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... Pilip Orlik”s Bendery Constitution ...

Attitude to the identity of Pilip (Philip) Orlik in Ukrainian and Russian historiography is extremely ambiguous. If in Ukrainian history his personality is connected only with the memorable events, in Russian history his name is closely connected with the name of the hetman of Ukraine, odious for many, Ivan Mazepa and the events that were connected with his fate: twenty years of loyal service to the Russian throne, the struggle for the complete independence of Ukraine, betrayal of the Russian Tsar Peter I, incitement of the Ukrainian Cossacks to treason, flight to Turkey, inglorious death. 

Whatever it was, but Pilip Orlik is one of the most interesting figures in Ukrainian history. He was born in 1672 in the village of Kosuti, not far from Vilno. His father was the heir to the old Czech barons, but his mother came from a well-known Belarusian-Lithuanian noble family. Pilip was not yet a year old when his father died, and Orlik had to achieve everything in life with his own work. 

After graduating from the school in Vilna, he entered the Kiev-Mohyla Collegium, which soon received the status of an academy. As his biographers noted, Pilip Orlik was particularly interested in philosophical and theological problems at the academy and, as the overwhelming majority of students, was fluent in Latin as far as in many European languages - Polish, Swedish, French, Bulgarian, Serbian, Italian, German and Greek; had a lush eloquence inherent in the Baroque style; was able to write letters, memorials, appeals, manifestos and other documents in a clear and logical manner. He is said to be gifted by a talent for writing. 

After graduation from the academy, an educated and literate student was immediately noticed and was taken to the post of clerk of the Kiev Metropolis. Subsequently, he became a clerk in the General Office of the Zaporizhzhya troops. Hetman of Ukraine Ivan Mazepa draws attention to Orlik’s ability, and from that moment Orlik’s career is rapidly going up. He became one of the hetman’s closest assistants, took the post of senior clerk, then the manager of the general military office, and finally, in 1706, became the chief clerk of the Zaporizhia army. Then Orlik, like the disgraced hetman I. Mazepa, falls into a whirlwind of military and personal upheavals. 

In 1709, after the defeat in the Battle of Poltava, Pilip Orlik, along with the remnants of the Swedish army and Zaporizhzhya Cossacks, arrived in the city of Bendery, where in 1710, after Mazepa’s death, he was elected hetman of Ukraine and remained virtually in exile until the end of his days. On April 5, 1710, Orlik put everything at stake - his future, the future of his family, his wife and five children, his property, and doomed himself to eternal misadventures and hardships. 

The name of Orlik is not forgotten in Ukraine: the Pilip Orlik award was instituted, the State Bank of Ukraine issued a coin with his image. In 1993 in Kiev, one of the streets was named after him. In 1997, a stamp with the image of Orlik was issued, it was published in a series dedicated to the hetmans of Ukraine. In 2006, a monument his honor was erected. In Belarus, in the village where he was born, a memorial plate was installed, a museum-chapel dedicated to him was opened. 

April 5, 1710, at the walls of the Bender Fortress (according to one of the versions in the second camp of Charles XII - in the Dniester bend), in the presence of the Swedish military leaders and the Turkish garrison of the fortress, Cossack foreman Pilip Orlik was declared to be the new hetman of Ukraine. After the ceremony, he set out the text of the document, known in history as the "Covenants" or "Bendery Constitution", actually entitled as "Covenants and Constitutions of Laws and Liberties of the Zaporozhian Army". At its core, this document was a contract between the hetman monarch and the free Ukrainian Cossacks. 

In its spirit and democracy in that era, when absolute monarchy was the main principle of the state system even in the most progressive European countries, Orlik’s constitution can be called unique. Unique, first of all, in that the idea of separation of power into three branches (legislative, judicial and executive) was formulated not by well-known European philosophers, but by a rather young newly elected hetman of the barely known Little Russia. 

According to Ukrainian historians, the constitution of Pilip Orlik was the first written constitution in the world, which was written 77 years before the first constitution of the United States and 81 years before the first constitution of France. The constitutions of Poland and Spain appeared much later. By the way, the constitution in Russia appeared only in the Soviet period of its history. 

