Mercenary regiments

Mercenary regiments (kompaniiski polky, kompaniitsi). In the Hetman state free men, including non-Ukrainians, were employed as mercenaries by the hetmans and regimental colonels to serve as their personal guard and to perform various policing duties. Peasants and town Cossacks were excluded from their ranks. Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky personally commanded three mercenary cavalry regiments. The 1672 Konotop Articles abolished such regiments, but in 1687 they were reinstated by Hetman Ivan Mazepa, who hired two cavalry (kompaniitsi) and four infantry regiments (see Serdiuk regiments), each with approx 500 to 600 men. He placed them under his own direct command and used them to defend his person and his residence, to quell popular unrest, to prevent peasants from fleeing to the Zaporizhia and Slobidska Ukraine, and to maintain security on the southern and western borders. The kompaniitsi wore distinctive green-and-red coats, tight trousers, low boots, and round hats. They were commanded by colonels appointed by the hetman and later by the Russian tsar. Unlike regular Cossack regiments, the kompaniitsi were transferred from place to place, according to need, and local inhabitants were obliged to quarter, feed, and supply them; they were known for their abuses and looting. In 1708 Mazepa had four regiments of kompaniitsi. In 1728 the Russian government limited their number to two regiments of 600 men each, and in 1776 it transformed them into the Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Novhorod-Siverskyi regular light-cavalry regiments.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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