Registered Cossacks

Registered Cossacks (reiestrovi kozaky). Cossacks who were accepted into the special Cossack units of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army and were enrolled in a special register (hence the term). The first effort to secure the Cossacks' military services was made in 1524 by King Sigismund I the Old, who assigned S. Polozovych and K. Kmytych the task of setting up a Cossack unit in the royal army. Because the crown lacked sufficient funds to pay the Cossacks for their services, the plan was not realized, and similar efforts by Ostafii Dashkevych, the starosta of Cherkasy, in 1533 and again by Sigismund in 1541 also failed. Whereas the starostas in Ukraine wanted to organize Cossack units primarily for more effective defense of the Commonwealth's frontier against Tatar attacks, the kings wanted them for the purpose of controlling the Zaporozhian Cossacks and restraining their anti-Crimean and anti-Turkish campaigns and raids.

The creation of a registered Cossack force was first decreed on 2 June 1572 by King Sigismund II Augustus, who ordered the grand hetman of the army, J. Jazłowiecki, to hire and register 300 of the wealthiest Cossacks. Thenceforth nonregistered Cossacks were accorded a semilegal status. The registered Cossacks were officially outside the jurisdiction of the local authorities and were placed under the command of a government-appointed elder (starshyi), the first of whom was the Polish noble J. Badowski. In 1578 King Stephen Báthory allowed the register to be increased to 600 Cossacks, and appointed Prince Mykhailo Vyshnevetsky as their starosta. The registered Cossacks were exempted from taxation and granted the right to own land and the privilege of self-government under an appointed member of the Cossack starshyna. They had their own standards, kettledrums, and other insignia; were paid in cash and clothing; and were given ownership of the town of Trakhtemyriv and the Trakhtemyriv Monastery to house their winter quarters, arsenal, and hospital. The Commonwealth government officially named the registered Cossacks the Zaporozhian Army to underscore the fact that it considered the actual Zaporozhian Host a legal nonentity. The registered Cossacks were obligated to serve in central Ukraine and, when ordered to do so by the government, set up garrisons beyond the Dnipro Rapids.

The efforts of Stephen Báthory and his successors to control the growth of Cossack society through registration proved futile. From the late 16th century on, its consolidation occurred in two centers, the Zaporozhian Sich and Trakhtemyriv. The Zaporozhian Sich became the hearth of revolutionary independence, and Trakhtemyriv was the headquarters of the privileged, conservative, registered Cossack elite. After the Cossack rebellions of the 1580s in Ukraine, the Commonwealth government decreed an increase in the register to 1,000 on 25 June 1590 and turned over the Kremenchuk fortress to the registered Cossacks. During the Commonwealth's wars with Muscovy and the Ottoman Empire the register was increased to 10,000, in 1618. The 1619 Rostavytsia Treaty reduced it to 3,000, but in 1620 it was again increased, that time to 20,000.

The 1625 Treaty of Kurukove set the register at 6,000 and granted the registered Cossacks the right to elect their own hetman, subject to approval by the king. Under the provisions of the Pereiaslav Treaty of 1630 the register was expanded to 8,000. In 1638, after the suppression of the rebellions led by Pavlo Pavliuk and Karpo Skydan, in which registered Cossacks had joined the rebel side, the register was reduced to 6,000 and then 5,000, the registered Cossacks lost the right to elect their own starshyna and have their own court system, the hetman was replaced by an appointed commissioner subordinated to the Polish grand hetman, and Cossacks excluded from the register were enserfed. After the outbreak of the Cossack-Polish War in 1648, the registered Cossacks mostly sided with Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and played an instrumental role in subsequent Polish defeats. Under Khmelnytsky the Cossack register was replaced by the komput, and the former registered Cossacks were designated town Cossacks. The Poles' attempts at reducing the register to 40,000 in the 1649 Treaty of Zboriv and then 20,000 in the 1651 Treaty of Bila Tserkva proved unenforceable, and Khmelnytsky increased it to 50,000 and then 60,000 in 1654. The term ‘registered Cossacks’ was not used after 1660.

Prominent leaders of the registered Cossacks included Samiilo Kishka, Kryshtof Kosynsky, Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny, Yatsko Borodavka (Nerodych), Mykhailo Doroshenko, Hryhorii Chorny, and Illiash Karaimovych. In 1875 Osyp Bodiansky published the detailed register of the entire Zaporozhian Host compiled after the Treaty of Zboriv.

Iakovliv, A. ‘Z istoriï reiestratsiï ukraïns’kykh kozakiv,’ Ukraïna, 1 (1907)
Kryp'iakevych, I. ‘Kozachchyna i Batoriievi vil’nosti,’ Zherela do istoriï Ukraïny-Rusy, vol 8 (Lviv 1908)
Golobutskii, V. Zaporozhskoe kazachestvo (Kyiv 1957)
Vynar, Liubomyr. ‘Pochatky ukraïns’koho reiestrovoho kozatstva,’ UI, no. 2–3 (1964)

Lubomyr Wynar

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

List of related links from Encyclopedia of Ukraine pointing to Registered Cossacks entry:

A referral to this page is found in 56 entries.