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Zaporizhia (Ukrainian: Запорожжя, Zaporozhzhya; Polish: Zaporoże or Dzikie Pola (Wild Fields or Savage Steppe), Russian: Запоро́жье, Zaporozhye) is a historical region in central Ukraine below the Dnieper River rapids (porohy, poroża, hence the name, literally "territory beyond the rapids"). From the 16th to 18th centuries Zaporizhia was a semi-independent quazi-republican Cossack territory with the centre at the Zaporizhian Sich.
Zaporizhia was the name of the territory of the Cossack state, the Zaporozhian Host, whose fortified capital was the Zaporizhian Sich. From the 15th century to the late 17th century it was fought over by Muscovy, the Polish Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire, as well as by the Hetmans of Central Ukraine (after 1648). For most of that time it was technically controlled by Poland, but it was rarely peaceful, and was widely regarded (from the perspective of the claimant governments) as turbulent and dangerous, the refuge of outlaws and bandits. In the eyes of the vast majority of the Ukrainian people, however, it was a promised land of heroes and free men (as later described in the poetry of Taras Shevchenko).In addition to many invasions by neighbouring countries, inhabitants of the Zaporozhe had to deal with an influx of new settlers from all directions and conflicts between the szlachta (Polish nobility) and independent Cossacks, who enjoyed a kind of autonomy in the region. Further, Cossacks often raided the nearby rich lands of the Ottoman Empire,retaliating for the constant slave raids of the Tatars against Ukrainian territories as far west as Galicia, in return provoking raids by Ottoman vassals, the Tatars.
After the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav, the state became a suzerainty of Muscovy, and was split in two. The Cossack Hetmanate of Left-bank Ukraine had its capital at Chyhyryn, and later at Baturyn and Hlukhiv.
The more independent Army of Lower Zaporozhia was centered at the Old Sich (Stara Sich). In 1709, Tsar Peter I ordered the destruction of the Old Sich, forcing the Zaporozhian Cossacks to flee to Oleshky, on the Black Sea in Ottoman territory. In 1734, the Russians allowed the Cossacks to re-establish their republic as the Free Lands of the Zaporozhian Host, based at the New Sich (Nova Sich), but brought in many foreign settlers, and destroyed the Sich for good in 1775, incorporating the territory into New Russia.
During the turbulent times of 16th and 17th centuries, Zaporizhia was a highly unstable region, subject to constant incursions by the Ottoman Empire, torn by warfare as well as internal strife. Historians estimate, that an average peasant's hut did not last over 10 years. In the years 1605-1633, for example, Red Ruthenian lands suffered 100,000 people taken captive by the Ottomans, and 24,000 dead; in the first half of the 17th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, controlling Zaporizhia, lost approximately 300,000 of people due to the Ottoman raids.
- Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks
- Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth#Voivodships of Lesser Poland
- Dmytro Yavornytsky, historian of the Zaporozhian Cossacks.
- Podhorodecki, Leszek (1978). Stanisław Koniecpolski ok. 1592–1646. Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej. P.148-150
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