Baturyn is a town with a rich history that has been the residence of Ukrainian hetmans in 1669- 1708. Today there is a historical and cultural reserve «Hetmanska Stolytsia» («Hetman’s Capital») in the historic center of Baturyn, which consists of 39 objects of historical, archaeological, natural, and architectural significance.
Baturyn was founded in 1575, during the reign of the Polish king Stefan Batoriy, as a northern outpost of the Zaporizhyan Cossacks. In 1669, the town and fortress became the official capital for hetmans of the Left-Bank Ukraine and remained their residence during the rule of such hetmans as Demian Mnohohrishniy, Ivan Samoilovych, and Ivan Mazepa. Baturyn fortifications were represented by the stout wooden fortress, which was a typical Cossack defense structure with high wooden walls and towers, encircled by a moat and earthen ramparts. Inside the fortress there were kureni (barracks) and Voskresenska Church (the church of Christ’s Resurrection), which is an example of the wooden religious architecture in a special Cossack style.
Later, additional stone buildings appeared outside of the fortress, which were Mazepa’s palace in the style of Ukrainian Barogue, the regimental treasury, the judicial chamber and others. The judicial chamber built in 1670 is the only building in the fortress to have survived to this day. Other buildings of the hetman’s capital were destroyed during the 1708 storm of Baturyn, nowadays known as the Baturyn tragedy. To the 300lh anniversary of the tragedy, in 2008, the architectural complex of the hetman’s capital has been recreated by historical descriptions and turned into a historical and cultural reserve. The reserve museums contain over 15,000 exhibits, which are mostly items of Cossack usage. Among them, there are icons, coins, pendant crosses, ceramics, pistols and cannons, arrowheads and pikes, swords and many other objects. Many of the artifacts are the archaeological finds discovered during excavationsrin Baturyn.
Since 1700, the judicial chamber building served as the residence of Judge General – Vasyl Kochubey. There is a romantic and dramatic story associated with the Kochubey family that became the prologue of the Baturyn tragedy. The Judge General was an important figure at the hetman’s court.
Besides his high office he also had a personal relationship with Mazepa, who he had baptized his daughter Motrona. Yet it happened so, that the girl grew up and fell in love with the hetman, who was in love with her, too. In 1704, being over 60 years old, Mazepa asked Kochubey for permission to marry his sixteen-year-old daughter Motrona. The Judge General was resented by this offer; not only the age difference could prevent this marriage, but also the Christian tradition that forbade marriage between a godfather and a goddaughter. It was considered egual to incest and therefore a great sin. Kochubey tried every method to break the relationship of her daughter and the hetman, but the lovers continued to meet secretly. They left love notes for each other in the hollow of an old oak, and appointed dates at the tree. In the site where the tree stood once, there is a memorial plate now.
Having learned about the secret love affair, Kochubey resorted to extreme measures: he knew about the plans of Ivan Mazepa to join the Swedes in the war and wrote a denunciation about the hetman to Petro I. The Russian emperor did not only have complete trust in Mazepa as a politician, but also thought him to be his friend and favorite. He did not believe the denunciation, charged Kochubey with false testimony and sentenced him to death. On July 15, 1708, Kochubey was beheaded in the village of Borschagivka at Bila Tserkva, where there was Mazepa’s camp.
Within two months after the execution of the Judge General, the truth of the denunciation came out: the hetman joined the Swedes. He promised to Charles XII that Swedish troops would spend winter in Baturyn. Enraged by his betrayal, Petro I ordered to seize the hetman’s capital. On October 2, 1708 (some sources suggest it was October 3), Russian troops stormed and destroyed Baturyn completely, massacring more than 14,000 people, including civilian population. Exhausted by the severe winter conditions, the Swedish army was defeated in the Northern War. Mazepa, who escaped from the country, was judged in public. The Orthodox Church cursed the hetman, and Petro I ordered to manufacture a special «honorary» Order of Judas in a single copy for Mazepa. This Order is a valuable historical rarity now.
The last Zaporizhyan hetman Kyrylo Rozumovskiy wanted to restore Baturyn, after he had received this land into his private ownership after abolition of the Zaporizhyan Sich. In 1789, he began construction of a magnificent palace designed by the architect Charles Cameron. The palace in the style of Classicism has a solemn and romantic appearance, reminiscent of an ancient temple. The main facades have massive pediments and colonnades for all of its width, and the side facades have projections under spherical roofs. On either side of the palace they have constructed symmetrical wings, one containing rooms for guests and one consisting of household premises. The entire architectural ensemble is framed by a wide regularly planned park.
Simultaneously with the palace, they have constructed the Church of Resurrection, where Kyrylo Rozumovskiy was buried in 1803 in one of the crypts. After his death, the revival of the former hetman’s residence stopped, and Baturyn has kept in the shadows of history for a long time. Only after Ukraine gained independence, the interest for historical and cultural heritage of the country has increased naturally, and affected Baturyn at last. Rozumovskiy palace, which had declined in the 20th century, has been restored, its wings have been renovated, as well as the nearby Church of the Resurrection, the attached parish school, the fortifications of Baturyn fortress and other buildings.