Hetman of Ukraine Ivan Mazepa is a figure from three centuries ago who still lives today – and lives in two dimensions of reality.
The first is the dimension of historicity. Mazepa was a man of a specific epoch, and in this epoch he was an actor of the first rank. At a time of upheaval in Ukraine, its brief independence, and its division between the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Tsardom of Muscovy, Mazepa was a starring figure on both the domestic and the international stage. The part he played aimed at a Ukrainian state unified from both parts of the partitioned land. In this he seemingly lost. Such was the view for three hundred years. But today his legacy appears revived and his historical role in need of reassessment, one that may well redefine the winners and the losers in the grand geopolitical game of Mazepa's time.
The metamorphosis of Mazepa from a historical personage into a legend began in his own lifetime. His Polish contemporary Jan Pasek first publicized the myth of Mazepa's adulterous love affair which led to punishment by being strapped naked to a horse and released into the wild, to reach, half dead, the land of Ukrainian Cossacks and ultimately become their leader – their hetman. This story, next publicized by Voltaire, spread throughout Europe, and in the Romantic age found expression in literature, art, and music. Through the filter of artistry, Mazepa became an archetype whose meaning varied intriguingly from one poetic imagination to another. This myth of young Mazepa has its antipode in the tale of his last years. Here is a passion of old age for youth, and one forbidden by religious sanction. This love is intertwined with politics, yearning for freedom and independence, perhaps betrayal of friendship and state treason. The ambiguities again allow for multiple interpretations that were explored by yet another host of artists. Their multiplicity, in genres and quantities, has been sufficient to ensure Mazepa life as real in its legendary dimension as in the realm of history.
Further documents relating to Ukrainian history include three land-donation charters signed by Hetman Ivan Mazepa in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. View the: