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© Copyright

All rights reserved. Any use of the image without the permission of the author is prohibited. Copyright © 

© Copyright

2021, canvas, oil, 100 X 80 cm. 

Ivan Pidkova (Ioan Potcoavă)


Ivan Pidkova was a renowned military leader of the Zaporozhian Cossacks. He was also hospodar of Moldavia from 1577 to 1578. According to a legend, Pidkova was a brother of the Moldavian hospodar Ivonea (Ioan Vodă the Brave), who had distinguished himself in the struggle for Moldavia’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, and was killed by the Turks in 1574. 


Pidkova (“Horseshoe”) stood out among other men because of his unusual physical strength. He was said to be able to break horseshoes with his hands, which also gave him his nickname. Together with the Zaporozhian Cossacks, he engaged in overland and seagoing expeditions against the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate. 

In 1577 Ivan Pidkova responded to a request from the Moldavian boyars—they were unhappy with their pro-Turkish hospodar Petru Şchiopul—thus, raising a Cossack regiment of 300 for a military advance on Iaşi in an attempt to seize the Moldavian throne. In a decisive battle on the river Prut, Pidkova’s Cossacks defeated Petru Şchiopul’s army and a six thousand Turkish auxiliary regiment. On 29 November 1577 Pidkova entered Iaşi—a capital city of the Principality of Moldavia—and was proclaimed its new hospodar. 

Ivan Pidkova proceeded winning a few more battles against the Turks and the corps commanded by Petru Şchiopul. However, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was invested in maintaining its alliance with the Ottomans. Thus, Pidkova and his Cossacks were forced to retreat into Ukraine in 1578. Following the retreat, Pidkova was betrayed and arrested by Janusz Zbarazki, voevoda (palatine) of Bratslav. Eventually, Ivan Pidkova was brought in front of the king, Stephen Batory of Poland, and—at the Diet’s decision—condemned Pidkova to be executed. The execution took place in one of the main squares of Lviv on the 16th of July 1578. The legend states that Ivan Pidkova was buried in a monastery in Kaniv. 

Still during his lifetime, Ivan Pidkova was popular with peasants and Cossacks. His life and tragic death attracted attention of not only Ukrainian, but also of Moldavian, Polish, German, and Italian chroniclers. Taras Shevchenko dedicated his poem “Ivan Pidkova” (1839) to him, mentioned him in “Hamaliia,” and was working on an engraving “Pidkova’s execution in Lviv.” The first sculpture of Cossack Pidkova, authored by Petro Kulyk, was installed in Lviv in 1982. Monuments to Ivan Pidkova appeared later in Cherkasy and Kaniv as well. 



History of painting the Ivan Pidkova portrait


This portrait of Ivan Pidkova has been painted on the basis of a primitive 17th century sketch found in an album that belonged to the last king of Poland, Stanisław II  August Poniatowsky.  

Translated from Ukrainian by Iryna Fedoriw 

 English language editing by Roman Fedoriw  

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