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Koliivshchyna rebellion
Part of Bar Confederation and Haidamaky
Camp of haidamakas.PNG
Camp of Haidamakas by Juliusz Kossak
Date6 June [O.S. 26 May] 1768[1] — June 1769
Result Russian-Polish victory
Substantial civilian casualties
Rebels were punished and executed
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
 Russian Empire
Haidamaky (Cossacks)
Commanders and leaders
Jan Klemens Branicki
Mikhail Krechetnikov
Melkhisedek Znachko-Yavorsky
Maksym Zalizniak
Ivan Gonta
Monument of Gonta and Zalizniak in Uman, Ukraine

Koliivshchyna (Ukrainian: ?, Polish: koliszczyzna) was a major haidamaka rebellion that broke out in the Right-bank Ukraine in June 1768,[1] caused by the money (Dutch ducats coined in Saint-Petersburg) sent by Russia to Ukraine to pay for the fight of the locals against the Bar Confederation, the dissatisfaction of the peasants with the treatment of Eastern Catholics and Orthodox Christians by the Bar Confederation and by the threat of serfdom,[2] the anti-nobility and anti-Polish moods among the Cossacks and peasants.[3][4] The uprising was accompanied by violence against the members and supporters of the Bar Confederation, Poles, Jews and Roman Catholics and especially Uniate clergymen, culminating in the massacre of Uman.[5] The number of victims is estimated from 100,000[6] to 200,000, because many communities of national minorities (such as Old Believers, Armenians, Moslems, Greeks) completely disappeared in the area of the uprising.[5][7][8]


The origin of the word is not certain. According to the poem of Taras Shevchenko whose grandfather and villagers participated in this uprising Haydamaky (poem), Kolii is the name of a knife, blessed in a church and used by special people in Ukrainian and Ruthenian villages sometimes up to nowadays to kill animals humanely according to the local understanding of animal rights. The blessing of knives was accomplished 2-3 weeks before the uprising as a rule so that the members and supporters of the Bar confederation and its regular military forces fled to the Ottoman Empire before the uprising. But some fortresses such as Uman, Lysianka et altri were still occupied by the members of the Bar Confederation. The secret shared by millions of people could not be a secret and different national minorities accused of atrocities towards animals retreated to these fortresses as well. The poem of Schevchenko is the best description though he considers village drinkings after massacres as part of the uprising. He explains that Ukrainians apart from professional Kolii have never killed even chicken and other animals before this uprising and bloodletting led to drinking as the most continuous part of the uprising. These Kolii are similar to Rezniks and may be the heritage of the Khazar-Russian kaganate (Kievan Rus) in Ukraine. Kolii have never been present among Russians, Poles (in spite of Sarmat roots of Polish noblemen), Lithuanians, Byelorussians, Moslems, Armenians, Romanians and even Greeks in spite of their Orthodoxy and their life together with Ukrainians. Shevchenko emphasized, that this was the first uprising for animal rights worldwide and rebels wanted to clean Ukraine from bad animals (especially Old-Believers, (Muscovites), Armenians, Greeks, Moslems etc. who tortured poor good real animals killing them without Kolii. Ukrainian Poles often used meat from animals slaughtered by Kolii and Jews used meat slaughtered by rezniks in a way very similar to Kolii, so Maksym Zalizniak solemnly rejected any plans of massacre of Jews and Poles explaining the massacre by the excess of executors). It could be an adaptation of the Polish words "kolej", "kolejno", "po kolei", which implies "s?u?ba kolejna" (patrolling service), designating Cossack militia in the service of aristocrats. That etymology is suggested by Polish historians such as W?adys?aw Andrzej Serczyk and Volodymyr Shcherbyna which have not read the poem of Schevcenko about this uprising.[9]


It was simultaneous to the Confederation of Bar which originated out of the adjacent region in the city of Bar (historical Podolia) and was a de facto civil war in Poland. Bar confederation declared not only the Orthodox faith but the Uniate church pro-Russian ones. Later the Polish government and the Polish Roman Catholic church accused both eastern churches responsible on the Uman massacre and the uprising because Russia defended the political rights of believers of both churches. Though almost all pupils of the Uman Uniate seminary had died in the massacre in Uman they were accused in the fall of the city by the Polish government.[10] There were rumors that Don Cossacks fighting against Bar confederation needed help from Zaporozhian Cossacks so many Zaporozhian Cossacks left for Right-Bank Ukraine to join Don Cossacks. Some of them became leaders of different detachments. Some were seized by Polish government forces and tried in Kodnya by Poles. One Zaporozhian Cossack was executed in Kodnya. These Cossacks were not paid. The rebellion of peasants was fueled by ducats paid by Maxim Zalizniak for every killed Bar confederate (a blue-eyed old-believer because women and children could not find confederates to have a reward) and by the circulation of a fictitious proclamation of support and call to arms by Russia's Empress Catherine II, the so-called "Golden Charter".[11] Mostly based on rumors, the charter however had a real foundation and was connected with the Repnin's seim decisions to give politicall freedoms to Uniates and Orthodox Christians and the Catherine's rescript that in 1765 she issued it to Archimandrite Melkhisedek and obligated the Russian ambassador in Warsaw to facilitate assertion of rights and privileges of the Right-bank Ukraine Orthodox confession.[12] In 1764, on the territory of the Zaporozhian Host and along the southern borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian Empire created the New Russia Governorate in place of previously existing New Serbia province, and intensively militarised the region.[13]

