V. Shcherbak Role of Cossacs in the Establishment of the Ethnic Consciousness of the Ukrainians (Second Half of 16th — Middle of 17th Cent.)

DOI: 10.20535/2307-5244.51.2020.220173

Ethnic consciousness involves a system of views and ideas of the people
regarding themselves, based on the commonality of language, culture, and
historical fate and manifested through interaction with other peoples. This
progress is more clearly can be traced in the periods of changes in the dominant
stereotypes of ethnic behavior and its outlook. The article highlights the role of
the Cossacks in the development of ethnic consciousness during the cultural and
educational rise of the second half of the XVI — middle of XVII centuries. It is
noted that the changes in the dominant stereotypes of the behaviour of Ukrainians,
their ideological principles, were provoked by the spread of Renaissancehumanistic
outlook and reformist ideology. The theoretical basis for the rethinking
of the historical realities of that time constituted the works of polemic writers
such as Gerasim and Meletiy Smotrytsky, Khristophor Filalet, Laurentiy Zizania,
Zacharya Kopistensky, Iov Boretsky, and all those works in which the concept of «Rusian people» was formulated. Such works outlined the continuousness of
Rusian history from Kyivan Rus times, the commonality of language and culture of
ethnos. In defending these positions, the Cossacks became the reliable companions
of thinkers of the early modern era, which was manifested in their involvement
in the protection of the Orthodox Church. This led to the heroization of Cossack
figures in folk and historical songs – Samiylo Kishka, Peter Sahaidachniy, Olifer
Golub, emphasizing their typical features — patriotism, courage, and bravery.
During the Cossack rebellions, which involved representatives of different social
groups, the right to defend the «sacred antiquity» and «Orthodox faith» was
crystallized. The use of the term “Ukraine” regarding the Dnieper region, the
area of the most armed rebellion, became natural. At the same time, the habitat
of the ethnic group and its differences from neighbours were determined. This
gives the reason to acknowledge the leading role of the Cossacks in the formation
of ethnic consciousness of Ukrainians of this era.

Keywords: Cossacks, ethnic consciousness, polemic writers, «Rusian people»,
Ukrainians, Orthodox Church.


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