4 comments December 12th, 2007 Headsman
On this date in 1635, Cossack commander Ivan Sulyma was put to death in Warsaw for razing the Kodak Fortress on the Dnieper River.
Those famed corsairs of the steppes made their way in the world by plunder. The European powers at play around the Black Sea domains of the Zaporozhian host — Poland, Russia and the Ottoman Empire — each struggled to exploit Cossack raiders for their own ends of statecraft.
It was perhaps the misfortune of Poland to claim suzerainty during this unruly horde’s upswinging arc. The Poles endeavored to gather the Cossacks into the formal apparatus of the state, “registering” an elite corps of Cossacks inducted into the armed forces while reducing the remainder to peasantry.
The registry’s size and privileges became a permanent bone of contention, driving a cycle of uprisings through the 1620’s and 30’s that sapped Cossacks’ loyalty to the Polish crown.
Sulyma was a partisan of the militant unregistered Cossacks, fresh from war against the Ottomans. He returned to find that Poland had thrown up a fortress controlling the Dnieper, with an eye both to checking Cossack provocations against the now-peacable Turks, and to controlling internal Cossack disturbances.
Sulyma sacked the fortress, slaughtering its 200 inhabitants, but the disturbance was quickly put down and loyal registered Cossacks handed over the rebel. By the late 1630’s, Poland had imposed a peace of arms on the region … but hardly a secure one. As historian Orest Subtelny notes:
[E]ach successive uprising reflected the growing strength and military sophistication of the rebels. Their numbers grew, their tactics improved, and Cossack identification with the plight of the peasantry and the defense of Orthodoxy deepened. The decade-long Golden Peace merely masked a problem that was waiting to explode again.
It exploded in 1648. Where Sulyma had failed, Bohdan Khmelnytsky would succeed — breaking the Cossack lands permanently free of Poland.
Remembered to the modern state of Ukraine as a father of the country, Khmelnytsky’s immediate achievement was to rearrange the balance of power in Eastern Europe. Poland, ravaged by invading Swedes just as the Cossacks slipped away, fell into permanent decline — leaving a vacuum filled by Russia, which soon pulled the Cossacks into its orbit.
Also on this date
- 1888: Tsimequor, indigenous Snuneymuxw
- 1957: Jorge Villanueva Torres, Monstruo de Armendáriz
- 1996: Lem Tuggle, Tim Kaine client
- 1952: Hard Luck Billy Cook
- 1942: Klava Nazarova, Hero of the Soviet Union
- 1777: Rev. Benjamin Russen, child rapist
- 1984: Alpha Otis O’Daniel Stephens: hear it live
Entry Filed under: 17th Century,20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Dismembered,Execution,Gruesome Methods,Hanged,History,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Poland,Power,Revolutionaries,Russia,Soldiers,Treason,Ukraine