About Khvedir Vovk and his Archive

Khvedir Vovk was born in 1847 in a village in the Poltava region. The family took the russian surname "Volkov" when they moved to Nizhyn to give their children a secondary education. As Theodore Volkov, he was considered an expert on Ukrainian anthropology, ethnology, and folklore in the academic circles of Paris in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He took the surname Vovk after fleeing from Kyiv in 1879.

After graduating from high school, Khv. Vovk studied for two semesters at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of Odesa University, where he studied zoology, in particular, with Ilya Mechnikov (1845-1916). In 1866, he transferred to Kyiv University, where he was in close contact with the Hromada community, which officially accepted him into its circle in 1872. The following year, he was one of the founding members of the South-Western Division of the Russian Geographical Society and was responsible, among other things, for its ethnographic and folklore research program, the census of the population in the Podil district of Kyiv, and the co-organization of the Third Archaeological Congress in 1874.

In 1876 Vovk temporarily emigrated with his family to Geneva and participated in Mykhailo Drahomanov's journalistic projects. He remained mobile to smuggle banned books to the Russian Empire. Around the middle of 1878, Vovk returned to Kyiv, where he was politically persecuted. To escape punishment, one night in the spring of 1879, he took a ship through Odesa to leave the country. There, however, he was arrested and managed to escape only through personal contacts, fleeing to Romania as soon as possible.

Two years later, he returned to Geneva, where he continued to be in close contact with Mykhailo Drahomanov privately, professionally, and politically. It is known that they collaborated on the journal "Hromada" ("Commune") (Franko 2001, pp. 55-77).

In 1887, Khv. Vovk moved to Paris to study anthropology. His Parisian period lasted from 1887 to 1905. Here he quickly established contacts with the scientific elite grouped around the Anthropological School. He regularly attended lectures on archaeology, anthropology, and comparative ethnography until 1900. He took courses by the archaeologist and prehistorian Gabriel de Mortillet (1821-1898), his son Adrian (1853-1931), and other well-known Parisian professors in their field of study.

The Russian Revolution of 1905 brought about significant changes in Vovk's life. First, with the support of the Alexander III Museum, he was able to officially receive his doctorate, having already completed the necessary dissertation several years earlier. His contacts also allowed him to return to the Russian Empire, so he moved to St. Petersburg in late 1905. In 1907, he was officially appointed curator of the ethnographic department of the Alexander III Museum and also began teaching as a private associate professor at St. Petersburg University that same year. Here he created his own school, through which he sought to popularize Ukrainian studies, even if he often lacked nationally oriented students to do so. He also participated in various Ukrainian societies and worked on the encyclopedic project "Ukrainian People in its Past and Present." In 1918, he was appointed a professor at Kyiv University, but on his way to Ukraine he died after a long illness. In his will, he expressed his desire that his scientific legacy would benefit the Ukrainian scientific establishment.




Vovk’s Archive in the Scientific Archives of the Institute of Archeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

During his lifetime, Khvedir Vovk bequeathed his archive and book collection to some institution in Kyiv (Testament). According to E. Dzbanovskyi, the collection initially consisted of 3804 books (Library, p. 3). After the scientist’s death in 1918, his confessors S. Yefremov and P. Stebnytskyi decided to transfer the archive to the newly created Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, provided that the Institute of Anthropology and Ethnography would be established at the Academy. With the participation of Vernadsky, it was decided to create an anthropological department of the museum rather than a separate institute, and to transfer books that were not directly related to these disciplines to the National Library. A student of Khv. Vovk O. Alesho insisted that the future museum should be called the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography and the Khvedir Vovk Anthropological Institute at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He also transported the scientist’s archive and library to Kyiv in 1920. The following year, they established the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology named after prof. Vovk Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, whose first director was also O. Alesho (Kolesnikova, Chernovol, Yanenko 2012, pp. 10-18).

