29-05-2024 History of Ukraine 653

Hetman Pylyp Orlyk and his Constitution of 1710

Hetman Pylyp Orlyk and his Constitution of 1710

The Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk is an agreement between Hetman of the Zaporozhian Army Pylyp Orlyk and the Starshina (officer) and Cossacks of the Army (the Constitution was signed by Kost Hordiienko, the Kish otaman, on behalf of all the officers and Сossacks), which defined the rights and obligations of all members of the Army. The pact was signed in 1710 at a meeting of the Cossacks near the town of Tyahyn on the right bank of the Dniester River and approved by King Charles XII of Sweden. Written in Latin and Old Ukrainian, it consists of a preamble and 16 articles. It is a monument of Ukrainian political, philosophical and legal thought. According to Ukrainian historians, it is also one of the first European constitutions of modern times.

Historical background

The early eighteenth century was a difficult period for the Ukrainian people. After the unsuccessful the Battle of Poltava, which was lost by Karl XII and Ivan Mazepa, Ukraine came under the control of the Russian Empire, and its national freedoms and autonomy were limited. Orlyk, his wife, and close relatives followed Mazepa into exile, making the difficult journey to Turkish lands. After the death of Hetman Ivan Mazepa, the question of electing a new hetman arose among the Cossack officers in exile.

election to the hetman's post among the Cossacks

On 5 April 1710, in the presence of all the Cossack officers at the general military council, Pylyp Orlyk was unanimously elected Hetman. At the same time, a document with 16 articles was adopted, which was later called the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk. It was an agreement between the hetman and the officers on mutual responsibilities, rights and the future structure of Ukraine. It was hoped that the agreement (after the emigrants returned to Ukraine) would act as a legal act.

In May 1710, King Charles XII of Sweden - as Ukraine's protector (according to a previous pact of 1708 between him and Mazepa) - approved the election of Orlyk as hetman, emphasizing his courage and loyalty.

The principle of separation of powers in the Constitution

The document formed the basis for the principle of separation of powers between the legislative and executive judicial branches, and provided for the election of officials, which is still a fundamental principle of democratic states today.

the original Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk

Legislative power was delegated to the General Council, which acted as a parliament, consisting of general officers, civilian colonels from cities, general advisers, regimental officers, centurions and representatives of the Zaporozhian Sich.

The General Council had to work in session three times a year - in January (on Christmas), in April (on Easter) and in October (on Pokrova). At its meetings, the General Council considers issues of state security, the common good, and other public affairs, hears reports from the hetman, votes of no confidence in him, and elects a general officer upon the hetman's proposal.

The treasure of the Zaporozhian Army was not managed by the Hetman, but by the general wisecracks. The Hetman's maintenance should be at the expense of his estates.

Powers of the Hetman

The highest executive power was vested in the Hetman, whose authority was for lifetime. In the period between the sessional meetings of the General Council, he exercised its powers. The powers of the Hetman and his authority were significantly limited by articles 6, 7 and 8. According to these provisions, the Hetman had no right to dispose of the state treasury and lands, to conduct his own personnel policy, or to pursue an independent foreign policy. He was also forbidden to create his own administration, and could not impose punishment on the guilty. To satisfy his material needs, the hetman was allocated certain ranked estates with clearly defined profits, but only for the duration of his term in the post.

The Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk and its heritage

The Constitution of Hetman Pylyp Orlyk, adopted in 1710, was an important event in the history of Ukraine and in the formation of Ukrainian statehood. This document enshrined the rights and freedoms of the Ukrainian people, defined the principles of governance, and created the basis for state institutions.

By its adoption, the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk demonstrated the recognition of the national identity of Ukrainians, their desire for self-determination and independence. It was a historic step towards the creation of Ukrainian statehood.

The Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk never came into force, as it was written in exile and its authors were unable to return to Ukraine. However, it has remained in history as an original legal document that, for the first time in Europe, substantiates the possibility of a parliamentary democratic republic.

Thus, the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk remains a symbol of Ukrainian statehood and a historical monument that reminds us of the importance of protecting the rights and freedoms of the Ukrainian people in the modern world.


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