ZOLKIEWSKI, STANISLAUS (1547-1619), the most illustrious member of an ancient Ruthcnian family which emigrated to Galicia in the isth century. During the interregnum in Poland after the death of Henry of Valois, Zolkiewski was an ardent partisan of the chancellor Zamoyski, and supported the candidature of Stephen B&thory, under whose banner he learned the art of war in the Muscovite campaigns. On the death of Stephen, Zolkiewski vigorously supported the policy of Zamoyski, and took an active part in the battle of Byczyna, when the Austrian archduke Maximilian was defeated by the Polish chancellor. Shortly afterwards Zolkiewski was made castellan of Lemberg and acting commander-in-chief. On the accession of Sigismund III. he retired from court and divided his time between improving his estates, where he built towns and fortresses, and disciplining the Cossacks, with whom he enjoyed great influence. In 1601-2 he served with distinction in the Livonian war against the Swedes, whom he defeated at Reval. During the insurrection of Nicholas Zebrzydowski he led the IOO2 army which routed the rebels at Guzow in 1607, though protesting against the necessity of shedding " his brothers' blood." For his services he received the palatinate of Kiev. He was opposed to the expedition sent to place the false Demetrius on the throne of Muscovy; but nevertheless accompanied the king to Smolensk and was sent thence with a handful of men against Moscow. On his way thither he defeated and captured Tsar Vasily Shuiski at the battle of Klushino (July 14, 1610), and two months later entered the Russian capital in triumph. His tactful and conciliatory diplomacy speedily won over the boyars, whom he persuaded to offer the Muscovite crown to the Polish crown prince, Wladislaus. For a moment it seemed possible that the Vasa family might occupy the throne of Ivan the Terrible; but Sigismund III. would not consent to the reception of his son into the Greek Church, and refused to ratify the terms made with the boyars. Zolkiewski then returned to the Polish camp and assisted in the reduction of Smolensk, but Moscow in the meantime drove out the Polish garrison and proclaimed a native dynasty under Michael Romanov. When Zolkiewski presented his captives, Tsar Vasily and his family, to the Polish diet, he received an ovation and was rewarded with the dignity of hetman wielki (commander-in-chief). For the next few years he defended the Ukraine against the Tatars and Cossacks, and in 1617 was involved in a war with the Porte owing to the unauthorized interference of the Polish nobles in the affairs of Wallachia and Moldavia. Unable to defeat the vastly superior forces of the Turkish commander Skinder, he concluded with him an advantageous truce at Jaruda (27th of August 1618), by the terms of which he pledged himself to curb the Cossacks and at the same time renounced all the claims of Poland to the Danubian principalities. Thus he saved the one army of Poland to guard her southern frontier from apparently inevitable destruction. On his return he was fiercely assailed by the diet for not risking everything in a pitched battle, but Zolkiewski defended himself with an eloquence which silenced his most venomous opponents. The peace of Jaruda was then confirmed, and the king conferred upon Zolkiewski the grand-chancellorship, an honour he had neither desired nor expected. Fresh attacks were presently made against him for failing, it was alleged, to prevent the Tatar incursions. So deeply wounded was the hero by these calumnies that when in 1619 he was sent against the Turks he publicly declared that he would never return alive unless victorious. He was as good as his word. Surrounded near the Dniester by countless hosts of Turks, Tatars and Janissaries, he retreated through the Steppes, fighting night and day without food or water, towards Cecora. By the time he reached it, he saw clearly that success was impossible, and deliberately determined to die where he stood. Disguising himself so that his dead body might not be recognized, he turned upon the pursuers and was slain after a desperate resistance (6th of October 1620). His head was cut off, exhibited in the Turkish camp and then sent to Constantinople as a present to the sultan, from whom it was subsequently ransomed at a great price. Zolkiewski is one of the most heroic figures in Polish history. An accomplished general, a skilful diplomatist, and a patriot who not only loved his country above all things, but never feared to tell his countrymen the truth, he excelled in all private and public virtues. As a writer he made a name by an important history of his Muscovite campaigns.
See Stanislaw Gabryel Kozlowski, Life of Stanislaus Zolkiewski (Pol.) (Cracow, 1904). (R. N. B.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)