The structure of the Museum (Cabinet) was divided into a general (fourth) department, which consisted of a library and an archival (memorabilia) department (Kolesnikova, Chernovol, Yanenko 2012, p. 68). The librarian of the Museum was E. Dzbanowski, who took care of the library until 1954. L. Shulhina began to disassemble the archive in 1921. Letters were handed over to P. Stebnytskyi, drawings and photographs were processed by D. Demutskyi. An inventory of the archives (104 folders) and correspondence (38 folders) was made and separate lists were compiled (Kolesnikova, Chernovol, Yanenko 2012, pp. 78-79). It was probably at this time that the general structure of the collection was laid down, and individual files were numbered with Latin numerals.

However, they began to describe the collection in a more systematic way in the Scientific Archive in 1956, as evidenced by Maria Viazmitina’s report: “The Scientific Archive of the Institute of Archeology received a separate room in June 1956. At the same time, work began on the analysis of F. Vovk’s archive…” (Buzko 2015, p. 197). The materials were probably sorted by Nadiia Linka and Seraphima Kuznetsova. In that year, the archaeologist Maria Viazmitina was appointed to head the archive, who at that time had experience in organizing a number of libraries and, above all, in creating the Architectural Library (now the State Scientific Architecture and Construction Library named after V.H. Zabolotnyi). The decision to start analyzing the archive of the “bourgeois nationalist” Khvedir Vovk required a certain amount of courage. The Fond received the first number in the list of personal fonds of the Archive. Although we do not know for sure how the decision was made to start organizing the Khv. Vovk’s collection, it is worth noting that Serhii Bibikov, known primarily for his Paleolithic studies, became the director of the Institute in 1955. It is noteworthy that the previous director of the Institute (from 1945 to 1954) was a paleolithic scholar and student of Khv. Vovk Petro Yefymenko, a paleolithic scholar and student of Vovk.


It is known that Yevheniia Spaska, a close friend of Mariia Viazmitina who was exiled to Kazakhstan by the Soviet authorities in 1934, worked on compiling the archive in the 1920s (Kolesnikova, Chernovol, Yanenko 2012, p. 78). In 1960, the next head of the archive, Viktor Petrov, wrote to the Institute’s directorate in a statement: “The scientific archive, as a special scientific institution in the system of the IA of the USSR Academy of Sciences, was organized only at the end of 1956. The registration of materials before 1956, especially in the first postwar years, was not always systematic” (Buzko 2015, p. 201).

In the 2000s, Liubov Kovaliova was in charge of organizing the collection in the archive, and Halyna Stanytsina was in charge of the Archive. Since then, the inventory has been clearly numbered, and the search for documents in it has become easier.



Бібліотека… Бібліотека. Список книг та відбитків. НА ІА НАН України, ф. 1, оп. 1, спр. 430-а.

Бузько О., Роде М. [Rohde Martin]. Спільнота в зображеннях: архівні джерела до життєпису Хведора Вовка // Археологія та давня історія України. 2023. № 4. С. 168-184.

Заповіт… Особисті документи. Автобіографія, список  наукових праць, заповіт, свідоцтво про смерть, список книг бібліотеки Ф. К. Вовка (1870–1918). НА ІА НАН України, ф. 1, оп. 1, спр. 429.

Колеснікова, В. А., Черновол, І. В., Яненко, А. С. 2012. Музей (Кабінет) антропології та етнології імені проф. Хв. Вовка. Київ: Стародавній світ.

Франко, О. 2001. Федір Вовк — вчений і громадський діяч. Київ: Європейський Університет


Martin Rohde, Oleksandra Buzko



On the implementation of the project of the Scientific Archive of the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine “Digital Memory Storage. The Archive of Khvedir Vovk (1847-1918)”

Oleksandra Buzko, Martin Rohde, Halyna Stanytsina, Tamara Kutsayeva, Daryna Romanenko, Volodymyr Mysak. Presentation at the Third All-Ukrainian Scientific Conference “History of Humanities in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: Preserved Heritage” (dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Restoration Workshop of the Lavra Museum of Cults and Life), January 18-19, 2024.

La Pierre Aux Fées (Magic Stone) and August 7/19, 1883 in the life of Khvedir Vovk

Presentation by Oleksandra Buzko and Martin Rohde at the X International Scientific Conference “History of Archaeology: Captured in Time and Space”, Kyiv, October 5-6, 2023