Kovalsky, Mykola P.

Kovalsky, Mykola P. [Ковальський, Микола; Koval's'kyj; Russian: Ковальский, Николай; Koval'skyj, Nikolaj], b 19 March 1929 in Ostroh, Zdolbuniv county, Volhynia voivodeship, d 5 October 2006 in Ostroh, Rivne oblast. Ukrainian historian, primary sources specialist, and the founding leader of the Dnipropetrovsk School of Source Studies of Early Modern Ukraine. Kovalsky was born into a family of teachers. In 1947 he graduated from a teachers' institute, and in 1947–52 he studied in the Faculty of History at Lviv University; he completed his candidate degree at Lviv University in 1958. From 1959 to 1963 Kovalsky worked at the Museum of Ethnography and Crafts of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR. In 1963 he moved to Kryvyi Rih, where he obtained the position of assistant professor at that city’s branch of Dnipropetrovsk University. In 1967 he accepted an invitation from Dmytro Podia to join the Department of Soviet History at Dnipropetrovsk University and he moved to Dnipropetrovsk (now Dnipro). He subsequently held academic positions at Dnipropetrovsk University, including dean of the Faculty of History and Philology and dean of the Faculty of Distance Learning. In 1978 Kovalsky became chair of the Department of Historiography and Source Studies. In 1984 he defended his doctoral dissertation on Ukrainian historical sources from the 1500 to 1650 at Moscow University. His earlier attempts to defend this dissertation at the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR had been rejected because he and the topic of his research were viewed with suspicion in Kyiv. But the direct subordination of Dnipropetrovsk University to the All-Union Ministry of Education in Moscow provided Kovalsky not only with a chance to defend his dissertation in the capital of the USSR, but also with a unique opportunity (for him and his students) to study different aspects of early modern history of Ukraine through hands-on analysis of primary sources. This was made possible due to the special status of Dnipropetrovsk as a closed city with a missile production factory. Under Kovalsky’s supervision, dissertations were defended by a number of graduate students who went on to become distinguished Ukrainian historians, including Yurii Mytsyk, Hanna Shvydko, Serhii Plokhy, Yurii Kniazkov, Svitlana Abrosymova, Oleh Zhurba, Hennadii Vynohradov, Viktor Atamanenko, Alla Atamanenko, Viktor Brekhunenko, Oleksii Udod, Petro Kulakovsky, and others.

With the perestroika and glasnost-era revival of the Archeographic Commission of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR, Kovalsky became involved in the establishment of its working group in Dnipropetrovsk, which subsequently became a branch of the Institute of Ukrainian Archeography and Source Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. He also was instrumental in the founding of the Dnipropetrovsk branch of the Ukrainian Historical Association. In 1994 Kovalsky returned to his home town of Ostroh, where he became engaged in reviving the Ostroh Academy (see National University of Ostroh Academy) and became its first latter-day deputy rector for research. With the help of the émigré historian Lubomyr Wynar, Kovalsky also established the Ostroh branch of the Ukrainian Historical Association and served as its president. 

Kovalsky’s most significant publication, Istochnikovedeniie istorii Ukrainy: XVI – pervaia polovina XVII veka (Source Studies of the History of Ukraine: 16th to the First Half of the 18th Century), was published in Russian in the form of a multi-volume textbook in 1977–79. At that time, that was the only way to publish research on modern Ukrainian history, bypassing Soviet censorship. Kovalsky’s other book dealing with the printing activities of Ivan Fedorovych (Fedorov), Dzherela pro pochatkovyi etap drukarstva na Ukraïni: diial'nist' pershodrukaria Ivana Fedorova v 70-kh–na pochatku 80-kh rr. XVI st. (Sources on the Early Stage of Printing in Ukraine: Activities of Ivan Fedorov in the 1570s–early 1580s, 1972), was criticized for being published in Ukrainian and for citing a prohibited book (Ivan Ohiienko’s Istoriia ukraïns'koho drukarstva [The History of Ukrainian Book Printing]).

Mytsyk, Yu. ‘Mykola Koval's'kyi: Do 70-richchia z dnia narodzhennia,’ Ukraïns'kyi arkheohrafichnyi shchorichnyk, no. 3–4 (1999)
Belkin D. ‘N. P. Koval'skii glazami studenta nachala 90-kh,’ Istoriohrafichni ta dzhereloznavchi problemy istoriï Ukraïny: Teoriia, metodyka, praktyka, 3–6 (Dnipropetrovsk 2009)
Mel'nyk, O. ‘Naukova i pedahohichna diial'nist' profesora Mykoly Koval's'koho u Dnipropetrovs'komu universyteti (1967–1994),’ Naukovi pratsi istorychnoho fakul'tetu Zaporiz'koho natsional'noho universytetu 44 (2) (Zaporizhia 2015)
Portnow, A., and T. Portnova. ‘Soviet Ukrainian Historiography in Brezhnev’s Closed City: Mykola/Nikolai Kovalsky And His “School” at Dnipropetrovsk University,’ Ab Imperio 18 (4) (2017)

Oleksandr Pankieiev

[This article was written in 2019.]

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