Orlyk, Hryhor

Image - Hryhor Orlyk

Orlyk, Hryhor [Орлик, Григор or Григорій; Hryhorii], b 16 November 1702 in Baturyn, Nizhyn regiment, d 14 November 1759 near Minden, Germany. Political leader and French diplomat, count, and general; eldest son of Hetman Pylyp Orlyk and godson of Hetman Ivan Mazepa. Orlyk emigrated from Ukraine with his parents in 1709, studied at Lund University in Sweden (1716–18), and served as an officer in the Swedish (1715–16, 1718–20), Saxon (1721–6), and Polish (1726–9) armies before entering the French diplomatic corps in 1730. He became a mobile and effective representative of his father’s interests and ‘the cause of Cossack liberties’ in royal courts throughout Europe, from Stockholm to Istanbul and from Paris to Bakhchysarai. In 1732 and 1734 the French government sent him on secret missions to the Crimean Khanate to convince the Crimean khan Kaplan-Girei to support the Cossacks against Russia. In 1733 he assisted Stanislaus I Leszczyński in his attempt to return to Poland and regain the throne. In 1734 he went on a secret mission to the Hetman state, where he deliberated in Nizhyn with members of the Cossack starshyna opposed to Russian rule.

Orlyk was particularly active as a diplomat during the Russo-Turkish War (1735–9) and the Russo-Swedish War (1741), during which he sent many memorandums to the French and Swedish governments warning of the dangers of Russian expansionism and stressing that only Ukraine's liberation could halt it and ensure stability in Europe. He drew up a proposal for an anti-Russian coalition consisting of France, Sweden, Prussia, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, the Crimean Khanate, and the Zaporozhian Host. He passed on documents about Ukraine, obtained from his father, to Voltaire, who used them in L’Histoire de Charles XII (1731), where he writes that ‘l’Ukraine a toujours aspiré à être libre.’ Orlyk was the leader of the Ukrainian émigré community after his father’s death. He was appointed a French general in 1748 and a count and member of Louis XV’s privy council in 1750. In April 1759, during the Seven Years’ War, he was severely wounded in the Battle of Bergen, and later died of complications.

Mémoires d'Argençon, 5 vols (Paris 1857–8)
Borshchak, Il’ko. ‘Het’man Pylyp Orlyk i Frantsiia (storinky dyplomatychnoï istoriï),’ ZNTSh, 134–5 (1924); repr UIZh, 1991, nos 8–9, 11
Spuler, Bertold. ‘Europäische Diplomaten in Konstantinopel bis zum 1739,’ Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, 5 (1936)
Borschak, Elie. Hryhor Orlyk: France's Cossack General (Toronto 1956)
Subtelny, Orest. The Mazepists: Ukrainian Separatism in the Early Eighteenth Century (New York 1981)
Dmytrychyn, Iryna. Grégoire Orlyk: Un cosaque ukrainien au service de Louis XV (Paris 2006)

Theodore Mackiw

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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