Konotop, Ukraine History of the Region, Town, and Jewish Community

According to the Russian historical version, the town was first named Novoselytsia (Novoselica) in 1634 and became known as Konotopka in 1645. A military regiment was brought from Nezhin to defend the town against the Russians in 1648. In 1649, Russian emissaries entered Konotop to negotiate with Cossack Hetman Bogdan Chmielnicky. Chmeilnicky led the Cossacks in an uprising in 1648 after Poland-Lithuania had declared that the Cossacks must work as serfs. Absentee Polish landlords owned many estates. Loss of the Ukrainian lands to the Poles angered the Cossacks, who rose up against the Poles, Russians, and Jews. Russia declared war on Poland-Lithuania in 1654 and captured Minsk and Vilna. The Treaty of Andruszowo divided Ukraine in 1667, whereby Poland retained territories west of the Dnieper River and Moscow held Eastern Ukraine.

Fortifications containing three gates were constructed in Konotop by 1654.

The gates were directed to roads, which led to Kiev (distance of 208 km), Putivilsk (distance of 50 km), and Popivsk (possibly Popovitse/Popvichi, 82 km WSW from Lvov, or Popovtse/Popovtze, 94 km SSW from Rovno).

In 1659 Ukraine fought Moscow. At first, Konotop was defended by victorious Russian armed forces led by the Duke Trubetsky. When the Russians could not maneuver their cavalry and artillery through the swamps and rivers, Cossack forces led by Hetman Igor Bigovsky attacked the Russians from their rear positions. Colonel Hulianstsky defended Konotop.

Cossack reinforcements arrived one week after the Russian attack and saved the town on July 8, 1659. They defeated a 150,000 man Russian Army.

Cossacks killed 30,000 Russian troops and captured another 5,000 individuals. Both Tatar and Ottoman troops joined Cossack military forces in battle. German volunteers aided them. Polish inhabitants were forced to leave Konotop. On June 17, 1672, Konotop’s “Articles” were signed into law and Ivan Samoilovich was elected Hetman.

Konotop map coordinates are 51° 14' North by 33° 12' East, which is located within the borders of modern day Ukraine. Konotop is located 208 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Kiev and 129 kilometers (78 miles) northwest of the city of Sumy. In 1802, it was part of Chernigov Gubernya, although the provincial name became Chernigov Oblast in 1932 during the Soviet administration. Upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Konotop became part of Sumy Oblast (Sumska/Sumskaya), Ukraine. Konotop is located on the Left Bank of the Ezuch River and is situated along the Desna River, which is a tributary of the Dnieper River. It is a densely forested area and is surrounded by large swamps.

By legend, the region of Chernigov was named after their first Prince, Chorniy, who reigned from 954 to 959. It has also been said that Chorniy’s beautiful daughter, Chorna, fell in love with a Kievan Rus Prince. The region came under attack by military forces of the Khazars. To avoid forced marriage to a Khazarian prince, Chorna jumped to her death from the castle.

The Kievan prince was so enraged by the loss of his beloved Chorna that he counterattacked defeating the Khazarian forces and then named the principal city Chernigov.

The Kievan Rus was established in 869 and lasted until 1240. A succession of princes ruled the region. Among the most significant rulers was Vladimir the Great, who reigned from 980. Christianity was accepted in 988, although the Christian schism did not occur until 1054, when Russia became Orthodox. Vladimir’s son, Mstyslav, succeeded him and the Kievan Rus expanded southward to the Don River and the Sea of Azov. Mstyslav died in 1036. The reign of Yaroslav the Wise followed from 1054 to 1073. Moscow was founded in 1147 during the reign of Yuri Dolgoruki (1125 to 1157). The Empire of the Kievan Rus continued to expand. During the fourth Crusade (1204), Constantinople was captured by Russian forces, which were backed by Prince Vsevolod. The period of the Crusades lasted from1096 until 1216.

Among the most horrific events in Russian history was the devastation wrought by the Mongol invasions that began in 1223. Although Genghis Khan died in Mongolia in 1227, Batu Khan, son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan, led the Golden Hordes of Mongols to totally defeat Russia (1237—1242). On his way to Kiev, Batu Khan destroyed all the regional towns near Konotop. Mongol domination over Russia ended in 1481, but the final Crimean Khan lasted until 1783.

Konotop was founded rather late in the course of Russian history after many centuries of regional conflicts between the princes of the Kievan Rus followed by the conquest of Russia by the Mongol Golden Horde, who crossed the Volga River in 1237 and picked off the Russian princes one by one. Kiev fell in 1240. Those tragedies were followed by the defeat of Chernigov in 1482 by invading Crimean Tatar forces and the Tatar capture of Moscow in 1571. Moscow was occupied by the Polish military from 1610 to 1612.

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