Kovpak, Sydir

Image - Oleksii Shovkunenko: Portrait of Sydir Kovpak (1945). Image - Soviet partisans in Sumy region led by Sydir Kovpak.

Kovpak, Sydir [Ковпак, Сидір], b 13 May 1887 in Kotelva, Bohodukhiv county, Kharkiv gubernia, d 11 December 1967 in Kyiv. Prominent Soviet partisan commander during the Second World War (see Soviet partisans in Ukraine, 1941–5). He commanded a Communist partisan unit fighting Ukrainian nationalist forces during 1918–19 and then served as a Red Army political commissar. From 1926 to 1941 he worked in the Communist Party administration in Sumy oblast. In 1941 Kovpak organized a partisan unit in the Putyvl area, Sumy oblast. It quickly grew in size and importance, recruiting mostly Party and government officials and Russian peasants from the region. In 1942 the unit raided west through Polisia and conducted acts of sabotage to disrupt German supply lines. In June 1943 during a raid through Galicia to the Carpathian Mountains, the detachment (numbering some 1,600 partisans) was decimated in battles with German units and later harassed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Remnants returned to Polisia, where Kovpak reactivated his unit by mobilizing local inhabitants. For his exploits he was promoted to brigadier general and his unit was expanded to division size and named after him. In 1946 Kovpak became defense minister of the Ukrainian SSR, and from 1947 to 1967 he served as deputy chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR and as a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. His memoirs, Vid Putyvlia do Karpat (From Putyvl to the Carpathians), were first published in 1946.

Petro Sodol

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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