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There is not the slightest doubt that Hetman Ivan Mazepa was totally dedicated to the ideal of Ukrainian statehood, and to the ideal of a united Ukrainian independent state. These ideals he inherited from his Ukrainian ancestors; he received this heritage from his predecessors — Ukrainian hetmans — from Khmelnytsky down to Samoylovych. These ideals were his guideposts during his entire political and cultural activity, and these same ideals he passed on as heritage to future Ukrainian generations.
The era of Mazepa constitutes the signal time of the rebirth of Ukraine, its political, economic and cultural renaissance after the period of the Ruin, which destroyed the great designs of Khmelnytsky, Vyhovsky and Doroshenko, limited Ukrainian statehood to the territory of the left-bank Dnieper, confronted the Hetman’s authority with the growing power of the Kozak officer aristocracy and left Ukraine at the mercy of Muscovite imperialism.
The basie objectives of Mazepa’s policies as Hetman of Ukraine, were as follows:
1. Unity (or at least a consolidation) of Ukrainian lands — the Hetmanstate (Hetmanshchyna), the territory on the right-bank of the Dnieper River, the Zaporozhian lands, and if possible, also Slobidska Ukraine and that of the Khans, within the framework of a unified and sovereign Ukrainian state under the Hetmanite regime;
2. Establishment of a strong autocratic Hetmanite authority and class state of a European type, with the preservation of the traditional system of Kozak administration.
Both these objectives defined the policies of Mazepa in all nuances and fluctuations with respect to Poland, Turkey (and the Crimea), and above all, Muscovy.
Mazepa in principle was neither a Russophile nor an enemy of Moscow, although he knew well the tragic history of Ukrainian-Russian relations. With regard to Moscow he conducted a two-pronged połicy, whenever it
was necessary for the attainment of his principal objectives, and, of course, whenever it was possible to do so.
He considered coexistence with Moscow possible on the basis of the Treaty of Pereyaslav, concluded by Bohdan Khmelnytsky, for such was the political reality which he inherited from his predecessors, and it seemed to him that it was a unique opportunity to realize the principal Ukrainian national objectives in a union with and the assistance of Moscow, as far as Poland, Turkey (and the Crimea) were concerned.
Moreover, the Hetman needed Moscow’s support to cope with and hold in proper limits the growing opposition of his Kozak officers and to impede the increasing waves of social dissatisfaction and protest.
The so-called «Russophilism» of Mazepa in the first period of his reign was part of his two-pronged general policy, in the same manner as his break with Moscow did not stem from nor was it motivated by some innate hostility to Moscow; it stemmed from a deep dedication to the interest of Ukraine and from his love for his own country.
By his brilliant tactics he succeeded in attaining the most important part of his principal objective — recovering the Ukrainian territory on the right-bank of the Dnieper River, despite the fact that Poland was an ally of Moscow during the entire period of his reign.
By his wise and systematic, as well as hard and patient policy, Mazepa succeeded in raising Ukrainian economy and culture to a very high level, in maintaining a social equilibrium in the country, and in creating a new leading strata of society, devoted and obligated to him, which in turn could paralyze the destructive tendencies of the officers’ opposition, and which could be brought into the riverbed of constructive political coexistence.
Everything that a man could attain in his place, Mazepa attained with brilliant success and eclat.
But the first so-called «Russian» course of his policies led Mazepa eventually into an impasse and created a great danger for the Ukrainian state. Not only did Mazepa take advantage of Moscow, but the latter availed itself of equal opportunity and took great advantages of Mazepa, and even more of the power and resources of Ukraine.
Then Mazepa channeled the Ukrainian state policies to the other course, which, at least theoretically, was always open to him — the break with Moscow, which led to the armed conflict with it. He pursued that course only when the first course was closed for him as ruler of Ukraine and Ukrainian patriot, and when, according to him (and not him alone) the conditions for it were the most propitious and most opportune: not a Polish or Turko-Tatar alliance, but an alliance with the most powerful enemy of Moscow at that time — Sweden. It seemed that another political conjecture presented itself, which was available to Khmelnytsky and Vyhovsky.
But, regrettably, the transition from one political course to another was effectuated under the circumstances least dependent on him and most unfavorable for him and his cause.
Ukraine could have attained its full liberation from the Moscovite domination only as a result of a new Khmelnytsky era — a national revolution against Moscow — or as a result of a military victory over the latter. The first possibility required full national and social solidarity, which Ukraine lacked at that time; the second possibility depended totally on the Swedish victory, which never happened.
It was too late for the Zaporozhian Host to realize what a true father of Ukraine was Mazepa whom they had come to call «step-father».
At Poltava, on June 27, 1709 Moscow emerged victorious and that decided the fate of Mazepa and Ukraine. But Moscow, both White and Red, failed to defeat Mazepa as a spiritual spokesman of the Ukrainian ideal. It failed to defeat and destroy him. In Hrushevsky’s words, death flew over the Ukrainian nation, and it not only has survived the 250 years of Russian slavery, but it has found its rebirth and today it is much stronger ideologically as against the Russian opponent than it was in the times of Peter I. This is why Moscow even today with fanatical vehemence and violent hatred conducts a struggle against the name and symbol of Mazepa, a struggle which it knows it can never win.