Kish otaman

Kish otaman (koshovyi otaman). The elective leader of the Zaporozhian Sich and chief executive officer in the 16th–18th centuries. Until the end of the 17th century he was also called hetman. The Kish otaman was elected for a one-year term by the Sich Council from among the more respected and influential Cossacks. He could be dismissed before the end of his mandate or re-elected; eg, the last Kish otaman, Petro Kalnyshevsky, retained his post almost without interruption from 1765 to 1775. The Kish otaman, aided by the Cossack starshyna, wielded ultimate military and political power and was responsible for maintaining external diplomatic relations. He was the chief magistrate and had the power of final decision during wartime. In peacetime, his decisions could be appealed to the Sich Council. His symbol of authority was the bulava. The office of Kish otaman was retained by the Black Sea Cossacks until 1797.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1989).]

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