All rights reserved. Any use of the image without the permission of the author is prohibited. Copyright ©
2016, canvas, oil, 100 X 80 cm.
Severyn (Semerii) Nalyvaiko was a Ukrainian Cossack leader of the rebellion of 1591-6. He was born into a Ukrainian Orthodox family of petty gentry in Husiatyn (today in the Ternopil oblast). Growing up in Ostrih, he received quality instruction at the Ostrih School of Greek, Latin, and Slavic languages.
Upon joining the Zaporozhian Sich, Nalyvaiko participated in many military campaigns at the time, when the Polish King Stephen Batory was still in power. Following his return to Ostrih, he served as captain (sotnyk) in Prince Kostiantyn Vasyl Ostrozky’s army. Nalyvaiko was a skilled gunner and a man of outstanding bravery and physical strength. In April 1594 he raised a regiment of 2,000 in Podilia for defensive actions against the Tatars. In June 1594 Severyn Nalyvaiko and his Cossacks destroyed Parcani, a Turkish fortress in Transnistria. Although he commanded only unregistered Cossacks— the registered Cossacks recognized Hryhorii Loboda as their commander-in-chief — Nalyvaiko considered himself hetman of the Zaporozhian Host. In revenge for his father’s death, Nalyvaiko pillaged the Terebovlia and Husiatyn estates of the Crown Hetman Marcin Kalinowski in July 1594. In August, Nalyvaiko and his Cossacks launched a military advance on the Turkish fortress of Bendery. In September of the same year, with the help of local burghers, Nalyvaiko’s Cossacks undertook devastating actions against the Bratslav shliakhta (nobility).
In November 1594 and from February to May 1595, Severyn Nalyvaiko participated in the Zaporozhian Cossacks’ campaigns into Moldavia and Transnistria. In the summer of 1595, Nalyvaiko’s regiment was included in the Austrian army in Hungary. Beginning in September 1595, Severyn Nalyvaiko led rebellious actions near Zamość, was garrisoned in Sambir, and threatened with a military advance on Cracow (the capital city of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). From there, Nalyvaiko led his Cossacks toward Lutsk, then into the Polisian territory governed by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and, finally, occupied Slutsk. Eventually, Nalyvaiko took his Cossacks across the Belarusian lands—en route to Slutsk-Babruisk-Mahilioŭ-Rechytsa—establishing control over the major part of the Volhynian territory in February 1596.
During this time, Nalyvaiko actively corresponded with the Polish King Sigismund III, seeking rights to the territory south of Bratslav— between the Southern Buh and the Dnister River—and entertaining the idea of special territory exclusively for Cossack population to be governed by the Zaporozhian Host hetman. When the Crown Field Hetman Stanisław Źółkiewski arrived with his corps to suppress the Cossack rebellion, he directed his main military action against Severyn Nalyvaiko. As the crown armies pressed on, Nalyvaiko was forced to retreat into Korsun and, eventually, Pereiaslav lands. Following the Battle of Bila Tserkva in April 1596, Severyn Nalyvaiko was elected hetman for a short period of time. After the crushing defeat of the Cossack army at Solonytsia, near Lubny, Nalyvaiko was taken prisoner by the Poles. At the end, he was publicly executed in Warsaw.
Contemporaries of Severyn Nalyvaiko remarked on his striking looks and noble qualities. His life and death were depicted in many legends and folk stories. His undertakings were glorified in dumas (epic songs), poems by Taras Shevchenko, in the poem “Nalyvaiko” by Kondratii Ryleev, and a historical novel by Ivan Le.
Some Ukrainian toponyms—Nalyvaiko Yar (ravine) and Nalyvaiko Well—still share his memory today.
History of painting the Severyn Nalyvaiko portrait
Though there is no existing image of Severyn Nalyvaiko created during his lifetime, historical sources describe him as having an attractive appearance. I chose to paint my historical portrait of Nalyvaiko on the basis of his literary image, created by Mykola Vinhranovsky in his novel “Severyn Nalyvaiko.” In the novel, Nalyvaiko is described as “dark haired…, good-looking like God…”
A photograph of Oleksandr Moroz from Viktoriia Yasynska’s album “Portrait of a Soldier” helped me to create a psychological image of Nalyvaiko. Awarded the order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky two times, Oleksandr Moroz is a Ukrainian hero. In 2015 his military brigade succeeded in destroying six Russian tanks and two of their infantry fighting vehicles.
Translated from Ukrainian by Iryna Fedoriw
English language editing by Roman Fedoriw