Kotovsk – Honoring a Military Leader

If you travel Ukraine, you will find that the country is divided into a number of different oblasts – or regions – and that each oblast contains a number of interesting cities, towns and villages. The Odessa Oblast is certainly no different. As one of the larger regions in Ukraine, the oblast covers about 33 300 square kilometers of land. The province is divided into 26 different Raions (districts) with 26 cities (7 of which are of major importance), 33 towns and 1 138 different villages. One of these cities is Kotovsk, a medium-sized city that is home to around 41 000 people. Kotovsk in Ukraine may not be everybody’s idea of a dream destination, but it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.

The city of Kotovsk is perhaps best known for the person it is named after – Grigori Kotovsky. Kotovsky was a famous Soviet military leader, who was buried in the city after his death. Thus, in 1935, the decision was made to name the city after him in an effort to honor his memory and the deeds he performed on behalf of his nation. Prior to this, the city was known as Birzula. Grigori Kotovsky (also Grigore Kotovski) was born in 1881 in Hîncesti, which is now a part of Moldova. Few then could have imagined the military leader and Communist activist that young Grigori would be become. Grigori’s disillusionment with the Imperialist Russian government must have started quite early in his military career, because by the time he was 35 years of age, he deserted the Imperial Russian army, was captured and became a convict sentenced to work in a Russian katorga. He later escaped and became a formidable fugitive who was given the death sentence in 1916, though he obviously managed to avoid this penalty for some time. He first resisted tsarist rule in 1902, again in 1905 and in 1915 he was able to lead two Moldavian Rebellions. As his unusual career unfolded, he sided with the Communists, then joined the Bolsheviks and later played an active role in the foundation of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Clearly, his main goal was to see the people of his homeland free from oppressive political rule and he worked hard to this end.

In 1925, at just 44 years of age, Grigori Kotovsky died. He left behind him an incredible legacy and was honored by being properly buried in a mausoleum in Birzula where he passed away. Ten years later in 1935 the decision was made to rename the Birzula to Kotovsk. The city fell within the boundaries of the newly created Odessa oblast and the decision was largely celebrated by the people. Unfortunately, Kotovsky’s Mausoleum was destroyed during the Romanian occupation of Transnistria, but Kotovky’s memory continues to live on. Not only does Ukraine have a city named after him, but there are also two other towns in the Soviet Union which were later given the same name. The first, the place where he was born and raised, later regained its old name but the second continues to exist in the Tambov Region of Russia.

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