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Cossack Uprisings

Uprisings of the Cossack and Ukrainian populations against the Polish nobility, and also against the Jews and Jesuits. After Ukrainian territories were annexed to the Crown after the Union of Lublin in 1569, the great magnate families that had been granted large land holdings by the king quickly began making use of those territories. At the same time, they attempted to impose feudal dues and heavy taxes not only on the Ukrainian peasants, but also on the Cossacks, who had been free up to that point.

Jews in the southeastern voivodships played an important economic role, particularly in trade; they also leased mills and inns, and even entire small towns and villages. They were involved in the collection of customs, tolls and taxes, and provided various services to the courts of the magnates and nobility. They had broad rights with respect to the Christian population, which sometimes even included the right to judge them and mete out punishment. This meant that the Jews were identified with the institutions of power and oppression. Most of the magnates' estates hired Jewish lease-holders, brokers, and agents. In everyday life, one more often met the Jewish tax-collector than the lord in whose name the taxes were being collected.

This situation led to serious tensions between the local population and the Jews. There were anti-Jewish incidents as early as the Nalewajko and Pawluk uprisings in 1595-96 and 1637, when the synagogue in Poltawa (Poltava) was burned. The most tragic events occurred during the Chmielnicki uprising in 1648-49, which affected Volhynia and Podole, as well as part of Belarus and Red Rus'. Entire Communities were massacred at that time. In 1650, the Jewish Sejm proclaimed the date of the pogrom in Niemir�w to be observed annually as a day of mourning. In some locations, Jews and Poles organized a joint defense, such as in Tulczyn, Bar and Polonny. The Lw�w Community was saved by a large ransom paid to the Cossacks.

The massacres during the Chmielnicki uprising forced many Jews to flee from the Commonwealth to Western Europe, though many of them returned to their homes after a few years. The incidents of 1648 and 1649 have been described by Jewish authors, including Natan Hanover, Moshe of Narol, Shimshona of Ostropole, and Shabtaya ben Meir ha-Kohen. In their accounts, they gave exaggerated reports of 60,000 to 100,000 victims-significantly higher than the actual figures. The number of victims was nevertheless high-perhaps several thousand people.
The year 1648 is recognized as a watershed in the history of the Polish Jews, marking the end of an era of peaceful coexistence. This tragedy affected the later development of Jewish communities in Poland, not only from a demographic and economic point of view, but from a spiritual one as well. There were several pogroms against Communities in Poland's eastern Kresy, such as the one in 1734. At that time, the hajdamacy (armed robber bands, but also peasant and Cossack rebels in Ukraine), led by Werlacz, Prince Lubomirski's military commander, devastated the Braclaw voivodship, Volhynia and Podole.

In 1734-1737, detachments commanded by Wasko Woscilo, said to be Chmielnicki's grandson, looted Communities in Belarus. In 1750, Communities in Ukraine fell victim to the hajdamacy (Winnica, Radomysl and Human).
(H.W./CM)

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Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Mokotowska 25, 00-560 Warsaw tel. (48-22) 44 76 100,
fax. (48-22) 44 76 152;