With the Union of Lublin, signed on 1 July 1569, the Lithuanian-Ruthenian period in Ukrainian history came to an end. This treaty united Poland and Lithuania into a single Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita). In practical terms the union was dominated by the Poles, who now took direct control over most of Ukraine. The Polish influence on Ukraine was profound. Most of the Ukrainian nobles, granted equal rights with their Polish counterparts, were quickly Polonized, and Ukraine was thus bereft of its own social elite. The last vestiges of the Kyivan Rus' state disappeared as the Ukrainian lands were divided into six voivodeships, or provinces. Large tracts of land were granted to Polish nobles, who established sizable manorial estates (filvarky) that could produce effectively for the booming European grain trade. Some of the largest estates (latifundia) in the Commonwealth were situated in Ukraine. Greater demands were placed on the Ukrainian peasantry, which was being reduced to serfdom. The religious tolerance in the Commonwealth, phenomenal for its times, also had an impact in Ukraine, as the Reformation period saw the influence of Protestant groups, such as the Socinians and Lutherans, spread into Ukraine through Poland. Nevertheless pressure was put on the predominantly Orthodox population of Ukraine to convert to Catholicism, and it resulted indirectly in the establishment of the Ukrainian Catholic church by the Union of Berestia (1596). At the same time Ukraine experienced a tremendous revival. Theological and secular education, literature, and the fine arts all began to flourish, and printing was introduced. The ideas of the Renaissance began to work their way into Ukraine through Poland as the 'Golden Age' of 16th-century Polish culture left its mark. The situation in Ukraine under Polish rule became increasingly more volatile in the first half of the 17th century as socioeconomic, religious, and national tensions grew. These tensions peaked in 1648, when a full-scale uprising led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky erupted in Ukraine and engulfed the Commonwealth in the Cossack-Polish War... Learn more about Ukraine under Polish control in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by visiting the following entries:


POLISH-LITHUANIAN COMMONWEALTH. Following the Union of Lublin in 1569, Poland and Lithuania constituted a single, federated state--the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth--ruled by a jointly elected monarch; the state was to have a common Diet, foreign policy, currency, and property law. Both partners were to retain separate administrations, law courts, treasuries, armies, and laws, however. Because Poland now possessed the larger territory, it had greater representation in the Diet and thus became the dominant partner. The only Ukrainian lands left in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were parts of the Berestia land and Pynsk region. Other Ukrainian lands constituted part of the Polish crown. There the Lithuanian Statute--the legal code of the Lithuanian-Ruthenian state--remained in effect, but Ukrainian as the official language was supplanted by Polish and Latin. The integration of the Ukrainian lands into Poland resulted in significant national and religious transformations. Part of the Ukrainian elite became Polonized as a result of the influence of Polish education and in-migrating Polish nobles and Catholic clergy. Even many prominent Ukrainian families, including that of Prince Kostiantyn Vasyl Ostrozky, a leading defender of Orthodoxy, converted to Roman Catholicism and adopted Polish language and culture. Under the new regime, the noble-dominated cities and towns grew in size and number and experienced an economic boom. It was, however, almost exclusively the Catholic German and Polish burghers who benefited from self-government by Magdeburg law. The Orthodox Ukrainian burghers were the victims of persecution and segregation...

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth


UNION OF LUBLIN. A union agreement between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, signed on 1 July 1569 at a joint assembly of Lithuanian and Polish deputies in Lublin. The treaty gave birth to a single state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, with a common elected monarch combining the offices of the Polish king and the Lithuanian grand duke, a common diet and senate, a joint foreign policy, and one monetary system. Before the unon, during the height of its expansion, Lithuania's possessions included nearly half of the former territory of Kyivan Rus'. But the Union of Lublin was signed by Lithuania at a time when it needed Polish help in its war against Muscovy, and under the treaty, Lithuania ceded most of its Ukrainian lands to Poland. The Grand Duchy preserved its limited autonomy within the Commonwealth with its own laws, government, administration, courts, army, and finances. For Poland the treaty provided a means of acquiring much of Lithuanian territory. Under the treaty the Polish crown obtained the Ukrainian territories of Podlachia, Volhynia, Podilia, the Bratslav region, and the Kyiv region. The nobility of those territories were given the same rights and privileges as the Polish nobility. The Grand Duchy retained, apart from Lithuanian territory, Belarus and the Berestia land and Pynsk region. Thus the union gave Poland control over a large part of Ukrainian territory, where it proceeded to subjugate and exploit the indigenous population...

