Kyiv Cossacks

Kyiv Cossacks ( Kyivska kozachchyna). Term given to a peasant revolt that began in Vasylkiv county in February 1855 and spread throughout the Kyiv region and the Chernihiv region. It lasted until the summer of 1855 and affected more than 500 villages. It began when Tsar Nicholas I issued a manifesto appealing to the population to join the army to fight in the Crimean War. Many peasants did not understand the vague wording of the manifesto, and rumors began to circulate that the tsar wished them to organize Cossack regiments and that he would restore to them the privileges of the Cossack estate (see Cossacks and Estates). The peasants refused to do corvée and to follow the orders of local authorities; some village hromady even seized control of the estates. In several areas the peasants beat the local priests, whom they accused of hiding the true manifesto granting their freedom. The revolt was eventually brutally suppressed by the army, and many of the leaders were beaten or deported to Siberia. According to official data, 39 people died, but the death toll was probably much higher. Although the Kyiv Cossack movement was primarily a reaction against the inhuman conditions of serfdom, it nevertheless revealed the strength of Cossack traditions and consciousness among the Ukrainian peasantry in the 19th century.

Tomashivs’kyi, Stepan. Kyïvs’ka kozachchyna 1855 r. (Lviv 1902)
Shamrai, Serhii. Kyïvs’ka kozachchyna 1855 roku (Do istoriï selians’kykh rukhiv na Kyïvshchyni) (Kyiv 1928)
Hurzhii, Ivan. Borot’ba selian i robitnykiv Ukraïny proty feodal’no-kriposnyts’koho hnitu (z 80-kh rokiv XVIII st. do 1861 r.) (Kyiv 1958)

Arkadii Zhukovsky

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

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