Vilnius University

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Vilnius University (Lithuanian Vilniaus Universitetas, Polish Uniwersytet Wileński, formerly Stefan Batory University) is the oldest and biggest university in Lithuania.

Universitas Vilnensis
University campus, 19th century
University campus, 19th century


Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

In 1568 the local nobles asked the Jesuits to open an academy either in Wilno (Polish name for Vilnius) or Kowno (Polish name for Kaunas). The following year Walerian Protasiewicz, the bishop of Vilnius, bought several houses in the city centre and started Vilnian Academy (Akademia Wileńska). Initially the Academy had three divisions: humanistic, philosophical and theological. The first students joined the Academy in 1570. Also the library that will become the library of Vilnius University is established the same year, with books donated mostly by the founder.

On April 1, 1579 king Stephen Bthory upgraded the academy and granted it with equal rights to the Jagiellonian University of Krakw. His edict was approved by pope Gregory XIII's bull of October 30, 1579. The first rector of the Academy was Piotr Skarga. He invited many notable scientists from all over the Europe and founded the library, that was later sponsored by many notable persons: Sigismund II Augustus of Poland, bishop Walerian Protasewicz and marshal of the crown Kazimierz Lew Sapieha.

In 1575 duke Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł and Elżbieta Ogińska sponsored a printing house for the academy, one of the first in the region. The printing house issued books in latin and Polish, and in 1595 the first book in Lithuanian was released - Catechismusa Prasty Szadei (Simple Words of Catechism) by Martynas Mavydas.

The period of the Academy's development lasted until 17th century. The following period of The Deluge led to a dramatical drop both in the number of students and the quality of studies. In the middle 18th century the educational authorities tried to restore the Academy. This led to foundation of the first observatory in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (and fourth professional such facility in Europe) founded in 1753 by Tomasz Żebrowski. The Commission of National Education took over the Academy in 1773 and reformed it into a modern university. Thanks to the rector of the Academy, Marcin Poczobutt-Odlanicki, the Academy was granted the status of the Principal School (Szkoła Głwna) in 1783. The Commission of National Education, the secular authority governing the academy after the dissolution of the Jesuit order, prepared a new statute.


After the Partitions of Poland Wilno was annexed by Russia. However, the Commission retained control over the Academy until 1803, when tsar Alexander I of Russia accepted the new statute and renamed the Academy to Imperial University of Vilna. The institution was granted the right of administration of all educational facilities in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Among the notable personae were the curator (governor) Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, rector Jan Śniadecki

The university flourished. By 1823 it was one of the biggest in Europe (with number of students exceeding that of the Oxford University). A number of students are arrested in 1823 for conspiracy against the tsar. Among them is Adam Mickiewicz, one of the most important poets of the time. In 1832 after the November Uprising the University was closed by tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Two of the faculties were turned into two separate schools: Medical and Surgical Academy (Akademia Medyko-Chirurgiczna) and Roman-Catholic Academy (Rzymsko-Katolicka Akademia Duchowna), but those were banned shortly afterwards (1842). The reppressions after the failed uprising included banning both the Polish and Lithuanian languages and all education in those languages was halted. Finally all the property of the University was confiscated and sent to Russia (mostly to St. Petersburg).

After 1919

After Vilnius region was annexed by Poland, on August 20, 1919 by the act of Jzef Piłsudski the vilnian academy was restored under the new name of Stefan Batory University (Uniwersytet Stefana Batorego). The University quickly recovered and gained international prestige, mostly thanks to notable scientists like Władysław Tatarkiewicz, Marian Zdziechowski and Henryk Niewodniczański. Among the students of the University at that time was future Nobel prize winner Czesław Miłosz. The University quickly grew, mostly due to government donations and private sponsors.

In 1938 the University had:

  • 7 Institutes
  • 123 professors
  • 104 different scientifical units (including two hospitals)
  • 3110 students

Among the students were many foreigners, including 212 Russians, 94 Belarusians, 85 Lithuanians, 28 Ukrainians and 13 Germans.

