“Cossacks” The people known as “Kozaks” or “Kozaks” are considered to be the ancestors of today’s Ukrainians. There was no fully organized state structure. Their leaders were called ‘Hetman’ or ‘Ataman’. They were not subject to anyone. In general, they acted together with the Russians. But they had no definite allegiance. They were attacking the Ottoman Empire, Poland, Sweden and the Baltic countries, sometimes fighting the Russians with the cooperation of one of them. In 1654 they made a treaty with the Russians. The Russians would protect them, and they would always act together with the Russians.
Despite this agreement, their relations with the Russians have always had ups and downs. Sometimes they fought, sometimes they made peace. In 1709, when the Swedish King Asset Charl attacked the Russians, the Cossacks were led by Ivan Mazepa. Charles’ army wintered in Ukraine. Mazepa had to make a decision. He would either be subordinate to Petro and fight Sweden, or he would unite with Sweden and fight against Petro. He used his preference for Charles. He was not on good terms with the Russian Tsar Peter anyway. Apart from political issues, he was also humiliated personally. During a banquet, the famous ‘Mad Peter’ pulled his mustache and slapped him in public.
PUSHKIN ALSO WROTE
But luck was on Peter’s side. Charles and Mazepa were defeated and took refuge in the Ottoman Empire. Mazepa died three months later. But the Russians have never forgotten him. First, the church excommunicated. He both cooperated with the Catholic Swedish king and took refuge in the Muslim Ottomans. This was not an unforgivable crime. Even after years passed, the anger of the Russians did not subside. They also destroyed his tomb. Famous Russian writer Alexander Pushkin described her betrayal in his poem ‘Poltava’. Tchaikovsky made an opera of this poem. Mazepa was cursed in the church for years. In Soviet times, Ukrainian nationalists were called ‘Mazepists’ to humiliate them.
HERO OF UKRAINE
But the other side of the coin was different. According to the Ukrainians, Tsar Peter did not respond to Mazepa’s request for help against Poland and Sweden, thus breaking the agreement between them. Mazepa came to the fore again with the Ukrainian independence movement of the 1920s. It became a symbol of the Ukrainian independence struggle. He was highly respected by Ukrainian nationalists. A state badge was issued to his name. There is also a picture on the coins. His statues were erected in Poltova and elsewhere. In 2009, on Poltova’s 300th Anniversary, President Yushchenko said, “He was not a traitor, his only aim was to protect Ukraine’s independence.” He is still a national hero for Ukraine…. The Russians, on the other hand, identify Zelensky with Mazepa…