Sich Council

Sich Council (Sichova Rada). The highest governing body in the Zaporozhian Sich from the 16th to 18th centuries; also called the Military Council. It was empowered to decide legislative, executive, and judicial matters, as well as the participation of the army in war and the settlement of peace. It elected and summoned the officer staff (starshyna), with the kish otaman at its head. The Sich Council also received foreign diplomats and determined the course of diplomatic relations. It fulfilled certain economic functions, such as the distribution of the communal agricultural and fishing districts among the kurins of the Sich. As an organ of direct self-government the Sich Council upheld the right of all Cossacks to participate in its meetings, but the poor Cossacks (siromy) and holota were excluded from deliberations. The council met irregularly on the central square of the Zaporozhian Sich; in the 18th century, it met twice a year. Measures were adopted by a majority vote, which was estimated visually with no exact count of hands. Before the demise of Zaporozhian Sich the authority of the Sich Council was supplanted by that of the Sich Council of Officers.

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

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