Cossacks are the first Ukrainian marines

Cossacks are the first Ukrainian marines

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the free Cossacks were a veil between the Ottoman Empire and the possessions of Russia and Poland.

The Cossacks not only defended the Ukrainian lands from the encroachments of Poland and Russia, sometimes fighting on several fronts, but also organized sea campaigns to the Turkish coast. Several times the Cossacks even reached the outskirts of Constantinople. The appearance of their ships on the horizon caused a real panic in the Ottoman settlements.

Navy and traditions

Before the Sea campaign, the Cossacks could usually equip up to 100 ships (up to 70 people could be placed on each strug). The armament consisted of rifles and sabres. Several light guns were also installed on the ships. The fleet was an exceptional force of the Cossacks, because with its help it was possible to deliver an unexpected blow to the heart of the Sultan’s possessions.

The vessels of the Cossacks — flat-bottomed “chaika” — were 20 m long and 3.6 m wide, about 1.6 m high. The displacement of the vessels allowed to accommodate from 40 to 60 people. “Chaikas” had no deck, the sides were knocked off the boards overlapped. To increase the unsinkability of the board, the Cossacks equipped the sides with tied piles of reeds. Light “chaikas” were distinguished by mobility and stability.

But by the end of the XVI century, the Cossacks moved on to the construction of larger and more massive vessels — “Oaks”, reaching a length of up to 45 m, equipped with a deck and an “attic” (cabin). Most often, “Oaks” were called strugs. The Cossacks built their ships on the Dnipro Islands.

Before the Sea campaign, a military veche was held. Candidates of military leaders capable of leading a detachment to the Turkish coast were put forward. If the candidate refused, he could even be killed for cowardice. The same was done with those otamans who got cold feet on the battlefield. At the same time, the Cossack leader, who met the expectations, had unlimited power during the campaign. He could single-handedly judge and punish traitors.

Cossack attack on Kafa in 1616

Cossack attack on Kafa in 1616

Registered Cossacks of the Dnieper region, accepted for Polish military service, received permission from the official representative of the King Hetman. Sometimes the hetmans themselves led the flotilla to the South. So did Petro Sahaidachny (1616-1622).

The Cossacks had to overcome the Dnipro rapids. Once it was here that Prince of Kyiv Svyatoslav Igorovich died in a battle with the Pechenegs. The success of the campaign largely depended on whether the Cossacks could keep secret the news of the approach of their fleet to enemy shores. If the conspiracies were observed, with the appearance of the enemy on the horizon, panic began in the Ottoman settlements. When the Turks managed to find out about the plans of the Cossacks, their fleet blocked the mouth of the Dnipro. The Cossacks, as a rule, did not engage in battle with it, but avoided the obstacle, dragging ships through shallow water.

History of campaigns

The first sea campaigns of the Cossacks to the shores of the Ottoman Empire date back to the middle of the 16th century. In 1538 and 1545, they appeared in Ochakiv, destroyed its walls and took many prisoners. Subsequently, the Zaporozhian Cossacks began to expand the boundaries of their expeditions. In 1575, under the command of Hetman Bohdan Ruzhinsky, they attacked the Tatar Crimea, then swam across the Black Sea and staged a military operation in the cities of Trebizond and Sinop. These cities were already in Asia Minor, in the native Turkish territories. Since then, the Cossack threat acquired the most serious scale for the Ottomans.

During such naval operations, the Cossacks tried not to stray far from the sea. The entire expedition participated in the battles. After landing on the shore, a minimum number of people were left to guard the ships. The Don Cossacks also acted in the same way.

The Golden Age of Cossack sea campaigns can be called the beginning of the 17th century. During this period, the Cossacks appeared even on the outskirts of Constantinople. Settlements near the Turkish capital went bankrupt, after which unexpected guests instantly left the coast. When Turkish ships tried to intercept the Cossacks in 1615, they won a naval battle and captured Kapudan Pasha, the commander of the fleet. In another battle, the Cossacks were helped by co-religionists, whom the Ottomans used as slaves on galleys. In the midst of the battle, the slaves refused to row. The grateful Cossacks freed all the slaves. By the way, the letter from Repin’s famous painting was a response to the Sultan’s ultimatum, which demanded to stop sea campaigns.

“Cossacks write a letter to the Turkish sultan”