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2021, canvas, oil, 100 X 80 cm.
(ca. 1582 – 1622)
Petro Kononovych Konashevych-Sahaidachny, hetman of the Zaporozhian Host, a prominent Ukrainian Cossack military and political leader, was born in the village of Kulchytsi near Sambir (today in Lviv oblast) into a family of petty Orthodox nobility. He received his elementary schooling in Sambir in 1589–92. Later on, he studied at the Ostrih Academy from 1592 to 1598. At the turn of the 17th century, he was already participating in Cossack military campaigns. Around 1602–3, he married a nobleman’s daughter, Anastasiia Povchanska, with whom he fathered a son, named Lukash.
The first reliable source mention of Konashevych-Sahaidachny as a Cossackcolonel dates to 1615. In 1607 Sahaidachny led a Cossack army of 4,000 to Kaffa, captured it, and destroyed the largest slave market in Crimea. Under his command the Zaporozhian Cossacks embarked on military crusades against the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate in 1607, 1608, and 1614–16. During 1616–22 he was elected hetman of the Zaporozhian Host four times.
In 1617 Sahaidachny’s Cossacks agreed to assist the Royal Prince of Poland Wladysław IV in his military campaign against Muscovy. For their participation in the campaign, the Zaporozhians demanded that the Polish government recognize their freedom to adhere to their Orthodox religion and stop forcing them to join the Uniate church. Having captured a number of Muscovite towns, on 8 October 1618 Konashevych-Sahaidachny’s Cossacks joined forces with the army led by Prince Wladysław near Tushino and engaged in a joint attack on Moscow.
Although unsuccessful, the attack effected the signing of the Truce of Deulino. In mid-November or early December 1619, Sahaidachny led the Zaporozhian Cossacks in an advance on Crimean Tatar settlements at Perekop, where they battled with the armies of Khan Janibeg (Canibek) Giray. The Cossacks inflicted grave losses on the Tatars and succeeded in freeing a great number of Christian slaves. In March 1620 Konashevych-Sahaidachny played an important part in restoring the Orthodox hierarchy in Ukraine, which had been nearly completely annihilated following the Church Union of Berestia (1596). Then, between 27 May and 5 June 1620, together with the entire Zaporozhian Host, Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny joined the Kyiv Epiphany Orthodox Brotherhood—an act that demonstrated his resolve to support the rights of the Orthodox and defend their church.
In 1620–1 Hetman Konashevych-Sahaidachny commanded an army battalion of 40,000 siding with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against the Turks in the Battle of Khotyn. During this military action Sahaidachny was gravely wounded; he never recovered and died in 1622. Prior to his death, hetman bequeathed his whole estate to the Orthodox brotherhoods in Kyiv and Lviv and appointed guardians to his wife and other close relatives. He was buried at the Kyiv Epiphany Brotherhood monastery in the Podil district of Kyiv. Sahaidachny’s grave site has not survived to date.
The first portrait of Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny was published in an especially dedicated book of poems, collected by the rector of the Kyiv Brotherhood School, Kasiian Sakovych. The portrait became a prototype for all future images of this Cossack hetman. Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny is depicted in many works of literature and sculpture, and a number of streets and military units have been named after him.
History of painting the Petro Kohashevych-Sahaidachny portrait
The only authentic image of Hetman Sahaidachny is an etching created right after his death. It was published in the 1622 collection of panegyrics compiled by Kasiian Sakovych, Virshi na zhalosnyi pohreb zatsnoho rytsaria Petra Konashevycha-Sahaidachnoho (Verses for the Sorrowful Burial of the Worthy Knight Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny.) The etching gave me an opportunity to create a formal portrait of this hetman in 2016. However, at the time I did not know the hetman’s age at his death, because the year of his birth remained unknown. But according to the latest historical research, he died at a relatively young age, probably when he was in his 40s.
Translated from Ukrainian by Iryna Fedoriw
English language editing by Ksenia Maryniak