Established in 1876 under the initial direction of A. I. Kirpichnikov, an active participant in numerous archeological congresses, other prominent members included D. I. Bagalei, the Efimenkos, and N. F. Sumtsov. The society played a crucial role in maintaining the unique historical identity of the region despite the rigors of de-Ukrainization. It established an archive in 1880 to accumulate records and manuscripts about the Cossack Hetmanate, or Zaporizhian Host that had governed from 1648 until it was absorbed into the Little Russian Collegium in 1781. Bagalei in particular was an activist in consolidating the various document collections in Kharkov as in establishing an ethnographic museum in conjunction with the 12th Congress held there. He and Sumtsov, himself of Cossack heritage and an archeologist , participated in the 1905 Revolution by pressing to end the proscription of Ukrainian publications. Their demands resulted in the Ministry of Education allowing university courses on the history and literature of Ukraine, taught in the native language.