Published in “The Ukrainian Weekly”, No. 15, April 9, 2023, p. 5.
by Volodymyr Mezentsev, Ph. D.
It is with great sorrow and grief that the participants of the Baturyn Archaeological Project at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) at the University of Alberta, the Chernihiv National University, and the Hetman Capital Historical and Cultural Preserve in Baturyn inform about the premature death of our dear colleague and friend, the well-known Ukrainian archaeologist and historian Yurii Kovalenko, Ph. D. This is the great lost for the Ukrainian academic community.
He was the head of the Department of Scholarly Research at the Hlukhiv National Preserve and taught the archaeology of Ukraine at the Hlukhiv National Pedagogical University. In his native town of Hlukhiv, Sumy Oblast, Dr. Kovalenko founded the local Museum of Archaeology and participated in many archaeological expeditions throughout Ukraine. He was the highly reputable leading specialist in the history and archaeology of this hetman capital as well as the medieval and early modern Siverian region. This scholar published over 70 articles on these subjects. His successfully defended doctoral thesis was dedicated to the historical topography of Hlukhiv during the princely and Kozak eras. However, the death of its author has disrupted the preparation and publication of this work as a monograph.
For 17 years, Dr. Kovalenko collaborated with the Canada-Ukraine Baturyn Archaeological Project founded in 2001 by Prof. Zenon E. Kohut, the former director of CIUS. This Institute and the Ucrainica Research Institute in Toronto sponsor the Baturyn project. It is administered by The Peter Jacyk Centre for Ukrainian Historical Research at the CIUS Toronto Office (https://www.ualberta.ca/canadian-institute-of-ukrainian-studies/centres-and-programs/jacyk-centre/baturyn-project.html). The Ukrainian Studies Fund in New York also supports the archaeological and historical study of early modern Baturyn with annual subsidies.
Dr. Kovalenko regularly participated in the excavations of Baturyn, Chernihiv Oblast, the capital of the Kozak state or Hetmanate (1669-1708, 1750-64), as the leader of student group from the Hlukhiv University and the local military lyceum. An experienced field researcher and explorer he had the exceptional ability for discovering and unearthing masonry structure remnants, metal artefacts, and graves using a powerful American metal detector. In 2006, Dr. Kovalenko located the foundations of the Holy Trinity Cathedral commissioned by Hetman Ivan Mazepa in ca. 1692 and destroyed during the ravaging of Baturyn by Russian troops in 1708. In 2007-09, its foundations were completely excavated by our Canada-Ukraine archaeological team which is based at the Chernihiv University. Dr. Kovalenko co-authored our articles surveying the 2016-20 archaeological findings in Baturyn in both Ukrainian and English.
He was also involved in the excavations at the twenty-century battlefields and the exhumation of soldiers’ graves in Germany. Archaeologists there priced highly his qualification as the investigator of military objects and artefacts.
From 2020 our colleague joined the Ukrainian Army as a volunteer and true patriot. He took part in many battles with Russian invaders in Eastern Ukraine. On March 14, 2023, Dr. Kovalenko lost his life defending the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the battle near the town of Siverodonets’k, Luhans’k Oblast. Despite of the intensive Russian airstrikes and bombardments of the Sumy Oblast, numerous historians, archaeologists, and the general public from Hlukhiv, Baturyn, and Chernihiv attended the memorial service and the funeral of our colleague in Hlukhiv on March 18th. May he rest in peace. Vichna pam’iat’ i slava heroiam Ukrainy!
His widow Oksana Kovalenko cordially thanks all friends and colleagues of her husband for their sympathy and support in the time of sorrow, particularly the family of the German archaeologist Guido Lewandowski. He kindly invited two daughters and the granddaughter of Dr. Kovalenko to find refuge at his home during the hostilities in Eastern Ukraine and has maintained them for about one year. Oksana has remained in Hlukhiv to care about her elderly parents.
Sergeant Yurii Kovalenko (1966-2023), RIP. Photos from the Facebook.
Archaeologist Yurii Kovalenko, Ph. D., head of the Department of Scholarly Research at the Hlukhiv National Preserve. Photo from the Facebook.
Leaders of the Baturyn Archaeological Expedition (leftward): Yurii Sytyi, Viacheslav Skorokhod (Chernihiv University), Volodymyr Mezentsev (CIUS), and Yurii Kovalenko, 2012.
Yurii Kovalenko with his metal detector at the excavations of remnants of the ruined Hetman Ivan Mazepa’s manor near Baturyn, 2012. Photos from the Baturyn excavations by V. Mezentsev.