A unique blend of Ukrainian men from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds, the Cossacks of Zaporizhian Sich was active in the 15th – 18th Century in the area of the Polish-Lithuanian controlled land in what today is Ukraine. A powerful military and political force, the Cossacks supported a series of conflicts, gaining their freedom from Rzeczpospolita.
The poetic name comes from the Sich area where they built their fortress, and the Ukrainian word for ‘land beyond the rapids’, as they were based downstream from the Dnipro rapids, which is also known as the ‘Wild Fields’. As early as the beginning of the tenth century, historians give examples of trade between Kyivan Rus’ and the cities of the Danube. This was the beginning of friendly relations between the states. With many decades of history bringing acts of friendship between states, diplomatic disputes and wars of an aggressive and religious nature, this particular period saw Kyivan Rus’ and Austria fighting together against the Osman Empire.
For example, at the end of the 16th century a war broke out between Christian Austria and the Ottoman Empire.
The Cossacks of Zaporizhian Sich, who acted together with the Rzeczpospolita-Austrian-German army led by Jan Sobieski against Turkey, played an important role in this war. According to some data, about 5000 Ukrainian Cossacks (other historians speak about 15,000 – 20,000) took part in the battle for the ‘golden apple’ of the world – Vienna. The battle of Vienna on September 12, 1683, put an end to the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Christian Europe.
On September 15, 2003, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Vienna from the Ottoman siege, a monument to the Zaporizhian Cossacks was erected.
The three Ukrainian Cossacks stand quietly and with dignity on Vienna’s Bald Hill (today the Viennese also call it Leopoldsberg) with a sense of victory, which more than 300 years ago meant Europe avoided Muslim occupation.