New Serbia [Нова Сербія; Nova Serbiia]. A Russian administrative and military territorial unit in Southern Ukraine, created by Empress Elizabeth I in January 1752 out of the northwestern lands of the Zaporizhia (ie, the northern parts of Kodak palanka and Boh-Hard palanka) between the Syniukha River to the west and the Dnipro River to the east. Although the officially stated purpose of the new territory was defense of the Russian Empire from the attacks by Turks and Crimean Tatars, the territory also gave Russia a base from which it could control the Zaporozhian Cossacks, isolate the Zaporizhia from Right-Bank Ukraine and part of Left-Bank Ukraine, and facilitate Russia’s expansionist designs in the Ukrainian steppe frontier. New Serbia had an area of 1,421,000 desiatins. The Russian government evacuated all of its inhabitants (according to Axel Schmidt, 4,008 Cossack and peasant households), despite the protests of Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky and the Zaporozhian Sich. In their place it imported Serbian military colonists from Austrian-ruled Slavonia and Hungary led by Colonel Ivan Khorvat and, later, similar Bulgarian, Vlach, Greek (see Greeks), and other Orthodox colonists who had fled from Turkish rule.
The colonists were subject to military rule and were divided between a hussar regiment based in Novomyrhorod and a pandour regiment based in Kryliv (now Svitlovodsk), which together constituted the New Serbia Corps. A medal commemorating the creation of New Serbia was struck in 1754. That year the Slobidskyi Regiment of Cossack colonists mostly from Left-Bank Ukraine and Slobidska Ukraine was organized on the southern frontier of New Serbia, and the Saint Elizabeth Fortress was built to serve as the administrative center of the territory. (In 1775 the fortress became the center of the new town of Yelysavethrad.) Two-thirds of New Serbia’s population was Ukrainian. The colonists clashed repeatedly with the neighboring Zaporozhian Cossacks and inhabitants of Polish-ruled Right-Bank Ukraine. The Serbian officers often abused their positions and their subordinates. In 1764 Ivan Khorvat was removed from his post and exiled to Vologda. That year New Serbia was abolished, and its territory became part of the new New Russia gubernia.
Bahalii, D.I. Zaselennia pivdennoï Ukraïny (Zaporozhzhia i Novorosiis’koho kraiu) i pershi pochatky ïï kul’turnoho rozvytku (Kharkiv 1920)
Polons'ka-Vasylenko, N. The Settlement of the Southern Ukraine (1750–1775), special issue of AUA, 4–5 (Summer–Fall 1955)
Dyck, H.L. ‘New Serbia and the Origins of the Eastern Question, 1751–55: A Habsburg Perspective,’ RR, January 1981
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine