Kovel (Ukrainian and Russian: Ковель, translit. Kovel’, Polish: Kowel) is a city located in the Volyn Oblast (province), in north-western Ukraine. Serving as the administrative center of the Kovelskyi Raion (district), the city itself is also designated as a separate raion within the oblast. The current estimated population (as of 2004) is around 62,900.
Kovel, located around [show location on an interactive map] 51°13′N 24°43′E / 51.217°N 24.717°E / 51.217; 24.717, is the north-western hub of the Ukrainian rail system, with six rail lines radiating outward from the city. The first of these was built in 1873, connecting the city with Brest-Litovsk and Rivne. In 1877 Kovel was first linked by rail with Lublin and Warsaw in Congress Poland.
Kovel gives its name to one of the oldest Runic inscriptions which was lost during World War II. The Kovel spearhead, unearthed near the town in 1858, contained text in Gothic language (illustration).
Kovel (Kowel) received city rights from the Polish king Zygmunt Stary in 1518. After the Partitions of Poland the town fell into the Russian Empire for over a hundred years. During the First World War, the city was a site of the Battle of Kovel between Austrian and Russian imperial armies. In the interwar period, Kovel served as the capital of Kovel County in Volhynian Voivodeship of the Second Polish Republic. In World War II, following the Nazi German invasion of Poland and subsequently, their Operation Barbarossa the Germans murdered 18,000 Jews in Kovel, mostly during August and September of 1942. Later on, in March and April 1944, Kovel was a site of fierce fighting between the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking and the Soviets. In 1945, at the insistence of Joseph Stalin (following the Tehran Conference of 1943) Poland's borders were redrawn, the Polish population was forcibly resettled and Kovel was incorporated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.