The Cossacks, 17th, 18th C. Poland : Nobles' Republic, 1505-1652 Poland : Era of Liberty, 1652-1772

Cossack Rebellion under Daniel Chmelnicki, 1648-1655

A.) The Military Course of Events

The Zaporozhe Cossacks, disgruntled because of pressure exerted on them by Jesuit priests to accept Catholicism, in 1648 allied themselves with their eternal foes, the Tatars, and routed the regular Polish forces in the Battle of Korsun. The Cossack victory left vast regions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth open to their raids; practically the entire Ukraine was in rebellion. The rebels scored another victory at Pilawce (Oct. 1648); however they failed to capitalize on their victory, the undisciplined cossacks and Tatars prefering to plunder the countryside, burning nobles' estates, killing priests and Jews.
In 1649 reorganized Polish forces checked the Cossacks without bringing about a decision; in 1651, at BERESTECZKO, the regular forces inflicted a defeat on the Cossacks. Daniel Chmielnicki now felt under constant pressure; in alliance with the Tatars he could hold his ground. However, the Polish regular forces established their control over western Ukraine. In 1648 Chmielnicki, for the Zaporozhe Cossacks, recognized the sovereignty of the Czars of Russia; the Cossack Rebellion thus turned into the Russo-Polish War.

C.) Analysis

Chmielnicki probably was the greatest leader in Cossack history. Yet the Cossacks were not organized as a state, an excellent cavalry serving someone else, they had no defensive structures - neither cities nor fortresses, nor natural defenses other than rivers to make use of. Also, stable institutions were lacking; the support Chmielnicki enjoyed among the Cossacks could easily be withdrawn. His position therefore was more precarious than that of his Polish counterparts, and the size of the rebellion is at least to the same amount to be credited to the circumstances which caused the Cossacks to rebel than to Chmielnicki's charismatic leadership.
The, in hindsight provoked and unnecessary Cossack rebellion was immediately followed by the Deluge, a period in which Poland-Lithuania not only faced war against Russia, but the firstr major Swedish invasion, which marked the beginning of a long decline.

First Cossack War, 1648-1655, from Polish Renaissance Warfare, scroll down
Chmielnicki Uprising, from Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth
Cossacks Uprising, from Jewish Encyclopedia
Bohdan Khmelnytsky & Cossacks, from The Cossack Uprising, 2001

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 26th 2003, last revised on November 18th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz