Ukraine to celebrate Cossack ‘Judas’ with UNESCO
Ukraine’s ministry of culture has announced a memorial service for Hetman Ivan Mazepa, scheduled for June 11 at the All Saints’ Church of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. The ceremony honoring the 17th-century cossack leader who betrayed Russia for Sweden is being organized with the support of UNESCO.
According to the ministry, “for the first time in the history of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, a memorial service will be held for its pious patron and founder, Hetman Ivan Mazepa, who was cursed by the Russian Imperial Church during his lifetime for his unwillingness to submit to Muscovy.”
Culture Minister Alexander Tkachenko will be in attendance, along with Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi, UNESCO’s liaison to Ukraine. The UN cultural agency is also helping fund the restoration work on the church, the ministry said.
The ministry claims Mazepa’s money helped build the All Saints’ Church, and that the service is also meant to honor the 325th anniversary of its consecration. The memorial service will be led by Archimandrite Avramiy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), the non-canonical organization established by the government of President Pyotr Poroshenko after the US-backed coup in 2014.
The government in Kiev is currently trying to evict the remaining monks of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the historic monastery, founded in 1051, unless they join the OCU.
In Russian history, Mazepa is known as a traitor and oath-breaker. Having previously fought in service of Emperor Peter the Great against Poland-Lithuania, he switched allegiances to Poland and Sweden in 1708, at the height of the Great Northern War. Only 3,000 cossacks followed him, however, with the others pledging allegiance to Russia.
After the decisive Russian victory in the June 1709 Battle of Poltava, Mazepa fled with Charles XII of Sweden to the Ottoman Empire, and died at the fortress of Bendery (in present-day Moldova) later that year.
To mark Mazepa’s treachery, Peter commissioned a one-of-a-kind medal called the “Order of Judas,” depicting the cossack as the silver-loving betrayer of Christ. Mazepa was also damned and excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Modern Ukrainian nationalists have chosen to honor Mazepa as a national hero, however. Poroshenko and his successor Vladimir Zelensky have named multiple streets after the cossack, and put his portrait on the ten-hryvnia banknote, which entered circulation in 2020.