The fate of Orlik and his constitution, which came down to us in two versions - in Latin and in the Old Ukrainian language - was not easy. Currently, the original Latin version of the constitution is stored in the historical archive of Sweden. 

Orlik himself, if judged objectively, did much more, or at least tried to do for the independence of Ukraine, than his teacher, Ivan Mazepa, who is given much more honors in modern Ukraine. We must not forget that both Mazepa and Orlik will always be controversial figures in the relations between the official authorities of Ukraine and Russia, since in the history of these two countries there are two versions of joint historical ties. 

The first, the most widely interpreted, is the version of Ukraine’s development under the wing of its elder brother, Russia, i.e., the brother who saved “Okrain” of the Slavic Orthodox world from being taken over by Catholic Poland and Lithuania, as well as Muslim Turkey. And according to this version, Little Russia was forced to historically become the autonomy of Russia and subsequently one of its integral parts. Perhaps this version is the most confirmed by time and factual data and, perhaps, it is this development of events that determined the very existence of modern Ukraine. But one cannot ignore the second version, which is currently widely and in detail represented in Ukrainian historiography: despite the help of the brotherly people of Russia, Ukraine has always sought for complete independence not only from Poland, Lithuania or Turkey, but also from neighboring Russia. Based on this, the actions of the same Pilip Orlik are evaluated. 

Starting in 1708, when Russian pressure on the hetman increased, Peter I’s plans to liquidate and enslave the Ukrainian Cossacks and transfer the entire Little Russia to Prince Menshikov became known, Pilip Orlik became one of the active participants in the creation of the Ukrainian-Swedish alliance. After the defeat of the Swedes in the Battle of Poltava, the flight to the Turkish Bender, and after Orlik was elected hetman of right-bank Ukraine, in addition to the constitution, he also announced the oath he had signed, in which he pledged to put all forces into the struggle for Ukraine’s independence from the foreign yoke, implying including Petrovsky Muscovy. This is what explains his further actions. 

Being in Bendery, Orlik, relying on the support of the Cossacks and an alliance confirmed by the relevant diploma of  May 10, 1710 with the Swedish king Charles XII, concluded the Ukrainian-Crimean treaty of alliance in 1711 and the Ukrainian-Turkish treaty of 1712, on the basis of which to organize an anti-Moscow coalition. After an unsuccessful campaign on the White Church and the expulsion of the Swedish king from Bender, in 1714, at the request of Karl Orlik, he moved to Sweden, and in 1720 - to Germany. Staying incognito he has been living for some time in Poland and France, and already from 1722 until his death on the territory of the Ottoman Empire - in Greece, Budjack, Moldova. 

Throughout his émigré life, Orlik sought support in France, Sweden, Poland, Saxony, Britain, Hanover, Holstein, the Vatican in resolving the political issue of recognizing Ukraine independent of Moscow. He even tried to form his own armed forces and raise the New Sich against the Russian Empire. However, all his attempts failed, that is, despite all his incredible efforts, deprivation and hardship suffered in emigration, the ruined fates of his relatives, Pilip Orlik did not cause any real harm to the Russian Empire. Despite all, he never broke the oaths, given under the walls of the Bendery fortress on April 5, 1710.  Orlik's constitution created the possibility of a compromise between the three main political forces that competed among themselves in Ukraine and now, after losing the war with Moscow, in emigration. The conflicting interests of the parties were harmoniously coordinated in this state-legal act, which was to be the constitution of Ukraine and, at the same time, the manifesto of the state will of the Ukrainian nation to the entire civilized world.  From this point of view, the Bendery Constitution of 1710 was the creation of a collective Ukrainian political thought, the result of those discussions and discussions that were carried out in exile in the winter of 1709-1710, and maybe even during Mazepa’s lifetime. There is every reason to think that Pilip Orlik himself was the chief editor of the Bendery Constitution. 

The text of the Bendery Constitution consists of an introduction (preamble) and 16 covenants. The preamble is an interesting historical and political treatise, in which the idea of primordial to Ukrainian statehood is expressed, the history of Ukrainian-Moscow relations is recounted, starting with the Pereyaslav Agreement in 1654 and ending with the “revolution” of Mazepa. 

