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On the face of it, it seems extraordinary that this academy should appear in the middle of what was effectively a sort of no-man's-land, but of course this meant that, although notionally on Polish territory it was out of reach of the Polish government. The period of the establishment of the academy was a period of extraordinary violence on the part of the Cossacks, beginning with a revolt in 1630 which I believe to have been the model for Nicolai Gogol's Taras Bulba as it is more definitely for The Night of Taras, a poem by the nineteenth century poet, Taras Shevchenko, generally recognised as Ukraine's national poet. (3) But it came to a climax with the revolt in 1648 associated with the name of Bohdan Khmelnitsky. This took the form of a massacre of Poles and Jews. It had a particularly traumatic effect on the Jews. It went far to destroy the privileged position Jews had held previously in Poland. It seems to have helped stimulate the messianic movement of Sabbatai Zevi. Some writers have suggested that the outpouring of sympathy it evoked among Jews worldwide marks the beginnings of a sense of Jewish nationhood. (4)

(3) Readable English translations of Shevchenko's poetry - essential for understanding Ukrainian culture - can be found at The 'Taras' of Shevchenko's poem isn't the fictional Taras Bulba but the real historical figure of Hetman Taras Fedorovich, who led the 1630 rebellion.

(4) I discuss this in a little more detail in my essay A Polish prologue, in the Solzhenitsyn series -

Among Ukrainian nationalists, Khmelnitsky has a mixed reputation. On the one hand, he created a state, the 'hetmanate', which could be described as the first more or less independent Ukrainian state since the area had come under Polish-Lithuanian domination.

This map shows the hetmanate at its largest extent, straddling the Dnieper, in relation to the borders of present day Ukraine. You may notice that the territories to the East and South not included in the hetmanate correspond more or less to the territories at present being taken and, in the case of the Black Sea coast perhaps destined to be taken, in the present (May 2022) Russian intervention. The eastern part includes present day Luhansk and Donetsk, which were still, at the time, part of Russia. The southern parts are the territories occupied by the Tatars and Ottomans which would be taken in the late eighteenth century by Catherine the Great.

But in addition to founding the hetmanate, Khmelnitsky, in his war with the Poles, entered into an alliance with the Russians, at first with the Treaty of Pereislav of 1654, which was tightened by the Treaty of Andrusovo in 1667. The three hundredth anniversary of the Treaty of Pereislav was celebrated in the Soviet Union in 1954 as the coming together of the two Russian peoples, Little Russians and Great Russians, on which occasion, as a token of their eternal friendship, Nikita Khrushchev bestowed Crimea on the Soviet Republic of Ukraine.

The hetmanate quickly fell apart in what Ukrainian historians call 'the ruin', with the west Bank of the Dnieper reverting to the Poles while the east bank, still notionally under Cossack control, went to Russia as shown in the first map I showed you. The Russian territory now included Kiev and, in 1686, the Patriarch of Constantinople passed the metropolitanate of Kiev over to the Patriarch of Moscow. This was the settlement which Bartholomew, the current Patriarch of Constantinople, rescinded in 2019, when he recognised the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, with its own Metropolitan of Kiev, resulting in a breaking of communion between Constantinople and Moscow.

(5) I discuss this in a short essay - The Dispute over the Orthodox Church in Ukraine - 

We're now entering into the period of the rule of Peter the Great and no sooner had Constantinople given Kiev to the Patriarch of Moscow than Peter suppresses the patriarchate of Moscow. The last Patriarch of Moscow - prior to 1917 - died in 1700 and Peter prevented the appointment of a new one. In 1721 he set about a radical reorganisation of the administrative structure of the Russian church, and who did he turn to to organise it but the Rector of the Kiev academy, Theophan Prokopovich. The twentieth century Orthodox theologian, George Florovsky in his The Ways of Russian Theology, complains that the early eighteenth century saw what he calls a 'ukrainisation' of the Russian church. But where Moghila was suspected of having a Catholic caste of mind, Prokopovich, also educated in European universities, had reacted strongly against Catholicism and, according to Florovsky, was not just influenced by Protestantism but should be seen as part of the history of Protestantism. The education of the higher clergy in Russia was now remodelled along the lines of the Kiev Academy. Through Ukraine, Russia was getting a whiff of the Renaissance and the Reformation, indeed of 'classicism' and the attendant 'humanism'.

Meanwhile the Russians were taming the Cossacks, essentially by turning Cossack military chiefs into Russian noblemen and landowners and the ordinary, previously free Cossacks into serfs. But on the Polish side of the Dnieper, the opposite was happening. The Polish government officially suppressed the Cossacks in 1700 but large numbers of peasants flowed into this now depopulated land and soon launched on a series of violent popular revolts called 'haidamaki', culminating in 1768 in the Koliivschvina revolt which took the form partly of a civil war with the Polish nobility, themselves engaged, as the 'Confederation of Bar', in a revolt against the Polish King; but also a war between Orthodox and Uniate. The Koliivschvina is celebrated in a long epic poem, Haidamaky, perhaps Taras Shevchenko's most important work. Nonetheless it contributed mightily to the final collapse of the Polish state and the partitions which, by the end of the eighteenth century brought the whole west bank of the Dnieper under Russian control.