mazepa. The Emperor indeed granted Mazepa a title of "Prince of the Holy Roman Empire".
At the beginning of 1704, the Tsar, having regained the Baltic provinces, increased his aid to his ally, the Polish king, Augustus II, by sending him Russian troops and calling on Mazepa for the Cossack regiments. Consequently, Mazepa appeared in the pages of the English press and was often mentioned in such London magazines as A General View of the World, or the Marrow History, The Master Mercury: being an Abstract of the Publick News, The Monthly Register or Memoirs of the Affairs of Europe, and newspapers such as.