Hetmans’ Land Donations to the Orthodox Church: Motives and Expectations


  • Oksana Prokopyuk




donation, communication, hetmans, Orthodox Church, 17th–18th centuries


Hetmans’ donations to the Orthodox Church were characteristic of the religious and political culture of the Cossack state already in the era of its emergence in the mid-17th century. In addition to other gifts, hetmans confirmed or provided Orthodox monasteries with land ownership, which was at the center of identity, power, and social prestige. It is clear that certain concrete motives, expectations, and models of behavior stood behind the hetmans’ donations of land. This article suggests considering hetmans’ donations of land to the Orthodox Church as an element of symbolic communication, in which the giver and the recipient interacted, built symbolic communicative ties, and produced centers of communication. The focus is on “communication through donations,” that is, relationships of giving. Religious motivations and the recognition of monasteries as powerful centers of prayer were determinative for the hetmans’ “communication through donations” to the monasteries. The hetmans’ giving land and other real estate to monasteries was based on “piety,” but it was done in the name of Christ-loving rulers. So, in such donations it is quite natural that state interests were prevalent, but also there were complex combinations of religious, social, and political motivations and expectations. These characteristics were evident both in a general sense and in each specific instance of gifting.