Registered Cossacks

Last updated
Zaporozhian Host
Active1572 - 1648
Country Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Allegiance Poland
Branchland forces
Roleinfantry (primarily)/ cavalry
Sizeup to 40,000 (1649)
Garrison/HQTrechtymirów (Trakhtemyriv), Kiev Voivodeship
Engagements Livonian War, Moldavian Magnate Wars, Polish–Ottoman War, Polish–Muscovite War
Petro Sahaidachny, Mykhailo Doroshenko, others
Ostap Dashkevych, ideologue of Registry Cossack Army Muzeum Slaskie - Jan Matejko - Ostatni Daszkiewicz 02.jpg
Ostap Dashkevych, ideologue of Registry Cossack Army
Registered Cossack's attire 12. Ukr kozak.jpg
Registered Cossack's attire

Registered Cossacks (Ukrainian : Реєстрові козаки, Rejestrovi kozaky, Russian : Реестровые казаки, Rejestrovye kаzaki, Polish : Kozacy rejestrowi) comprised special Cossack units of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth army in the 16th and 17th centuries. [1]


Registered Cossacks became a military formation of the Commonwealth army beginning in 1572 [2] soon after the Union of Lublin (1569), when most of the territory of modern Ukraine passed to the Crown of Poland. Registered Cossack formations were based on the Zaporozhian Cossacks who already lived on the lower reaches of the Dnieper River amidst the Pontic steppes as well as on self-defense formations within settlements in the region of modern Central and Southern Ukraine.


Historically, the first official plan for the creation of Cossack formations as a border service was brought to the State Council of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1524 by Semen Polozovic and Kristof Kmitic. However, due to the lack of funds, the idea was not realized. The starosta of Cherkasy, Ostap Dashkevych, revived the idea at the 1533 council in Piotrków Trybunalski. Dashkevych tried to show that in order to protect the borders beyond the Dnieper it would be necessary to maintain an army of 2,000 soldiers and several hundred cavalrymen. He pointed out the importance of establishing forts on the river's islands to keep Tatar raids in check.

On July 21, 1541 the King of Poland, Sigismund I the Old, issued an edict to the starosta of Cherkasy, Andrei Glebovich Pronsky (?-1557, a descendant of the Pronsk princes), [3] in which he strictly warned Pronsky to control the Cossack raids against Tatar uluses. With the start of the Livonian War in the 16th century, the voivode of Kiev, Konstanty Wasyl Ostrogski, and the starosta of Cherkasy, Alexander Wiśniowecki, recruited Cossacks to their armies, while in 1568 King Sigismund II Augustus sent a proposition to the Zaporizhian Sich to join his foreign campaign and sign up for royal service.

Sigismund II Augustus decreed the formation of registered Cossacks on June 5, 1572 [2] when the King confirmed the orders of Great Crown Hetman Jerzy Jazłowiecki, the voivode of Podole and Ruthenia, for state service. [4] The first commander, called starszy ("elder") of the registered cossacks was Jan Badowski. [2] The registered Cossacks were the only military Cossack formation recognized by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. [2]

Seniors of the Registered Cossacks
1572 Jan Badowski [4]
1575 Bohdan Ruzhynsky
1578 Michał Wiśniowiecki [4]
1600 Havrylo Krutnevych [4]
1603 Ivan Kuchkovych [4]
1618 Petro Konashevych [4]
1622 Olifer Holub [4] elected by Cossacks
1623 Mykhailo Doroshenko [4] last hetman, replaced by a commissar

Batory and Wars in Livonia, Moldavia and Muscovy

The most well-known of the first recorded Cossack reforms came from King of Poland Stefan Batory. [5] At first Batory tried to control Cossack forces that were waging wars in Moldavia and Wallachia as well as other parts of the Ottoman Empire. On 4 April 1578 he issued four universals to all local government officials. He asked them to support Jan Tarlo in an investigation of the coup-d'etat by Zaporozhian leader Ivan Pidkova. The coup overthrew the Ottoman-installed Hospodar of Moldavia, Peter the Lame, in 1577 under a pretense that Ivan was the brother of the previous voivode of Moldavia, John III the Terrible. Batory also ordered the voivode of Kiev, Konstanty Wasyl Ostrogski, to send a punitive expedition against Pidkova and asked the mayors of Khmilnyk, Bar, Bratslav, Vinnytsia, Bila Tserkva and others to support him. At the same time Batory sent his ambassador Marcin Broniowski to the Khan of Crimea proposing cooperative actions against the Zaporizhian Sich.

