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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in Russian, ataman, a word probably of Turkic origin).

(1) Chieftain, leader, of an irregular military detachment or group (sometimes a band of robbers) independent of state authority.

(2) Among the cossacks, commander of a host or a separate subunit, with military and administrative authority.

The Zaporozh’e cossack host had kosh (host) hetmans and kuren’ (unit) hetmans; and the Don cossack host had host hetmans elected by the host council; field hetmans were also elected during campaigns. After the suppression of the Bula-vin Uprising of 1707–08, the hetman of the Don host was appointed by the government and from 1723 on bore the title of appointed host hetman; in 1866 he was invested with the authority of a governor general and commander of a military district. In other cossack hosts the title of appointed hetman was borne by the governor general of the territory in which the particular host was located or the troop commander of the corresponding military district. The administrative and territorial units of the cossack hosts (which in the Don, Amur, and Ussuri hosts were called departments and in other hosts were called districts and their subdivisions, such as stanitsas and farmsteads) were also headed by hetmans (called district hetmans, stanitsa hetmans, etc.). From 1827 on, the heir to the throne bore the title of chief hetman of all the cossack hosts. After the October Revolution the title of hetman was abolished along with the cossack estate.



(Russian getman, Polish hetman, Czech hejtman, from German Hauptmann, head of a military unit, captain, chief), leader, commander of a host.

(1) In the Czech lands in the 15th century, commander of the Taborite army.

(2) In Poland from the 15th century to 1795, the office and title of the commander of the permanent body of mercenary troops (as opposed to the opolchenie, the general levy, or militia, called up on special occasions). In 1505 the office of grand hetman of the crown was introduced, and an analogous post was created for Lithuania a little later. Beginning in 1539, Poland and Lithuania each had two hetmans—a grand hetman of the crown and his deputy and aide, the vice-hetman (pol’nyi getman). There was also the post of palace hetman, commander of the king’s guard. Beginning in 1581 the office of hetman was held for life. The hetman had broad powers at his disposal, for example, the levying of troops, the appointment of officers, judicial authority within the army, and the right to conduct diplomatic relations with the Crimean Tatars. In the 18th century, the powers of the hetman were restricted, in 1717 and especially in 1776.

(3) In the Ukraine, beginning in the second half of the 16th century, the chief of the registered cossacks (the cossacks in Polish service). The name hetman was taken over by leaders of the cossack and peasant movement, such as K. Kosinskii, S. Nalivaiko, and Taras Fedorovich. In 1648, Bogdan Khmelnitsky took the title of hetman. After his death in 1657 and with the treachery of Hetman I. Vygovskii and the passing of Right-bank Ukraine into Polish hands, there existed, as a rule, two hetmans in the Ukraine—one in Left-bank Ukraine (also known as the Hetmanate [Getmanshchina]) and one in Right-bank Ukraine (until 1704, when the hetmans of Right-bank Ukraine were eliminated). The hetman in Left-bank Ukraine was vested with supreme civil, military, and judicial power and had the right to conduct diplomatic relations with other powers, except Poland and Turkey. He was formally elected by the General Host Rada, but in fact he became chief by consent of the tsarist government and in 1708 began to be appointed by that government. In the years 1722-27 and 1734-50 no hetman was appointed, and in 1764 the office was abolished. The official seats of the Ukrainian hetmans were at Chigirin, Gadiach, Baturin, and Glukhov.

(4) In Moldavia in the 17th century, a military commander.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.