Vasyl Kochubey

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Vasily Kochubey

Vasyl Leontiyovych Kochubey (Ukrainian: Василь Леонтiйович Кочубей) (c. 1640 – 15 July 1708) was a Ukrainian nobleman and statesman of Tatar descent. His great-grandson was the eminent imperial statesman Viktor Kochubey; the family name is also spelled Kotchoubey (French) and Kotschoubey (German, Almanach de Gotha).

Between 1687 and 1704 Kochubey was a close associate of the Ukrainian hetman Ivan Mazepa, he was nominated chief judge of the Cossack Hetmanate and stolnik. As a Cossack military leader, Kochubey took part in the Azov campaigns of 1695 and 1696.

In 1704 Kochubey's 20-year-old daughter, Motria fell in love with 63-year-old Ivan Mazepa, her feelings were returned, but Mazepa didn't ask for her hand as such marriage would have been considered incestuous by canon law because Mazepa was Motrya's godfather. Kochubey and especially his wife took this affair as a personal insult; as a result, Kochubey distanced himself from Mazepa. Between 1704 and 1707 he warned repeatedly Tsar Peter I of Russia about Mazepa’s secret intention to break away from Russia. In 1707 he approached the governor of Kiev, Prince Dmitry Golitsyn, submitting detailed information about Mazepa’s dealings with the Poles and Swedes and divulging the hetman's plan to side with Stanislaus I Leszczyński and Charles XII against Russia; the Tsar, however, flatly refused to believe Kochubey. He commissioned Gavriil Golovkin and Peter Shafirov to investigate Kochubey’s allegations. In the meantime, Vasyl Kochubey's correspondence was intercepted, he was arrested and tortured.

Having been turned over to Mazepa, Vasyl Kochubey was beheaded on 15 July 1708 in the village of Borshchahivka (Ukrainian: Борщагівка), near Bila Tserkva. Within few months Mazepa's dissent became known and Kochubey was given dignified burial within the grounds of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. Kochubey's story was romanticised by Aleksandr Pushkin in his poem "Poltava" and by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in his opera Mazeppa.

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