Zaporozhian cossacks

The Cossacks of the Zaporozhian Host, who lived on the steppes of Ukraine, are a well known group of Cossacks. Their numbers increased greatly between the 15th and 17th centuries, led by poor Ukrainian boyar nobility, merchants and runaway peasants from the area of the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth. The Zaporozhian Cossacks played an important role in European geopolitics, participating in a series of conflicts and alliances with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. As a result of the Khmelnytsky Uprising in the middle of the 17th century the Zaporozhian Cossacks managed to briefly create an independent state, which later became the autonomous Cossack Hetmanate, a suzerainty under protection of the Russian Tsar but ruled by the local Hetmans for half a century. In the later half of the 18th century the Zaporozhian Host was destroyed by the Russian authorities. Some Cossacks moved to the Danube delta region and later the Kuban region. After 1828 most of the Danubians had moved first to the Azov and later to the Kuban regions. Although today some оf the Kuban Cossacks and their descendants do not consider themselves Ukrainians by nationality, the language most of descendants speak is a dialect of central Ukrainian and their folklore is significantly Ukrainian.
The Zaporozhians were renowned for their raids against the Ottoman Empire and its vassals, although they sometimes war looted other neighbors as well. Their actions increased tension along the southern border of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which resulted in almost a constant low-level warfare taking place in those territories for almost the entire existence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
After being asked in 1539 by the Ottoman Sultan to restrain the Cossacks, the Grand Duke Vasili III of Russia replied: "The Cossacks do not swear allegiance to me, and they live as they themselves please." In 1549, Tsar Ivan the Terrible replied to a request of the Turkish Sultan to stop the attacks of the Don Cossacks, stating, "The Cossacks of the Don are not my subjects, and they go to war or live in peace without my knowledge." Similar exchanges passed between Russia, the Ottoman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, each of which tried to exploit Cossack warmongering for its own purposes. In the 16th century, with the dominance of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth extending south, the Zaporozhian Cossacks were mostly, if tentatively, regarded by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as their subjects. Registered Cossacks were a part of the Commonwealth army until 1699.
Around the end of the 16th century, relations between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire, which were not cordial to begin with, were further strained by increasing Cossack aggression. From the second part of the 16th century, Cossacks started raiding Ottoman territories. The Polish government could not control the fiercely independent Cossacks, but since they were nominally subjects of the Commonwealth, it was held responsible for the raids by their victims. Reciprocally, the Tatars living under Ottoman rule launched raids into the Commonwealth, mostly in the sparsely inhabited southeast territories. Cossack pirates, however, were raiding wealthy merchant port cities in the heart of the Ottoman Empire, which were just two days away by boat from the mouth of the Dnieper River. By 1615 and 1625, Cossacks had even managed to raze townships on the outskirts of Constantinople, forcing the Ottoman Sultan to flee his palace. Consecutive treaties between the Ottoman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth called for both parties to keep the Cossacks and Tatars in check, but enforcement was almost non-existent on both sides. In internal agreements, forced by the Polish side, Cossacks agreed to burn their boats and stop raiding. However, boats could be rebuilt quickly, and the Cossack lifestyle glorified raids and booty. During this time, the Habsburg Empire sometimes covertly employed Cossack raiders to ease Ottoman pressure on their own borders. Many Cossacks and Tatars shared an animosity towards each other due to the damage done by raids from both sides. Cossack raids followed by Tatar retaliation, or Tatar raids followed by Cossack retaliation, were an almost regular occurrence. The ensuing chaos and string of retaliations often turned the entire southeastern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth border into a low-intensity war zone and led to escalation of Commonwealth-Ottoman warfare, from the Moldavian Magnate Wars to the Battle of Cecora and Wars in 1633-1634.
Cossack numbers expanded with peasants escaping serfdom in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Attempts by the szlachta to turn the Zaporozhian Cossacks into serfs eroded the Cossacks' once fairly strong loyalty towards the Commonwealth. Cossack ambitions to be recognised as equal to the szlachta were constantly rebuffed, and plans for transforming the Polish-Lithuanian Two-Nations Commonwealth into Three Nations (with the Ruthenian Cossack people) made little progress due to the Cossacks' unpopularity. The Cossacks' strong historic allegiance to the Eastern Orthodox Christianity put them at odds with the Catholic-dominated Commonwealth. Tensions increased when Commonwealth policies turned from relative tolerance to suppression of the Orthodox church, making the Cossacks strongly anti-Catholic, which at the time was synonymous with anti-Polish.

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