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Hetman (from Czech: hejtman, German: Hauptmann, Turkish: Ataman) was the title of the second highest military commander (after the monarch) used in 15th to 18th century Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania, known from 1569 to 1795 as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Hetmans of Poland and Lithuania
Main article: Hetmans of Poland and Lithuania
The first Polish title of Grand Crown Hetman was created in 1505. The tile of hetman was given to the leader of Polish Army and till 1581 hetman existed only during the specific campaigns and wars. After that, it became a permanent title, as were all the titles in Kingdom of Poland and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It couldn't be taken away unless treachery was proven (from 1585). Thus in effect most hetmans served for life, as illustrated by the case of Jan Karol Chodkiewicz literally commanding the army from his deathbed. Hetmans were not paid for their job by the Royal Treasury. Hetmans were main commanders of the military forces, second only to the monarch in the army's chain of command. The fact that they could not be removed by the monarch made them very independent, and thus often able to follow separate policies of their own. This system worked well when a hetman had great ability and the monarch was weak, but by the same token it sometimes produced disastrous results in the opposite case, as illustrated by the actions of Mikolaj Potocki in 1648. The contrast with states bordering the Commonwealth, where army commanders could be dismissed at any time by their sovereigns, was immense.
Hetmans of Cossacks
Main article: Hetmans of Ukrainian Cossacks
At the end of 16th century commander of Ukrainian and Siberian Cossacks were also called Hetmans (or atamans). From 1648 Bohdan Khmelnytsky's Chmielnicki uprising, Hetman was the head of the Cossack state. Cossack hetmans had very broad powers and acted as heads of the Cossack state, their supreme military commanders, the top legislators (by issuing administrative decrees).
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