World War II

Following the outbreak of the September Campaign the University was closed. However, soon after the city was annexed by the Soviet Union most of the professors returned and most faculties were reopened on October 1, 1939. On October 28 Wilno was given to Lithuania. On December 15, 1939 the government of Lithuania decided to liquidate the University, because the Polish language was used in it, and Poland persecuted schools in which Lithuanian language was used. By January 1 1940 all professors and students were expelled from their homes and student hostels. Many of them were forcibly settled in various smaller towns of Lithuania, mostly along the Latvian border.

In early 1940 the University was re-opened as a Lithuanian-only school. The former students were not allowed to continue their studies. Following the annexation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union the lectures in Polish were re-introduced, however most of the professors were soon arrested and sent to prisons and gulags in Russia and Kazakhstan.

The city was annexed by Germany in 1941 and all institutions of higher education for non-Germans were closed. However, the remaining professors organized a system of secret education with lectures and exams held in private flats. The diplomas of the underground universities were accepted by many Polish universities after the War. In 1944 many of the students took part in the Operation Ostra Brama. The majority of them were later arrested by the NKVD and sent to the Soviet Union. Following the final annexation of the city into the Lithuanian SSR most of the professors and students that survived the war were expelled. Many of them joined various universities in Poland. In order not to lose contact with each other, the professors decided to transfer whole faculties. After 1945 most of the mathematicians, humanists and biologists joined the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń while a number of the medical faculty formed the core of newly-founded Medical University of Gdańsk.

After 1945

After the war the University was renamed to Vincas Kapsukas University for Lithuanian SSR. Though restrained by the Soviet system, Vilnius University grew and gained significance. Vilnius University started to free itself from the Soviet ideology in 1988 thanks to the glasnost policy. On March 11, 1990 Lithuania declared independence and the University regained authonomy. Since 1991, the University of Vilnius has been a Signatory to the Magna Charta of the European Universities. The University is a member of the European University Association (EUA) and the Conference of Baltic University Rectors.

Notable professors and alumni

Sorted in alphabetical order

Honorary Doctors of Vilnius University

University now

In modern times, the University still offers studies with a strong recognized content by well-known Lithuanian scientists.

As of October 1, 2003 there were 21 284 students studying at Vilnius University.


There are 12 faculties:

  • Faculty of Chemistry
  • Faculty of Economy
  • Faculty of Philology
  • Faculty of Philosophy
  • Faculty of Physics
  • Faculty of Natural Sciences
  • Faculty of History
  • Kaunas Humanitarian faculty
  • Faculty of Communication
  • Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Faculty of Medicine
  • Faculty of Law

The university also has several institutes:

  • Institute of International Relations and Political Science
  • Institute of Material Science and Applied Research
  • Institute of Foreign Languages
  • Institute of Ecology
  • Institute of Immunology
  • Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy
  • Institute of Oncology
  • Institute of Experimental and Clinical Medicine

There are also several Study and Research Centers:

  • A.J.Greimas Center of Semiotics
  • Environmental Studies Center
  • Center for Stateless Cultures
  • Center of Orientalistics
  • Center of Professional Improvement
  • Religious Studies and Research Centre
  • Sports Center
  • Center for Gender Studies
  • Vilnius Distance Education Study Center
  • Center of Excellence in Cell Biology and Lasers
  • International Center of Knowledge Economy and Knowledge Management


NATO SfP-972534 ( 1999-2002 years ) NATO Science for Peace programme project "Laser Spectrometer for Testing of Coatings of Crystals and Optical Components in Wide Spectral and Angle Range"


  • Studia z dziejw Uniwersytetu Wileńskiego 15791979, K. Mrozowska, Krakw 1979
  • Uniwersytet Wileński 15791979, M. Kosman, Wrocław 1981

See also:

External link:

no:Vilnius universitet pl:Uniwersytet Wileński ru:Вильнюсский университет


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