On July 27, 1578 Batory sent ambassador Jancsi Bereg to the Zaporozhian host proposing the Cossacks redirect their raids from Moldavia to Muscovy. To further discuss the proposition, a delegation headed by Andriy Lykhansky arrived in Lviv on September 15, 1578. The next day [4] it was agreed that 500 Cossacks would be enlisted for fifteen florins each per year. Starosta of Cherkasy and Kaniv, Prince Michał Wiśniowiecki, was appointed hetman while his deputy was Jan Oryszowski. [4] The Cossacks headquarters was established at Trakhtemyriv (today a village in Cherkasy Raion) with its monastery, which was used as the Cossacks' hospital. The Cossacks were given a banner that denoted their relationship to the state army and were promised by Bereg to be paid in Cherkasky on Saint Nicolas Day. [4] The Cossacks evidently were paid only after the Siege of Pskov in 1581. Even though the official register consisted of only 500 names, in reality the contingent of registered Cossacks numbered around 4,000.

Batory's military reform, however, was not effective. The Polish government promised to pay the Cossacks' salary, but often did not do so. The Cossacks frequently and proudly pledged their allegiance to serve the King of Poland and hoped for the same financial compensation at least as the regular army. Due to the hold ups in pay some Cossacks returned to raiding the Tatars and Moldavians. [4]

Number of Registered Cossacks
1572300 [2]
1578600 [2]
1583600 [6]
15901,000 [7]

In 1590 the Sejm issued a new declaration recreating the Cossack units. A king's edict was issued on July 25, 1590 through which 1,000 cossacks were registered for policing duty in order to prevent unauthorized raids into neighboring countries. [4] The registered cossacks were paid from 5 to 12 zloty each quarter and the Zaporizhian Sich was selected to be their headquarters. [4] As the Polish interests were aimed in securing the Swedish crown, however, the Cossack movement was allowed to grow out of control, leading to a series of local rebellions by polkovnyk Krzysztof Kosiński and Severyn Nalyvaiko, with assistance from kosh otaman of the Zaporozhian Cossacks Hryhoriy Loboda. [8]


Registered Cossacks formed an elite among the Cossacks, serving in the military under officers ( starshyna ), colonels ( polkovnyk ) and generals ( hetman ), under the Grand Crown Hetman (the highest Commonwealth military commander). A substantial minority of Cossacks formed skilled light cavalry units ( choragiew ), excellent skirmishers trained in mounted archery (and later using firearms), making lightning raids, harassing heavier, slower formations and disengaging. Those units were often used as support for heavy elite Commonwealth cavalry, the husaria, and were much cheaper to form than a hussar unit. The main Cossack units were the infantry, known for their tabor formation.

Registered Cossacks had many privileges, including personal freedom, exemption from many taxes and duties, and the right to receive wages, although the Commonwealth military's fiscal problems, led to delayed payments, often via items like clothing or weapons instead of coin.

Many Cossacks were skilled warriors and their major income source came from raids on the southern neighbors of the Commonwealth: the (Ottoman Empire and its vassals). However, only a small number were actually 'registered Cossacks'; the exact number was from few hundred to few thousand and varied over time, usually increasing during wartime. This led to many social and political tensions, especially as szlachta (Polish and Ukrainian gentry) continually attempted to force the Cossacks into submission as peasants, while the Cossacks demanded significant expansions of the Cossack register. Furthermore, the Cossack-szlachta conflict was aggravated as Cossacks often supported Commonwealth monarchs like Wladyslaw IV Waza who were at odds with Polish szlachta who wished to further limit the monarch's powers. The tensions between the Cossacks and szlachta grew from the late 16th century and resulted in several uprisings with the registered Cossacks often forced to choose sides between supporting their own people or the szlachta-backed Commonwealth forces.

