Vovk, Fedir

Vovk, Fedir (Khvedir) (Volkov), b 17 March 1847 in Kriachkivtsi, Pyriatyn county, Poltava gubernia, d 30 June 1918 in Zhlobin, near Homel, Belarus. (Photo: Fedir Vovk.) Ethnographer, anthropologist, and archeologist; member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society (NTSh) from 1899. A graduate of the Nizhyn gymnasium and Odesa University and Kyiv University (1871), he was active in the Hromada of Kyiv and a founder of the Southwestern Branch of the Imperial Russian Geographic Society (1873). After spending two years abroad he did archeological research in Kyiv gubernia and Volhynia (1878–9) and then fled abroad again because of tsarist persecution. From 1887 he studied anthropology, comparative ethnography, and archeology in Paris. In 1905 he was permitted to return to Russia to become custodian of the Aleksander III Ethnographic Museum and lecturer in anthropology at Saint Petersburg University. He established a Ukrainian section at the museum and was active in the Imperial Russian Geographic Society, particularly in preparing an ethnographic, anthropological, and archeological map of Russia. His doctoral dissertation, Variations squelettiques du pied chez les primates et chez les races humaines (Paris 1900), was awarded the Godard Prize. In 1904–6 he participated, along with Ivan Franko, Ivan A. Rakovsky, Zenon Kuzelia, and Lev Hankevych, in several anthropological and ethnographic expeditions in Galicia, Bukovyna, and Transcarpathia. Assisted by his students, he amassed vast collections of ethnographic materials and anthropological measurements from various regions of Ukraine, on which he built the geography and anthropology cabinet at Saint Petersburg University. He was a member of the Ukrainian Scientific Society in Kyiv (from 1907) and of many European learned societies. He was appointed a professor at Kyiv University in 1917 but died on his way to Ukraine.

Vovk's main contributions to anthropology were ‘Ukraintsy v antropologicheskom otnoshenii’ (Ukrainians with Respect to Their Anthropology, Ukrainskii vestnik, 1906; German trans in Ukrainische Rundschau, 1908), ‘Antropometrychni doslidy ukraïns’koho naselennia Halychyny, Bukovyny, i Uhorshchyny: Hutsuly’ (Anthropometric Research on the Ukrainian Population of Galicia, Bukovyna, and Hungary: The Hutsuls, 1908), and ‘Antropologicheskie osobennosti ukrainskogo naroda’ (Anthropological Peculiarities of the Ukrainian People, in Ukrainskii narod v ego proshlom i nastoiashchem, 2 [1916], and Materiialy do ukraïns’koï etnologiï, 10 [1908]). In these works he argued that Ukrainians are a separate group of Slavs, related to the Southern Slavs (Dinaric type). His chief ethnographic works were ‘Etnograficheskie osobennosti ukrainskogo naroda’ (Ethnographic Peculiarities of the Ukrainian People, in Ukrainskii narod v ego proshlom i nastoiashchem, 2 [1916]), ‘Rites et usages nuptiaux en Ukraine’ (L’Anthropologie, 2–3 [1891–2]), ‘Le traineau dans les rites funéraires de l'Ukraine’ (Revue de traditions populaires, 9 [1895]), ‘Zadunaiskaia Sech po mestnym vospominaniiam i razskazam’ (The Danubian Sich in Local Recollections and Stories, Kievskaia starina, 1883, nos 1, 2, 4 [1883]), and ‘Russkie kolonii v Dobrudzhe’ (Russian Colonies in Dobrudja, Kievskaia starina, 1889, nos 1–3 [1889]). He contributed also to the study of archeology, botany, geography, and literary scholarship. He was a founder of the Ethnographic Commission of the Shevchenko Scientific Society, its chairman for several years, and editor of its Materiialy do ukraïns’koï etnolohiï. His students included some well-known scholars, such as Ivan A. Rakovsky, Levko Chykalenko, Anatolii Nosiv, and Petro P. Yefymenko. A selection of his work was published in Ukrainian in Prague, as Materiialy do ukraïns’koï etnohrafiï ta antropolohiï (Materials in Ukrainian Ethnography and Anthropology, 1928). A bibliography of his works was published in Kyiv in 1929.

Mykola Mushynka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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