Union of Lublin


NOBILITY. By the mid 15th century the nobility in Poland had gained legislative powers in matters of war and peace and exemption from the royal court. King Jan I Olbracht's Piotrkow statute (1496) bound the peasantry to the land and exempted the nobility from paying duties on imported goods. The Union of Lublin in 1569 brought Volhynia, Podlachia, the Kyiv region, and the Bratslav region under direct Polish control. At the same time the rights of the local Ukrainian nobility were brought into line with those of Poland. The newly acquired territories soon saw an influx of Polish magnates, including the Zolkiewski, Potocki, Koniecpolski, and Kalinowski families. It also set in motion a long process of Polonization that became a feature of Right-Bank Ukraine: by the early 19th century little non-Polonized Ukrainian nobility remained. By the 16th century, the nobility developed a corporate sense as the 'szlachta nation.' In 1573 the nobles obtained the right to the election of the king by direct vote. That right effectively transformed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth into an aristocratic republic and made the regal position an increasingly ineffectual one. The nobility progressively lost its military characteristics and became a class of agrarian entrepreneurs. The latifundialists and the middle gentry, in search of money income, were producing for export. This transition from a subsistence to a market-oriented agricultural economy led to an intensification of corvee (panshchyna) and the increasingly inhumane exploitation of the peasants...



SERFDOM. As Polish rule spread throughout Ukraine in the second half of the 15th and in the 16th centuries, the position of the peasantry in Ukrainian territories changed radically. In Poland alodial land ownership was already an established privilege of the ruling class. The nobility had been exempted from any form of conditional (feudal) land tenure, and the peasants had been deprived of their former rights to land. The Polish magnates and nobles extended their serf system to Western Ukraine and, after the Union of Lublin in 1569, to Right-Bank Ukraine as well. To equalize the obligations of the different categories of peasant, the voloka land reform was introduced in 1557 in Ukrainian territories and was implemented gradually over the next century. Polish nobles set up filvarky on the better lands and began to specialize in grain farming for export. The nobles' diets of 1496, 1505, 1519, and 1520 issued decrees tying the peasants ever more closely to the land, depriving them of the right to move, subjecting them completely to the nobles' courts, and increasing their obligations to the nobles. Finally, the amount of labor owed by the serfs and all other matters affecting them were left to the decision of the nobles, their tenants, or their stewards. A uniform system of serf obligations and relations was maintained on the royal estates, where serfs received better treatment than on the private estates of the nobility. As the serfs became increasingly exploited in the western and middle belt, the peasants fled to the territories under Cossack control and joined Cossack uprisings. Those conditions contributed to the Cossack-Polish War...



OSTROZKY, KOSTIANTYN VASYL, b 1526 or 1527 in Dubno, d 23 February 1608 in Ostrih, Volhynia. Ukrainian nobleman and political and cultural figure; starosta of Volodymyr and marshal of Volhynia from 1550, voivode of Kyiv from 1559, and senator from 1569; the most powerful magnate in Volhynia and one of the most influential figures in the Lithuanian-Ruthenian state and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He was a candidate for the Polish throne after the death of Sigismund II Augustus (the last member of the Jagiellon dynasty) in 1572, and for the Muscovite throne after the death of Tsar Fedor Ivanovich (the last member of the Riurykide dynasty) in 1598. Ostrozky defended Ruthenian (Ukrainian and Belarusian) political rights and was the de facto leader of Ukraine in the negotiations leading up to the 1569 Union of Lublin, during which he demanded that Ruthenia be treated as an equal partner of Poland and Lithuania. A generous patron of Ukrainian culture and an ardent defender of the Orthodox faith, he organized and led the resistance to the 1596 Church Union of Berestia. Although he was not opposed in principle to Orthodox-Catholic unification, he felt that it had to be an open, ecumenical process involving secular church patrons, not just a secret clerical accord. Ostrozky was an important figure in the 16th-century Ukrainian cultural and national rebirth. He is best known for founding the Ostrih Academy (ca 1576), the Ostrih Press (ca 1578), and the press at the Derman Monastery (1602). He maintained relations with the Ukrainian Cossacks and for this and other reasons he was condemned by the Polish nobility...

Kostiantyn Vasyl Ostrozky


CHURCH UNION OF BERESTIA. An agreement, proclaimed in 1596, between the Ruthenian (Ukrainian-Belarusian) Orthodox church in Poland and Lithuania and the Holy See. The recognition of the pope as the head of the church and the implications of this position for the faith, morals, practices, and church administration were accepted by the Orthodox clergy. For his part, the pope agreed to the retention of the Eastern rite and confirmed the administrative rights and autonomy of the Kyiv metropoly. The Orthodox bishops, who initiated the plan for the union, hoped to gain not only ecclesiastical benefits from the it, but also an end to the Polonization of the upper classes and equality for the Orthodox church in the Commonwealth. The union was supported by leading Polish circles because it was politically and religiously advantageous to them. Roman Catholic clerics and the Orthodox bishops, especially Ipatii Potii, the bishop of Volodymyr, who tried to gain the support of Prince Kostiantyn Vasyl Ostrozky, all worked to bring about a union. Prince Ostrozky, however, insisted on the participation of the Byzantine and the Muscovite churches in the talks. The sobor in Berestia in 16-20 October 1596 split into two groups--for and against the union with Rome--and thus two councils went on concurrently. Prince Ostrozky led the opposition. The union was accepted by Metropolitan Mykhailo Rahoza, five bishops, and part of the clergy and gentry. Each opposing group at the sobor condemned and anathematized the other. The Church Union of Berestia split the Ruthenian church and the faithful in two and led to a long and bitter domestic struggle...

Church Union of Berestia

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