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HAIDAMACKS, paramilitary bands that disrupted the social order in Polish Ukraine during the 18th century. The name originated from the Turkish word haida meaning "move on!" The Haidamack movement was mainly the outcome of the social ferment which had already developed in the Ukraine toward the end of the 16th century and reached a peak in the Cossack uprising led by *Chmielnicki in 1648. The Haidamacks were mainly peasant serfs who had fled from the Polish landowners to the steppes beyond the River Dnieper. They were joined by poorer elements among the townsmen, sons of the impoverished nobility and clergy, members of heretical sects who had fled from Russia, and even Jewish renegades. The Haidamacks ambushed travelers or attacked small settlements, not for political reasons but principally for robbery accompanied by murder. However, they unwittingly served the political ends of the Russian administrators and the Russian Orthodox clergy since their persistent attacks helped to erode the position of the Polish kingdom in this period.

The Haidamack bands are first mentioned in documents dating from the beginning of the 18th century, but received a strong impetus in 1734, when dissensions broke out among the Polish nobility over the election of a new king. In 1768 the most violent Haidamack outbreak took place, known as Koliivshchina or (in Polish) Kolizczyzna, headed by Maxim Zhelesnyak (see below), in which religious, national, and social elements combined. The expulsion of the Jews or their destruction had long been the avowed purpose of insurgents in the Ukraine in the period of Chmielnicki and even earlier. The monks, who were the chroniclers of the period and the recorders of popular tales, glorified murder of the Jews and confiscation of their property as if they were deeds of piety. In addition, the Jews were a convenient target to attack because the competition in trade and commerce with the townsmen was so keen that the latter showed no disposition to defend Jews and would even divulge the movements of Jewish merchants to the Haidamacks. Most of the Jews were helpless against the brigands, and the Polish state authorities were not always able to defend them. The propaganda of the Russian Orthodox priests only intensified the hatred against the Jews. In this area the rivalry between the clergy of the Orthodox and Catholic churches accounts for the sharp rise in the number of *blood libels against the Jews from the fourth to sixth decades of the 18th century precisely in the region where the Haidamacks were active.

Most of the attacks made by the Haidamacks against the Jews took the form of robbery and murder of merchants traveling on the highway and assaults on Jewish tenant farmers living in isolated places and on inhabitants of small defenseless towns. During the years when the revolts increased (1734, 1750, 1768) even heavily fortified places were attacked, claiming large numbers of Jewish victims: 27 Jews were slaughtered in Korsun in 1734; 35 were murdered in Pavoloch in 1736. In the same year the Haidamacks captured the town of Pogrebishche and murdered 14 Jews; many others were wounded and their property stolen. Massacres of Jews took place in various towns in 1738 and 1742. A wave of attacks was perpetrated in 1750: Jews were killed in Vinnitsa, Volodarka, and in other cities. But these calamities were overshadowed by the wholesale massacres that took place in 1768 (known as the persecutions of Ukraine or of *Uman ). Initially, about 700 people were killed in the city of Fastov including many scores of Jews. In the townlet of Lysyanka a Jew, a Polish priest, and a dog were hanged side by side to indicate the equality of their respective religions.

Zheleznyak, an active leader of the gangs, massacred the Jews who had been unable to escape from Zhabotin, Kanyev, and Korsun before going on to the fortified city of Uman, to which many thousands of Poles and Jews had streamed from other places out of terror of the Haidamacks. The treachery of the Cossack commander Gonta led to the surrender of the city on June 19, 1768, and there ensued a frightful massacre of its inhabitants. The Jews attempted to hide but were unsuccessful. Some fought heroically until slain by the enemy. The majority of Jews were murdered in the synagogue. A number of prominent Jews, required to pay a ransom, were brutally murdered after they had complied. The number of Jewish victims ran into thousands, the slayers sparing neither women nor children. The synagogues were razed and the Torah scrolls desecrated and burned. According to some records the number of victims reached 20,000, both Poles and Jews. Some of the Jews in the surrounding districts who attempted to flee to the border city of Balta, half of which was situated in Turkish territory, were caught by brigands, who laid waste to the city. The Jews in the entire southeastern portion of Poland were seized with terror. They placed their hopes on the commander of the Polish army, Branicki, and a special prayer was composed in his honor. Although Branicki himself did not take part in the war against the Haidamacks, he had severely punished their leaders and was for this reason regarded by the Jews as the savior of Polish Jewry. The revolt was suppressed by the Russian and Polish troops. The rebels were tried by Polish punitive units and the Haidamack movement came to an end. The memory of the Haidamacks lingered in Ukrainian lore and entered the national literature (Haydamaky (1841), by Taras Shevchenko). It became a legacy of the Ukrainian national movement, and the Ukrainian partisan bands that perpetrated pogroms on the Jewish population in 1919–20 and 1941–44 were referred to as Haidamacks.


F. Rawita-Gawroński, Historya ruchów hajdamackich, 2 vols. (19132); idem, Żydzi w historji i literatur ze ludowej na Rusi (1923); A.A. Skalkovski, Nayezdy gaydamak na zapadnuyu Ukraynu v xviii stoletii, 17331768 (1845); Arkhiv yugo-zapadnoy Rossii, pt. 3, vol. 3 (1876); H.J. Gurland, Le-Korot ha-Gezeirot al Yisrael, 3 (1888), 7 (1892); Dubnow, Hist Russ, index.

[Shmuel Ettinger]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.