Eventually the king's refusal to expand the registry led to the Khmelnytsky uprising of 1648. A Russian-Polish alliance was formed against Bohdan Khmelnitsky, with his Cossacks being declared rebels against all order. Don Cossack raids on Crimea left Khmelnitsky without the aid of his usual Tatar allies. The rebellion ended with the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav in which Khmelnitsky's Cossacks, so as to destroy the Russian-Polish alliance against them, pledged their loyalty to the Russian Tsar, who guaranteed their protection, the recognition of their starshyna (officer-nobility) and their property and autonomy under his rule, freeing the Cossacks from the Polish sphere of influence in favor of Russian hegemony. Despite this, the Registered Cossacks remained an official unit of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth army until 1699, with individual Cossacks travelling to the Commonwealth to enroll in its ranks.

Cossack Hetmanate

According to the Treaty of Zboriv, signed on August 17, 1649, the number of Registered Cossacks increased up to forty thousand.

The Regiments of Registered Cossacks in 1649. [9]
#HeadquartersNumber of Registered Cossacks
1 Bila Tserkva 2990
2 Bratslav 2662
3 Cherkasy 2990
4 Chernihiv 998
5 Chyhyryn 3220
6 Kalnyk 2050
7 Kaniv 3167
8 Kiev 2002
9 Korsun 3470
10 Kropyvna 1993
11 Myrhorod 3009
12 Nizhyn 991
13 Pereyaslav 2986
14 Poltava 2970
15 Pryluky 1996
16 Uman 2977

Related Research Articles

Bohdan Khmelnytsky Hetman of Zaporozhian Cossacks

Zynoviy Bohdan Khmelnytsky was a Ukrainian Hetman of the Zaporozhian Host, then in the Polish Crown of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. He led an uprising against the Commonwealth and its magnates (1648–1654) that resulted in the creation of a state led by the Cossacks. In 1654, he concluded the Treaty of Pereyaslav with the Moscow Tsar and thus allied the Cossack Hetmanate with Tsardom of Muscovy.

Cossacks Mixed ethnic group from the territory of present-day Ukraine and Southern Russia

The Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic Orthodox Christian people, who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities originating in the steppes of Eastern Europe. They inhabited sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper, Don, Terek, and Ural River basins, and played an important role in the historical and cultural development of both Ukraine and Russia.

Hetman Historical political and military title in Central and Eastern Europe

Hetman is a political title from Central and Eastern Europe, historically assigned to military commanders.

Zaporozhian Cossacks

The Zaporozhian Cossacks, Zaporozhian Cossack Army, Zaporozhian Host or simply Zaporozhians were Cossacks who lived beyond the Dnieper Rapids, the land also known under the historical term Wild Fields in today's Central Ukraine and Eastern Ukraine. Today much of the territory is flooded by the waters of Kakhovka Reservoir.

Andrzej Potocki

Andrzej Potocki was a Polish nobleman, magnate, politician, general and military commander. He held a number of political and military positions and was a skilled commander and successfully protected the Eastern Borderlands of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from the invading armies of Ottoman Turkey, Cossacks and Tatars.

Hetmans of Ukrainian Cossacks

Hetman of Zaporizhian Cossacks is a historical term that has multiple meanings.

Kosiński uprising

Kosiński uprising (1591–1593) is a name applied to two rebellions in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth organised by Krzysztof Kosiński against the local Ruthenian nobility and magnates.

Zaporozhian Sich 16th–18th-century Cossack polity in modern southern Ukraine

The Zaporozhian Sich was a semi-autonomous polity and proto-state of Cossacks in the 16th to 18th centuries, centred in the region around today's Kakhovka Reservoir and spanning the lower Dnieper river in Ukraine. In different periods the area came under the sovereignty of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Ottoman Empire, the Tsardom of Russia, and the Russian Empire.

Zaporizhzhia (region) historical region in central Ukraine

Zaporizhzhia or Zaporozhzhia is a historical region in central east Ukraine below the Dnieper River rapids - hence the name, literally "(territory) beyond the rapids".

The Moldavian Magnate Wars or Moldavian Ventures refer to the period at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century when the magnates of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth intervened in the affairs of Moldavia, clashing with the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire for domination and influence over the principality.

Cossack Hetmanate 1649–1764 Cossack host in the region of Central Ukraine

The Cossack Hetmanate, officially known as the Zaporizhian Host was a Ukrainian Cossack state in the region of Central Ukraine between 1648 and 1764.

