Mazepa’s Story: Are Ukrainians “Genetic Traitors”? – Part I

I saw this interesting essay written by a man named Vasily Stoyakin.  Stoyakin is the Director of a Russian think tank called the Center For Political Marketing.  History buffs will like this piece, because there is a lot in here about Ivan Mazepa, one of the more colorful characters in Russian and Ukrainian history.  Mazepa is the subject of many artistic works, including a long poem by Pushkin, an opera by Tchaikovsky, and a “symphonic poem” by Franz Liszt.

Hetman Ivan Mazepa

Stoyakin begins his essay with the regretful comment that the Russian internet is awash with various theories about “Ukrainian treachery” and the so-called “genetic disposition” of Ukrainians to betray their allies.  Note that this is not a new phenomenon; one thinks of that old chestnut of a Russian joke about the military squad consisting of 3 Ukrainians.  I can’t remember the exact wording of the joke, but the punchline is that the third man in the squad is the “obligatory traitor”.

Anti-Ukrainian sentiment within Russia turned especially bitter with the events of the Maidan (2014) and the ensuing Civil War between the pro-Banderite government in Kiev, and the Russian-speaking population in Eastern Ukraine.  And some pro-Russian bloggers do indeed write in earnest about a supposed “Traitor Gene” in Ukrainian DNA.  Stoyakin, however, does not believe that Mazepa was actually a traitor:  “An ordinary feudal politician — cunning, unprincipled, lacking most human feelings… completely normal for his time.”  In other words, ALL the leading political figures of that era were sociopaths:  ranging from Tsar Peter the Great to Peter’s second-in-command Alexander Danilovich Menshikov, to Mazepa, and all the others.  Somehow all these people managed to get through life without possessing a shred of human decency, loyalty, or feelings of attachment to others.

Polish King Casimir

Mazepa began his biography at the court of the Polish King Jan Kazimierz, aka John II Casimir Vasa.  In those days ethnicity was defined not by skin color or language, but by religion.  Mazepa was Orthodox, therefore he was considered a “Little Russian”, and not a Pole.  Due to his religion, Mazepa was discriminated against and forced out of the Polish court, although his dream always was to worm his way back in.  For the time being, though, Mazepa was forced to earn his daily bread in the Hetmanshchina, otherwise known as the Left Bank Ukraina.

[yalensis:  Important note for Russian History students and geography majors:  In Ukraine, the Dniepr River flows from North to South (like, well, most Earthian rivers); so orientation (Left-Right) is from the Point of View (POV) of the head of the flowing river itself.  Therefore, that land which is to the East of the river is known as the Left Bank.  Which is the opposite of the way we see things on the map, which is why this is confusing.  Got it?]

Moving along with Mazepa’s story:  Mazepa longed so much to return to the Polish court [yalensis:  So, why didn’t he just convert to Catholicism?] that he felt compelled to betray Swedish King Karl XII.   Also known as Carolus Rex, which is a cool name.  Sounds sort of like a Swedish dinosaur.

Swedish King Charles XII

Mazepa was so desperate to escape from the Hetmanshchina and return to Poland, that he didn’t even consider himself to be a Ukrainian.  In his correspondence with the Polish King he begs the latter to grant him estates in Belorussia.

So, where was this horrific treachery against Russia?  Well, there was that tiny incident when Mazepa swore allegiance to Russian Tsar Peter the Great and even kissed the cross.  This is the sole reason why Mazepa is considered to be one of the greatest traitors who ever lived.  Yawn.

The reality is that Mazepa was one of the greatest screw-ups who ever lived.  What he did for Peter in losing the battle of Poltava was an indescribably amazing “self-goal”.  Even Peter was astounded by the extent of his own (unexpected) history-altering victory over the Swedish army

[to be continued]

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5 Responses to Mazepa’s Story: Are Ukrainians “Genetic Traitors”? – Part I

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    “Note that this is not a new phenomenon; one thinks of that old chestnut of a Russian joke about the military squad consisting of 3 Ukrainians. I can’t remember the exact wording of the joke, but the punchline is that the third man in the squad is the “obligatory traitor”.”

    1 Ukrainian is a guerilla fighter.
    2 Ukrainians are guerilla cell
    3 Ukrainians are guerilla unit
    4 Ukrainians are guerilla unti AND a traitor.

    And (normal, sane) Ukrainians admit that there is some basis to this stereotype and even joke about it:

    Well, as they say – “Маемо що маемо!”

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Yeah, I think that was the joke I was thinking about, starts off “What do you call a force of one Ukrainian? What do you call a force of 2 Ukrainians?” (etc.)

      Like

  2. Lyttenburgh says:

    ““An ordinary feudal politician — cunning, unprincipled, lacking most human feelings… completely normal for his time.””

    Only by that time (XVIII c) such feudal approach to one’s loyalty was becoming more and more the thing of the past, given the rise of the absolutism in Europe.

    “Also known as Carolus Rex, which is a cool name. Sounds sort of like a Swedish dinosaur.”

    Predictably he is also an Idol and object of worship of both the fans of the metal band “SABATON” and the inhabitants of the Butthurt Belt of Europe.

    “Well, there was that tiny incident when Mazepa swore allegiance to Russian Tsar Peter the Great and even kissed the cross. This is the sole reason why Mazepa is considered to be one of the greatest traitors who ever lived. Yawn.”

    His career as backstabbing traitor began earlier, when he basically sabotaged anti-Crimean war efforts during princess Sofia’s regency.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Oooooh, I didn’t know about that Crimean War thing. Something to do with Sofia’s boy-toy Golitsyn? Do dish it out!

      Like

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        Oh, the ususal stuff – Crimean khanate being it’s usual slave-taking self, they steeped up the volume of raids during the Regency. Hetman at the time had trouble fending them off for various reasons. Sofia decided it would be a excellent way to cement her own grip on power (especially with her step-brother Peter approaching the age of majority fast) by having her darling Vasya (married, and older than her btw) win a proverbial “short victorious war” ™. His first campaign in 1686 ended with the army nearly dying out in the steppe because someone epic faily mismanaged the supply train.

        Enter Mazepa, who suggested to deal away with zlochinna vlada of previous hetman Samoilovich administration and appoint him, Ivan (or should we say… Ian?) Mazepa as the head honcho. In exchange he will grant a long awaited “peremoga”!

        And peremoga he did grant… well, the kind of peremoga’s Poroshenko boasts after yet another “cauldron”. You know this definition of madness, i.e. doing the same thing over and over again excatly expecting different results? Well – here we go! They even followed the same land track as in 1687!

        Despite failing to win even a single battle and scoring ANY of the strategic goals, Sofia proclaimed the war effort to be a dashing success and demanded her darling to be decorated as the War hero. But Peter was an adult (married and with son to boot) who decided to end this clusterfuck and make Russia Great Again For The First Time Evah! The fact that Golytsin was only exiled after his and Sofia plot against Pyotr Alexeyevich shows what a “monster” was our first Emprah. Even Sofia was just exiled into a convent, without demand to take up the oaths of a nun.

        An important context – these Crimean campaigns didn’t materialize out of addled brain of agening lover-hero or spiteful spinster Sofia. No, in 1686 Russia signed an “Eternal Peace” with Poland (ruled at the moment by the epic badass Ian III Sobieski, the savior of Vienna in 1683) and paid lots of money for Kiev to keep it forever. As one of conditions, we joined the multi-European coalition of states against Turkey. Just in 1681 we ended the hostilities against them (that’s another story, the 1676-81 war and the epic siege of Chigirin). In the greater universe even these failed efforts diverted some of Ottoman forces (Janissaries, artillery and military engineers were dispatched to dig fortifications at Perekop) and prevented Crimean Tatars from joining the main body of the Turkish armies in their fight against the Christian coalition.

        And to muddle things even more and send your head spinning – on the side of the Turks and Tatars were several prominent cossack-renegades, including former hetman Doroshenko and Hmielnistky’s no good treacherous son Yuri! Which brings us full cirle to the question at hand – about Ukrainian treacherousness.

        Like

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