Peter the Great: Emperor of All Russia

By Ian Grey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXX
Mazepa

COMING at a time when Charles's army had been seriously weakened, Mazepa's betrayal was a bitter disappointment and constituted a serious threat. Mazepa might even succeed in persuading the Cossacks of the Ukraine and the Zaporozhye to follow him. The Crimean Tatars, finding so strong a force arrayed against the Tsar, would not hesitate to join with them. The revolts among the Cossacks of the Don and the Volga, and among the Bashkirs, which had only just been quelled, would break out afresh. Such were the direct results to be expected from Mazepa's defection. But Peter's greatest fear was that the Ottoman Porte, seeing Russia challenged on nearly every side, would again declare war.

Peter at once took action to hold the Ukrainian and Zaporozhsky Cossacks from following Mazepa. He posted dragoon regiments where they could obstruct any movement to join the Swedes; he ordered Menshikov to assemble all Cossack elders and urge them to go to the Tsar's camp to elect a new hetman; he closed his letter with an order to Menshikov to come himself with all speed.1 On the same night he summoned representatives of the Zaporozhsky Cossacks and the leading Ukrainian churchmen as well as the colonels of all Ukrainian regiments, to his camp.2

On the next day (28 October) formal ukazi were proclaimed designed to win the support of the Ukraine and of the Zaporozhye, especially by reviving fears of religious persecution by the Catholic Poles.3 Similar proclamations were circulated to towns on the lower Don.4

After this spate of orders, Peter wrote to Apraxin to congratulate

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