The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a very important uprising of peasants and cossacks in 1768 in the Right-bank Ukraine against the feudal-serf, national, and religious yoke of the szlachectwo (Polish nobility or gentry).

It began in May in the region of the Motroninskii Monastery (in the southern part of Kiev Województwo), where a detachment of discontented peasants under the leadership of M. Zhelezniak had gathered. Soon thousands of peasants, equipped with side arms and stakes (kol’ia, from which came the name of the movement), joined the detachment. I. Gonta, a lieutenant (sotnik) of the Uman’ court cossacks, and his men went over to the side of the insurgents, and with their aid, Zhelezniak’s detachment took Uman’ on July 19. Peasant and cossack detachments also appeared in many other areas of the Right-bank Ukraine. The insurrection spread to Kiev, Bratslav, Podolia, and Volyn’ and went as far as Galicia. Although the Ukrainian peasants were the main force in the Koliivshchina, individual detachments of Zaporozh’e cossacks, artisans, fugitive peasants, soldiers from Russia, and Polish peasants also participated in the movement.

The insurgents hoped for aid from the Russian government, which was interested in weakening Poland and reunifying the Right-bank Ukraine with Russia. At first, Catherine II’s government decided to wait it out, but subsequently the fear that the movement (which had become sharply antifeudal) might spread to the Left-bank and southern Ukraine forced the imperial government to send troops against the insurgents. On June 27, Zhelezniak and Gonta were captured through betrayal; then, in July the main forces of the insurgents were defeated and they were dealt with extremely cruelly—hundreds of men were executed and thousands of others were condemned to penal servitude. T. G. Shevchenko devoted his poem Haidamaki to this uprising.


Koliivshchyna 1768. Kiev, 1970.
Haidamats’kyi rukh na Ukraini v XVIII st.: Zbirnyk dokumentiv. Kiev, 1970.
Golobutskii, V. A. Maksim Zhelezniak. Moscow, 1960.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.