Preparation to uprising against Bar Confederation and the initial raid of the Cossack detachment of Maksym Zalizniak started at the Motrynine Saint Trinity Monastery (today a covenant in Cherkasy Raion), a hegumen of which was Archimandrite Melkhisedek (Znachko-Yavorsky) who also served as the director of all Orthodox monasteries and churches in Right-bank Ukraine (in 1761-1768).[1]

The peasant rebellion quickly gained momentum and spread over the territory from the right bank of the Dnieper River to the river Sian (San). At Uman it led to a big massacre. In Uman, Poles, Jews, and Uniates were herded into their churches and synagogues and killed in cold blood though Uniates were not the victims in other places.[14]

Crowds of insurgents broke into the city [...] Most of the nobles and Jews gathered in the churches, synagogue and town hall. Catholic priests communicated and gave absolution [...] the slaughter initiated, most likely by vengeful peasants, began. According to modern testimonies, about three thousand Jews died in the synagogue alone. Killed and tormented. Jews were cut off their hands and ears. They were pulled out of cellars, houses and even ditches, where they sought shelter in vain. Catholic and Uniate priests became the next victims of the hatred of the insurgent crowd.

In three weeks of unbridled violence the rebels slaughtered 20,000 people, according to numerous Polish sources.[] The leaders of the uprising were Cossacks, mainly Maksym Zalizniak and a commander of a private militia of the owner of Uman, Ivan Gonta. While being the commander of Potocki's private Uman city Cossack militia garrison, the latter joined Zalizniak at Uman and the governor and other Polish nobles supporting Bar confederation capitulated knowing that Gonta was dispatched by Polish Count Franciszek Salezy Potocki to protect Uman by some secret mission. They mistakenly thought that rebels supported the Polish king as did count Potocki. But insurgents were for the principally new Zaporozhian Host of Right-Bank Ukraine.

Eventually the uprising was crushed by Russian troops, Ukrainian registered cossacks of Left-Bank Ukraine, the Zaporozhian Host, and aided by Polish army. Its two major leaders were arrested by Russian troops on 7 July 1768.[1] Ivan Gonta was handed over to Polish authorities who tortured him to death, while Maksym Zalizniak was exiled to Siberia.[15] The rebellion was suppressed by the joint forces of Polish and Russian armies, with numerous hangings, decapitations, quarterings and impalings of Polish subjects and of those Russian subjects who were captured by governmental Polish forces themselves.[7]

Koliivshchyna in popular culture

Taras Shevchenko's epic poem Haidamaky (The Haidamakas) chronicles the events of the Koliivshchyna. The event also inspired recent artwork during the latest Ukrainian unrest.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Koliyivshchyna at Encyclopedia of History of Ukraine
  2. ^ P.R. Magocsi. A History of Ukraine. pp. 294, 296.
  3. ^ Franciszek Rawita-Gawro?ski (1914). Sprawy i rzeczy ukrai?skie: materya?y do dziejów kozaczyzny i hajdamaczyzny. Lviv. pp. 146, 147.
  4. ^ Korzon, Tadeusz (1897). Wewn?trzne dzieje Polski za Stanis?awa Augusta (1764-1794). Cracow-Warsaw. p. 200.
  5. ^ a b Kazimierz Karolczak, Franciszek Le?niak (1998). Wielka Historia Polski. Cracow. p. 111.
  6. ^ Konopczy?ski, W?adys?aw (1999). Dzieje Polski nowo?ytnej. Instytut Wydawniczy Pax. p. 619.
  7. ^ a b Norman Davis (1982). God's playground. A history of Poland, vol 1. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-05350-9.
  8. ^ Stanis?aw Bogus?aw Lenard, Ireneusz Wywia? (2000). Historia Polski w datach. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN. pp. 274-275.
  9. ^ Chukhlib, T. Judge or understand haidamakas? Taras Chukhlib about Koliivshchyna ( ?). Ukrayinska Pravda. 16 December 2015
  10. ^ The bridge between west and east. Russian Greek Catholic church
  11. ^ Golden Charter at Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  12. ^ Catherinian Golden Edict at Encyclopedia of History of Ukraine
  13. ^ First New Russia Governorate at Encyclopedia of History of Ukraine
  14. ^ Serczyk, W?adys?aw (1972). Hajdamacy. Cracow. pp. 325-326.
  15. ^ "Koliivshchyna rebellion". Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.

Further reading

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