Today it is an undisputed fact that the 1654 Ukrainian-Muscovite treaty, generally known as the Treaty of Pereyaslav, had a considerable impact on the military and political situation in Central-Eastern Europe and radically changed the balance of forces in the region.
Naturally, the subject of diplomatic relations of this era was reflected in historiography. Questions relating to interstate relations in the 1650s occupy a prominent place in the works of M. Hrushevsky, V. Lypynsky, A. Yakovlev, as well as the present-day Ukrainian historians V. Horobets, V. Smoliy, V. Stepankov, Y. Fedoruk, T. Chukhlib, et al. Among the Russian researchers who tackled the post-Pereyaslav period, one must single out A. Novoselsky, L. Zaborovsky, G. Sanin, S. Faikhov, and T. Yakovleva, while the prominent historian Zbigniew Wojcik made the greatest contribution to the study of this subject in Poland.
I would like to comment on the trends behind the research into this question. Firstly, a typical feature of Soviet and modern Russian historiography is the deliberate attempt to ignore Ukrainian national interests and focus exclusively on the Muscovite state’s interests. This is usually accompanied by such dubious statements as: ‘Moscow fought for Belarus and access to the Baltic Sea in the interests of Ukraine.’ Secondly, contemporary historians should not confine themselves to studying bilateral relations alone. More attention should be paid to the entire complex of political contradictions and intrigues of those times, in which an important role was played not only by Cossack Ukraine, Muscovy, the Polish Kingdom, and Turkey, but also by the Western and Northern European states, such as Sweden, France, Austria, and Brandenburg.
Beginning in late 1653, when preparations for concluding an agreement with Cossack Ukraine were in full swing, the Muscovite government intensified its foreign political activities. The important point to remember here is that the imminent agreement, which was clearly anti-Polish in nature, would inevitably have led to a military conflict between Muscovy and the Rzeczpospolita. This could trigger a hostile reaction from a number of European states, as some European monarchs wished to maintain the uneasy balance that had been established following the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which put an end to the terrible Thirty Years’ War.
Thus, in December 1653 Russia sent envoys to Sweden, the Netherlands, France, and Denmark primarily to sound out European monarchs on the future Russian- Polish war as well as to justify Moscow’s actions. The purpose of this diplomatic mission was in fact to create a favorable foreign political climate for launching hostilities. Moscow had set itself the goal, if not to obtain support from European countries, then at least to persuade them to remain neutral and thus downgrade the Polish-Russian conflict into an isolated affair.
The results of the talks were more than favorable for Moscow. The tsar’s messengers generally acquitted themselves well. The Europeans guaranteed non-interference in the Muscovite-Polish war, while Sweden and the Netherlands offered to supply the most up-to-date arms.
Immediately after signing the Treaty of Pereyaslav’s controversial March Articles of 1654, the Muscovite government resumed its diplomatic efforts. This time the object was Brandenburg, Courland, and the Hapsburg Empire.
During this period Muscovy’s most difficult relations were with the Crimean Khanate, on whose assistance Poland had every reason to rely. Proof of this was the latter’s Treaty of Kamyanets signed with the Crimean Tatars in 1653. Bakhchisarai was one of the parties most interested in solving the Ukrainian question.
The conclusion of the Treaty of Pereyaslav was followed by energetic diplomatic contacts between Muscovy, Cossack Ukraine, and the Crimea. Each of these states set itself clear-cut goals, proceeding from its respective military and political aspirations.
In particular, the Muscovite government aimed primarily to persuade Bakhchisarai to accept the new geopolitical reality that had emerged as a result of the Ukrainian-Muscovite agreement and, secondly, to break the anti- Muscovite Crimean-Polish alliance that had taken shape by 1654. Concurrently, despite the true content of the treaty, the tsarist government considered the Ukraine-Muscovy alliance (and tried to force all the neighboring states, including the Crimea, to do the same) as the complete and irreversible annexation of Cossack Ukraine by the tsar. Great importance was attached in this regard to the recognition of the tsar’s new post-Pereyaslav titles on the part of the Crimean leadership and other monarchies.
The news of the rapprochement between Cossack Ukraine and Muscovy was a very heavy blow to the khan’s government, for it in fact threatened not only Bakhchisarai’s foreign policy plans (to establish a political protectorate over Cossack Ukraine) but also the very existence of the Crimean Khanate. So the khanate’s main concern was to sever the Ukraine-Muscovy alliance and, if possible, establish an anti-Muscovite coalition consisting of Poland, Ukraine, the Crimea, and the Danubian principalities.
The Ukrainian hetman’s government pursued its own strategic political line. What is more, it was a very consistent line. For instance, despite the new reality that emerged after the signing of the treaty with Moscow, Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s government vigorously continued to endorse the idea of a multilateral vassalage. Therefore, the main goal of Ukrainian diplomacy was to maintain an alliance with the Crimea without breaching the agreement with Moscow.
The Muscovite leadership pinned its main hopes on a delegation led by Sidor Lodyzhensky and Aleksei Ogarkov, who visited the Crimea from November 13, 1653, until November 21, 1654; a delegation headed by Timofei Khotunsky and Ivan Fomin (April 1654); and one led by Dmitri Zherebtsov and Semen Titov (April 1655). The Muscovite envoys immediately focused their attention on unearthing details of the deal that Poland had concluded with the Crimean Khanate in Zwaniec. The tsarist envoys were also eager to find out about the agreement’s Ukraine clauses, especially those concerning Ukraine’s priorities in its relations with the Crimea and Poland. Concerning the latter point, the khan’s representative Prince Mametsha Suleshev said in no uncertain terms that the hetman had “made a solemn promise to heed the Crimean khan more and to turn for help, first of all, to the Crimean khan, not to the Lithuanian king.” The khan’s representative thereby laid stress on preserving the alliance between Bakhchisarai and Chyhyryn, which should undergo no changes under any political circumstances. I draw attention to this because this idea was also the cornerstone of the Crimea’s assessment of the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav.
In their discussions with Sefer Ghazi-aga, the Muscovite diplomats Khotunsky and Fomin, who had arrived in the Crimea after the Treaty of Pereyaslav was concluded, urged the khan on behalf of the tsar to join the anti-Polish coalition and declare war on the king of Poland. However, the khan refused, declaring there was a valid treaty between the khan and the king; moreover the Crimea was expecting a “delivery of the treasury” from Poland. The khan’s spokesman declared this question could still be discussed if the Poles reneged on their promise to pay 40,000 gold zloty. Interestingly, Sefer Ghazi- aga also accused the Muscovite tsar of having refused to satisfy the khan’s earlier request for military aid in his war against Poland.
(To be concluded in the next issue)