Karmaliuk, Ustym

Image - Portrait of Ustym Karmaliuk. Image - Letychiv: a monument of Ustym Karmaliuk.

Karmaliuk, Ustym [Кармалюк, Устим; Karmaljuk], b 10 March 1787 in Holovchyntsi (now Karmaliukove), Lityn county, d 22 October 1835 in Shliakhovi Korychyntsi (now Korychyntsi), Letychiv county, Podilia gubernia. Ukrainian folk hero, the ‘last haidamaka.’ Karmaliuk (Karmeliuk) was born a serf. Sent into the army in 1812 by his landowner, Karmaliuk fled the army and, together with other deserters, organized rebel bands, which he led in attacks on landowners and merchants. He was captured in 1814, sentenced in Kamianets-Podilskyi to 500 blows while running a gauntlet, and sent to a military unit in the Crimea. On his way he escaped and again organized a peasant rebellion, which from 1814 to 1828 encompassed a significant portion of Lityn, Letychiv, and Proskuriv counties in Podilia gubernia, attracting not only peasants, but also army deserters and the urban poor. The rebellion occurred at a time when serfdom in the Russian Empire had become commercially profitable and was at its most repressive and exploitative stage of development; landowners had increased the amount of compulsory peasant labor to as much as six days a week. This social oppression also had a national dimension in Podilia, where most of the magnates were Polish.

Karmaliuk's struggle was at its height in 1830–5, when it spread from Podilia into the neighboring regions of Kyiv, Volhynia, and Bessarabia and involved up to 20,000 peasants. Approximately 1,000 raids were made by the rebels on landowners' estates. Whatever was captured in the attacks was distributed among the village poor, who always gave Karmaliuk refuge and help. To quell the uprising, the tsarist government quartered units of soldiers in the regions where peasant unrest was strongest. Karmaliuk was apprehended and sentenced four times to hard labor in Siberia, but each time he managed to escape and return to lead a rebellion. He was killed in an ambush by the nobleman Rutkowski. Karmaliuk's struggle against oppression has been immortalized in many Ukrainian sayings and folk songs (‘Za Sybirom sontse skhodyt'’ [The Sun Rises beyond Siberia]), in literature (Marko Vovchok, Mykhailo Starytsky, Stepan Vasylchenko, Vasyl Kucher), and in music (Valentyn Kostenko).

Ustym Karmaliuk. Zbirnyk dokumentiv (Kyiv 1948)
Hurzhii, I. Ustym Karmaliuk (Kyiv 1955)

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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