Chorna rada

Chorna rada (black council). A Cossack council consisting not only of the Cossack starshyna, but also of a large number of common Cossacks. The term chorna is derived from chern, which was the officers' designation for the common Cossacks and the lower estates. The most famous chorna rada took place on 17–18 June 1663 near Nizhyn, when thousands of common Cossacks, Zaporozhians, and ‘non-Cossack volunteers’ (peasants and poor burghers) assembled to elect a new hetman for Left-Bank Ukraine. A large rift appeared between the interests of the officers and those of the commons (chern). The officers proposed the acting hetman, Yakym Somko, and the Nizhyn colonel Vasyl Zolotarenko as candidates. The commons proposed Ivan Briukhovetsky, the otaman of the Zaporozhian Sich, who promised to lower taxes. The tsar supported Briukhovetsky, counting on his help in increasing Russian influence in Ukraine. Swayed by Briukhovetsky's demagoguery, the commons elected him and eventually put Somko, Zolotarenko, and other officers to death. A fictionalized description of the 1663 chorna rada appeared in Panteleimon Kulish’s famous historical novel Chorna rada, khronika 1663 roku (The Black Council, a Chronicle of the Year 1663, 1845).

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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