What would the Cossacks say?

Religion News Service | 4/23/2019 | Staff
leeann77 (Posted by) Level 3
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If you had told this story to a Jew sixty years ago, he or she would have said: “Stop. This is a joke, right?”

Except, it’s not.

Week - Ukraine - Comedian - Volodymyr - Zelensky

Just this past week, Ukraine elected a Jewish comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky, as its president.

It was a landslide. He defeated the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, who had campaigned as a bulwark against Russian aggression and a champion of Ukrainian identity.

But, wait: there’s more.

The prime minister of Ukraine is Vlodymir Groysman.

Jew

He is also a Jew.

There are only two countries in the world that have both a Jewish president and a Jewish prime minister.

Israel

Israel.

And, Ukraine.

History - Relations

Let’s talk about the history of Jewish-Ukrainian relations.

Let’s just say that it has not been a rousing round of “kumbaya.”

Commonwealth - Ukraine - Jews - Middlemen - Polish

In the 1600s, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth included Ukraine. The Jews became middlemen between the Polish Catholic landlords, and the Greek Orthodox Ukrainian peasants.

The Jews found themselves in an unenviable and impossible situation, for neither the first nor last time in Jewish history. They were in the middle, beset on both sides — caught between the powerless and the powerful.

Simon - Dubnow - Marc - Rosenstein - Points

This is how the historian Simon Dubnow described it (quoted in Marc Rosenstein, Turning Points in Jewish History).

Thus the Ukrainian Jew found himself between hammer and anvil, between the pan [landowner] and the khlop [peasant], between the Catholic and the Greek Orthodox, between the Pole and the Russian. Three classes, three religions, and three nationalities, clashed on a soil which contained in its bowels terrible volcanic forces — and a catastrophe was bound to follow.

Catastrophe - Fact - Follow

Catastrophe did, in fact follow.

It was the uprising of 1648. History also knows it as the Cossack-Polish War. Its leader was the Ukrainian national hero, Bogdan Khmelnytsky (or Chimielnitsky, or Chmielnicki — there are many variant spellings). They were striking back against the Polish landlords.

Jews - Caught - Middle

And Jews, caught in the middle, died.

From a contemporaneous...
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