The Constitution defines the independent state "Zaporozhian Troops and the Russian People" as a class of a parliamentary type and defines its borders. Bendery Constitution provided state-territorial, military-political and economic rights, as well as the interests of Zaporozhye. Hetman's power assumed the basic obligations to protect the borders of the state, as well as to clean the cities of Ukraine from Moscow garrisons and various external taxes. 

The main attention in the Bendery Constitution was given to ensuring the political interests of a large senior officer, i.e., a kind of parliament opposing the hetman absolutism, which was noted in the preamble to the constitution, which condemned the practice of "former hetmans of the troops of Zaporizhia ", which went on an alliance with Muscovy. 

The parliament was supposed to meet "at the residence of the hetman" three times a year: at Christmas, Easter and Pokrov. Not only the gentlemen colonels with their foremen and centurions, not only general advisers from all the regiments, but also deputies from the Zaporozhian Ground Forces were invited to these councils. 

Each of the permanent members of the General Council had to respect the hetman, and the hetman, had to respect members of parliament, i.e., “keep them for society, and not for servants.” The Constitution also limited the rights of the hetman in the field of legal proceedings, expanded the competence of the General Military Court. Finance, land ownership - everything was transferred to the management of the General Council, and any corruption was strictly prohibited. Hetman was forbidden to receive income from other lands besides his patrimonial estates.

The Bender Constitution paid attention also to the position of the broad masses of the people and the social and economic problems of that Ukraine-Hetmanate in general. Getman was obliged to "not to do the burden and taxes" for the simple Cossacks. In general, it was promised to alleviate the situation of the Cossacks and the "poor people". 

This is the main content of the Bendery Constitution of 1710. It did not become the state law of Ukraine-Hetmanate. Further development of historical events did not allow the plans and dreams of the authors of this landmark document to be realized, which became a synthesis of state political creativity of Mazepa like-minded people, but the influence of the Bendery constitution on the Ukrainian political ideology of the 18th century was indisputable. Hetman Pilip Orlik and other leaders of the Ukrainian emigration always, until the end of their lives, recognized the basic principles of this constitution as a law for themselves and their political activities. 

Studying modern critical publications devoted to the Orlik Constitution, one comes to the conclusion that critics unequivocally evaluate this document from modern positions, i.e. they take as a basis modern constitutional law, the position and structure of modern constitutions. However, this event happened 300 years ago and should be considered from the standpoint of those times and those political and historical realities that differed significantly from modern ones. 

On April 9, 2010, a monument in the form of a book dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of Orlik was solemnly opened on the territory of the Bendery fortress, near the eastern wall of the Citadel. The event was attended by representatives of the leadership of the Transnistria, the leadership of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, representatives of numerous public organizations of Ukraine and Transnistria. The fortress museum contains a photocopy of the original Constitution, made in Kiev during the exposition of museums and libraries in Sweden devoted to the “Poltava” period of Swedish history. 

The history of the Bendery fortress is interesting by itself, in which the fates of historical characters of Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and other states are intertwined. Gradually, a memorial ensemble dedicated to the commanders of the Russian Imperial Army, who influenced the fortunes of the city and fortress or laid their heads at its walls grows within the fortress. Buildings of a small memorial ensemble dedicated to Turkish fortress builders, the Swedish king Karl XII, and Ukrainian Cossacks are planned. 

Of course, not the small part of the Cossacks, who came under the walls of the Bendery fortress after the defeat of the Swedish army near Poltava, but the large part that had a significant impact on the development of the history of the Transnistrian region, which for the first time, long before Panin, assaulted the Turkish fortress along with the Moldavian troops, the part which participated in the assault of the fortress as part of numerous Little Russian and Campanian regiments in the Russian army, in 1770, and gave their lives for its liberation from Turkish domination. 

Georgy Vilkov. Published in the book "The Northern War and Transnistria: Past and Present." p. 128. Publication of PSU of  T.G. Shevchenko, Polygraphist, Bender, 2010

The first sheet of the Constitution

Memorable sign of the Constitution of Orlyk in the Bender fortress


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