By Marcin Kruszynski
[This article was received by mail. It was edited by Amjad Jaimoukha. The information in square brackets are the editor's notes and additions]
It was in the year 1556 that the Ukrainian prince Dymitro Wisniowiecki (grandfather
of Michal-Korybuth Wisniowiecki, who became king of Poland 100 years later),
left Poland (Poland, Ukraine, Belorussia and Lithuania were one country at
that time) and came to Russia to fight the Crimean Tatars. He had many
successes with his Cossack army. He was the first Cossack and founder of
the Zaporozha Cossacks! Tsar Ivan the Terrible appointed him as wojewode (governor)
of Kabarda. Prince Dymitro and his Cossacks stayed in Kabarda for several
years and ruled the land in a benign and tolerant manner. He won over many
Kassim Kambulatowicz (Czerkaski).
Gawrila Kambulatowicz (Czerkaski).
Onyszko/Aleksander Kudadek (Czerkaski), son of the very influential West-Circassian prince Sibok/Wasyl Konsaukowicz. Temruk Szymkowicz was family with Sibok and a member of his clan.
Solgien Szymkowicz (Czerkaski), son of Szymek Temruk.
Temruk Szymkowicz (Czerkaski), son of Szymek Temruk.
The Russian Tsar realized that by this move he has lost very good warriors to his enemy, Poland. This made him even more angry.. He sent his envoy Aleksiej Klobukov to Poland to win the princes back, but the "Petyhorcy" princes gave him the cold shoulder. Most of the Circassian immigrants were already Orthodox Christian, but some of them were still pagan. Later, the progeny of the warriors became Ukrainian/Orthodox, whereas those of the higher classes became Polish/Catholic.
Solgien and Temruk became commanders of special "Petyhorcy/Cossack" regiments in the Polish army. But it was Temruk who showed the best qualities of a Circassian commander. There are many documents that testify to his heroism. Example: "On April 13th, 1572, when a strong Turkish army attacked the Polish forces in Moldova, all Polish troops deserted the battlefield in panic, only Temruk with his "Petyhorski" regiment stayed and fought till the Polish troops recovered and came back to stop the Turks."
As time went by, the five Circassian princes became more powerful and rich. They all settled in the Podolie region of Ukraine. Every year, fresh Circassian warriors went to Poland to join the special Petyhorcy/Cossack regiments. After a few years, these regiments became an integral part of the Polish army, until 1795, when Poland was occupied and divided by Russia, Prussia and Austria. After the passing of the Circassian princes who established these regiments, and after the loss of Polish independence, the number of Circassians dwindled, the balance being made up by Polish, Ukrainian and Tatar soldiers. However, the regiments kept their Circassian appearance and characteristics: the customs, weapons and battle tactics. Nowadays, Polish historians admit the enormous influence that the five princes exerted on the evolution of the Polish army.
The progeny of the Circassian princes have been assimilated into Polish society. But they kept their temperament and their willingness to fight, especially against their mortal enemies, the Russians. When the Russians occupied the Ukraine, the Polish Circassians lost everything.