(Semen Filippovich Gurko). Born in the 1640’s in the city of Borzna, now in Chernigov Oblast; died January 1710. Leader of the Ukrainian Right-bank cossacks. Son of a cossack.
Palii studied at the Kiev Brotherhood School and spent considerable time in the Zaporozh’e Sech’. In the early 1680’s he emerged as a leader of the popular movement for the colonization of the deserted lands of the Dnieper region and the restoration of cossack communities there. Responding to Palii’s appeal, fugitive peasants and cossacks began settling the region. The stronghold of the movement became Fastov, where the settlers built a fortification and successfully repulsed attacks by Tatars and Turks.
In the late 1680’s, Palii, together with Z. Iskra, A. Abazin, and S. Samus’, headed the liberation struggle of the cossacks and the peasantry in the Right-bank Ukraine. Cossack regiments under Palii’s command liberated from Polish rule a number of Ukrainian cities in the Kiev and Bratslav regions. Palii was arrested by the Polish authorities in 1689 but escaped in 1690. From 1702 to 1704 the struggle of the popular masses of the Right-bank Ukraine grew into an uprising that spread to Podolia, Volyn’, and the Kiev region. In 1704, Hetman Mazepa falsely accused Palii of secret contacts with pro-Swedish Polish magnates and arrested him. Palii spent from 1705 to 1708 in exile in Tomsk but was returned by Peter I after Mazepa’s betrayal. As colonel of Belaia Tserkov’, Palii fought in the battle of Poltava of 1709. The Ukrainian people have preserved Palii’s memory in songs and legends, and T. Shevchenko immortalized him in the works The Monk and The Seamstress.