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© Copyright

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

© Copyright
© Copyright

2019, canvas, oil, 80 X 60 cm.

Pavlo Polubotok

(1660 - 1724)

Pavlo Leontiiovych Polubotok was a Ukrainian Cossack statesman, military commander, colonel of the Chernihiv regiment, and acting hetman of Left-Bank Ukraine from 1722 to 1724. He was born in Chernihiv into a wealthy Cossack family. His father, Leontii Polubotok, was colonel of the Pereiaslav regiment, general standard-bearer, and general osaul. Pavlo Polubotok received his education at the Kyivan Mohyla College. In the early 1860s, Pavlo joined the Zaporozhian Host. He began his career as a  military fellow and later attained the rank of notable military fellow of the Chernihiv  regiment. For some time, he remained under the supervision of Hetman Ivan  Samoilovych.


With the approval of Ivan Mazepa, Pavlo Polubotok was elected colonel of  the Chernihiv regiment in 1705. In the fall of 1708, Polubotok decided not to support  Mazepa’s campaign against Muscovy and gained a chance of becoming the next hetman.  Contrary to expectations, Tsar Peter I ordered Ivan Skoropadsky to be elected hetman. From 1710 to 1720, Polubotok spent time looking after his estates and became one of  the wealthiest officers among Cossack starshyna of Left-Bank Ukraine. He owned one of  the best libraries in Ukraine and collected icons and pieces of weaponry. He also compiled  a short chronicle of historical events of the period between 1452 and 1715.  Pavlo Polubotok became acting hetman in 1721. With 10,000 Cossacks in his command, he participated in the construction of the Ladoga Canal.


After Ivan Skoropadsky’s death, the Cossack starshyna appealed to the tsar for permission to elect a new hetman, but their appeal was rejected. In the meantime, the Senate issued recommendations for Pavlo Polubotok—a well-respected and purposeful man—to be appointed once again to the post of acting hetman. Polubotok actively obstructed undertakings by the Little Russian Collegium, established in May 1722, to oversee the collection of taxes and activities of the hetman government.

To the Cossak starshyna’s continuous demands to hold elections, the tsar kept responding, that since all previous hetmans turned out to be traitors, the elections would not take place unless a trustworthy candidate was found. Nevertheless, Pavlo Polubotok held his ground. He succeeded in making the Senate instruct the Collegium to share its plans and coordinate actions with the hetman government. Since the Collegium’s mandate was in part to review complaints from the population against the governing administration—especially complaints concerning the corrupted judicial system— Pavlo Polubotok decided to take over these matters himself and not rely on Muscovy’s judgement in solving them. 

Thus, Polubotok outlawed bribery, reorganized courts on the basis of collegiality, and appointed inspectors to ensure that his orders were carried out. To minimize the number of peasant complaints, he pressured the Cossack starshyna to lessen the demands for payment obligations from their subjects. At the same time, the Kolomak Petitions to the tsar for the dissolution of the Little Russian Collegium were dispatched along with a Cossack delegation to Saint-Petersburg. 

Upon their arrival, Pavlo Polubotok and his fellow officers were arrested by the tsar and sent to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Soon after his arrest, Polubotok took ill, refused any medication, and died in December 1724. He was buried at the church of St. Sampson the Hospitable, on the Malaya (Little) Neva River in Saint Petersburg.


History of painting the Pavlo Polubotok portrait

I painted this portrait of Pavlo Polubotok on the basis of the 19th century copy of the  original painting from the 18th century, that reflected his appearance most accurately. I  had very little to add to my portrait of the hetman. The ring on his finger—a piece of  jewelry worn by nearly all members of the Cossack starshyna of the time—was the only  thing I decided to add to this image.  

Translated from Ukrainian by Iryna Fedoriw 

English language editing by Roman Fedoriw

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