The document “Pacts and Constitutions of Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporizhian Sich” (1710) preserved in the Swedish National Archives in Stockholm is the first constitution in the world that established the foundations of the state system, forms of government, including the distribution of powers between different branches of government, delineated state borders. The Constitution proclaimed the establishment of a republic in Ukraine headed by a hetman, at the same time under the protectorate of the Swedish King.
The Constitution of Ukraine of 1710 is known in historiography as the “Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk”, “Cossack Constitution”, “Bender Constitution”, “Constitution of the Zaporizhian Sich” and so on.
The Constitution was adopted by the Electoral Cossack Council on April 16 (5), 1710, during the election of the new Hetman Pylyp Orlyk. The council took place on the territory of the Ottoman Empire near Bender city, where Swedish and Ukrainian troops retreated after the Poltava catastrophe in 1709. The Constitution was approved by the signature of newly elected Hetman Pylyp Orlyk and the seal of the Zaporizhian Sich and certified by King Carl XII of Sweden as protector of Ukraine.
Full original title of the document is «Pacta et Constitutiones legum libertatumque Exercitus Zaporoviensis inter illustrissimus Dominum Philippum Orlik, neolectum Ducem Exercitus Zaporoviensis, et inter Generales, Colonellos, nec non eundem Exercitum Zaporoviensem, public utriusque partis laudo convent ac in libera electione formari juramento ab eodem illustrissimo Duce corroborate, anno Domini 1710, Aprilis 5, ad Benderam» (“Pacts and Сonstitutions of the Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporizhian Sich between the illustrious pan Pylyp Orlyk, the newly elected hetman of the Zaporizhian Sich, and between the general Cossack officers, colonels, and the so-called Zaporizhian Sich, adopted by public decision of both parties and confirmed at a free election by an established allegiance of the foresaid illustrious hetman on April 5, 1710, near Bender city”).
The Constitution of 1710 was preserved in four editions: the basic and abbreviated Latin one and two Old Ukrainian editions. These texts are preserved in the Swedish National Archives in Stockholm, in the Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine in Kyiv and in the Russian State Archives of Ancient Acts in Moscow. In the 18th century in Ukraine there were many copies of the Constitution, in particular in the hetman’s chancellery of Hlukhiv. The Constitution of 1710 was first introduced into scientific circulation in 1847 by Osyp Bodianskyi. Today, all lists of the Constitution have been published, and the archeography of the text has a respectable history.
A group of Cossack officers headed by Pylyp Orlyk and Zaporizhian Kish otaman Kostiantyn Hordienko worked on the text of the Constitution. During the preparation of the text (February-April 1710) consultations were held with the left-bank hetman Ivan Skoropadskyi. Some documents from the Hetman’s archive served as the sources of the text namely interstate agreements with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Kingdom of Sweden, the Crimean Khanate, the Ottoman Porte and the Moscow State. At the same time, the Constitution was based on the ideas of the advanced European political thought of the time, in particular the works of John Locke, Francis Bacon, Jean Bodin, Hugo Grotius and others. The paragraphs of the constitution were adopted alternately by consensus, and at the Electoral Council on April 16 (5), 1710, the document was approved as a whole by the General Cossack Council, thus it gained the highest legitimacy and validity.
The Constitution has a preamble and sixteen articles. The Preamble summarizes the history of Ukraine, justifies the severance with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and unification with the Moscow state, as well as the reasons for the rupture of the Ukrainian-Moscow union. Special attention is paid to Ukrainian-Swedish relations, starting with the treaty of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi with Carl X, and the allegiance of Hetman Ivan Mazepa under the protectorate of King Carl XII of Sweden. Thus, the creators of the Constitution portrayed the new Ukrainian-Swedish union as traditional – as a continuation of the relevant policy of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, which was aimed at restoring the rights of Ukraine and liberating it from the “Moscow yoke”.
Article 1 is devoted to the protection of Orthodoxy in Ukraine, emphasizing the restoration of the rights of the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the Ukrainian Church. The Union and other religious denominations are forbidden in Ukraine.
Article 2 defined the borders of Ukraine, which included the Left and Right Banks, as well as Zaporizhia. The inviolability of borders has been declared. The guarantor of the territorial integrity of Ukraine was the Swedish King.
Article 3 regulated relations with Crimea, proclaimed the eternal union and friendship of Ukraine and Crimea.
Articles 4 and 5 defined the political and legal status of Zaporizhia and the Sich within Ukraine, as well as the economic guarantees of Zaporizhia.
Article 6 defined the principles of separation of powers. The power of the hetman was limited, and the General Council was established as a permanent body, which was to be convened at the hetman’s residence three times a year: at Christmas, Easter and Intercession of the Holy Virgin. In addition to the Cossack officers, it was to include elected representatives from the Cossacks and the peasantry. The status and powers of the general Cossack officers and colonels are defined.
Article 7 contained information about the powers of the General Court, which was to act as an institution independent of the hetman. Criminal and civil cases were transferred to the Court.
Article 8 defined the scope and powers of the hetman’s administration.
Article 9 restored the Military Treasury (budget), which was to be administered by two general treasurers. The same treasures independent of the administration were formed in the regiments. In the regiments, one treasurer was chosen from the Cossacks, the other – from the peasantry. The treasuries were to report to the General Council.
Article 10 divided the powers between the military, civilian and municipal (Magdeburg) administrations. Declared the fight against corruption.
Article 11 guarantees the social protection of Cossack widows and orphans.
Articles 12 and 14 defined the rights and responsibilities of Ukrainian burghers, merchants and peasants.
Article 13 determined the autonomous status of the “capital city of Kyiv” and confirmed the self-government (Magdeburg rights) of other Ukrainian cities.
Article 15 regulated the organization of mercenaries in Ukraine.
Article 16 regulated trade and established the principles of tax collection in Ukraine. At the same time, the poorest sections of the population were exempt from state taxes. Improving the tax climate should have prevented, in particular, the departure of Ukrainian youth to earn money abroad.
As a valid document, the Constitution operated on the Right Bank during 1711–1713. On the other hand, the popularity of the Constitution on the Left Bank and its distribution in many lists among Cossack officers and the peasantry forced the tsar to pay attention to the Ukrainian political movement. At the same time, the Constitution was actively used by independent groups (“mazepyntsi”) in Ukraine and in exile as an ideological basis for the struggle for independence.
The Constitution of 1710 laid the foundations of Ukrainian and European constitutionalism and is an outstanding property of European political thought of the early 18th century.