Semen Paliy

Semen Paliy was a Ukrainian Cossack polkovnyk (colonel). Born in Chernihiv region, Paliy settled in Zaporizhian Sich at a very young age and gained fame as a brave fighter and Zaporozhian Cossack.

The Treaty of Bila Tserkva was a peace treaty signed on 28 September 1651, between the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ukrainian Cossacks in the aftermath of the Battle of Bila Tserkva. It was signed for the Poles by Mikołaj Potocki, Marcin Kalinowski, Adam Kisiel, Stanisław Lanckoroński, palatine of Bratslav, Zbigniew Gorajski, castellan of Kyiv, Mikolaj Kazimierz Kossakowski, deputy judge of Bratslav. Signing for Lithuania, were Prince Janusz Radziwill (1612-1655), Palatine Jerzy Karol Hlebowicz, and Wincenty Gosiewski. Signing for the Zaporozhian Host were Bohdan Khmelnytsky "on behalf of the entire host".

Nalyvaiko Uprising

The Nalyvaiko Uprising was a Cossack rebellion against the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Headed by Severyn Nalyvaiko, it lasted from 1594 to 1596. The second in a series of Cossack uprisings, the conflict was ultimately won by the Crown of Poland, but two years of warfare and scorched-earth tactics employed by both sides left much of right-bank Ukraine in ruins.

Battle of Batih Battle of the Khmelnytsky Uprising fought by Poland–Lithuania vs the Zaporozhian Cossacks and Crimean Khanate; decisive Cossack-Crimean victory

The Battle of Batih, also known as the Battle of Batoh, was a battle in 1652 in which Polish-Lithuanian forces under hetman Marcin Kalinowski were defeated by a united army of Crimean Tatars and Zaporozhian Cossacks. A day after the battle the Cossacks bought the Polish captives from the Tatars. In the following two days all the prisoners were slain.

Taras Fedorovych

Taras Fedorovych was a prominent leader of the Dnieper Cossacks, a popular Hetman elected by unregistered Cossacks.

Battle of Zhovti Vody

Battle of Zhovti Vody was the first significant battle of the Khmelnytsky Uprising. The name of the battle derived from a nearby Zhovta River.

Dmytro Vyshnevetsky

Dmytro Ivanovych Vyshnevetsky was a Hetman of the Zaporozhian Cossacks. He was also known as Baida in Ukrainian folk songs.

Ostap Dashkevych

Eustachy Daszkiewicz or Ostap Daszko is considered to be the first recorded leader of a Cossack defense force. However that claim of "first" is debatable because there were many other early leaders, including Bohdan Glinski from Severia and Dmytro Vyshnevetsky.

Ukrainian Peoples Army Army of the Ukrainian Peoples Republic (1917–1921)

The Ukrainian People's Army, also known as the Ukrainian National Army (UNA) or as a derogatory term of Russian and Soviet historiography Petliurovtsi was the army of the Ukrainian People's Republic (1917–1921). They were often quickly reorganized units of the former Imperial Russian Army or newly formed volunteer detachments that later joined the national armed forces. The army lacked a certain degree of uniformity, adequate leadership to keep discipline and morale. Unlike the Ukrainian Galician Army, the Ukrainian People's Army did not manage to evolve a solid organizational structure, and consisted mostly of volunteer units, not regulars.


  1. Registered Cossacks at the Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 (in Ukrainian) Registered Cassacks at the Handbook of the History of Ukraine
  3. РЮРИКОВИЧІ. ПРОНСЬКА ДИНАСТІЯ (Rurikid. Pronsk branch).
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 (in Ukrainian) Реєстрові козаки на державній службі (with reference to Sherbak,V. History of Ukrainian Cossacks: outlines in two volumes. Publishing house "Kiev-Mohyla Academy". Vol.1. Kiev, 2006. p.800)
  5. Hrushevsky 2003, p. 191.
  6. Hrushevsky 2003, p. 210.
  7. Hrushevsky 2003, p. 211.
  8. Hrushevsky 2003, p. 214.
  9. Marek Gędek. Atlas historyczny wojen polskich, pp. 90-91. Bellona, Warszawa 2009. ISBN   978-83-11-11642-9