In the 1970s–1980s, a special role in history writing and teaching was played by Dnipropetrovsk State University, the birthplace of the so-called Kovalsky school, which focused on the study of primary sources on early modern Ukrainian history. In recent publications, the Kovalsky school has been called “perhaps the only” and “the most ‘real’” university-based school of history writing in Soviet Ukraine from the 1930s to the 1980s.
Mykola (Nikolai) Kovalsky is credited with putting Dnipropetrovsk’s Ukrainian studies on the map of Ukrainian historiography, and Ukraine on the map of Soviet historiography. The personality of the school’s creator – Professor Kovalsky – is the main focus of this article. We would like to show how Kovalsky, given his origin and education, academic position and research ambition, time and place, had to negotiate among several forces, pressures, and constraints to develop his research agenda and his own “school.”