Vilnius University

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Vilnius University
founding July 7, 1578
Sponsorship state
place Vilnius , Lithuania
Rector Artūras Žukauskas (since 2015)
Students 19768 (October 2017)
Employee 4,848 (October 2015), thereof 1,416 scientific employees (2005)
Networks Coimbra Group , IAU
View of Vilnius from the tower of St. John's Church

The Vilnius University ( Lithuanian Vilniaus universitetas , Latin Universitas Vilnensis , Polish Uniwersytet Wileński ) in Vilnius is the largest university in Lithuania and one of the oldest in Central Europe . It consists of twelve faculties, eight university institutes and ten study and research centers. The Vilnius University Library is the oldest library in Lithuania. Affiliated are three university hospitals, an astronomical observatory, the botanical garden, the university computer center and the university church of St. Johannes. 1300 foreign students study here, 40 of them freshmen in human medicine and 10 students in dentistry studying in English.


Memorial plaque for Stephan Báthory in the campus of the University of Vilnius
The university's great courtyard, mid-19th century

Foundation and Polish-Lithuanian period (1578–1795)

The forerunner of the University of Vilnius was the Jesuit College , founded in 1570 , which was supposed to enforce the ideas of the Counter Reformation . It was converted in 1578 by King Stephan Báthory of Poland-Lithuania , who was also Grand Duke of Lithuania , into an academy called Academia et Universitas Vilnensis Societatis Iesu ( Vilnius Academy and University of the Society of Jesus ) with a philosophical and theological faculty and in 1579 by Pope Gregory XIII approved. King Piotr Skarga , the Provincial of the Jesuits in Poland , was appointed rector . After the University of Krakow , founded in 1364, it was the second university in the Polish-Lithuanian Empire and for a long time the eastern outpost of the European university landscape. It was, like many of the founding universities of the Jesuit order in Europe at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. Century, owed to the efforts of the Catholic Church for the Counter Reformation. In addition, wealthy members of the Lithuanian nobility such as the Radziwill family adhered to Protestantism and the (Protestant) university in Königsberg was founded in neighboring Prussia in 1544 , which attracted many Lithuanian students and scholars. The Jesuits subsequently founded other colleges (not universities) in Riga , Dorpat , Polotsk , Nyaswisch and Grodno .

As usual for most Jesuit universities, it initially only consisted of two (instead of the classic four) faculties. The mathematics was the Faculty of Philosophy subordinate. The Lithuanian Chancellor Casimirus Leo Sapieha founded the Faculty of Law in 1641, and the Faculty of Medicine did not follow until 1781.

Important scholars from the Baroque period who studied or taught at Vilnius University are the poet Mathias Casimirus Sarbievius (1595–1640), the philosopher Martinus Smiglecius (1564–1618; Logica , Ingolstadt, 1618), the theology professor Constantinus Syrvidus (1580– 1631), author of the first Lithuanian-Polish-Latin dictionary (1620) and founder of Lithuanian linguistics , and the rhetorician Sigismundus Lauxminus (1597–1670; Praxis oratoria ... , Branev, 1648; Ars et praxis musica , Vilnius, 1667) .

The Enlightenment in the 18th century was accompanied by the loss of power of the Jesuit order, which was repealed by Pope Clement XIV on August 23, 1773 . With this, the University of Vilnius came under the influence of a secular "Education Commission". The name of the university was changed to "Schola Princeps Magna Ducati Lithuaniae" ( First School of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania ) in 1781 , and the fields of medicine and natural sciences were introduced. The observatory came to life under the direction of Martin Poczobutt (university rector 1780–99), and the botanical garden was laid out in 1781. Many Western European lecturers taught in Vilnius at the turn of the 19th century. The university supported the adoption of Poland's new democratic constitution on May 3, 1791.

Russian period (1795-1832)

After the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire . In 1803 the university was re-awarded its university title by Tsar Alexander I as the "Imperial University" and was the largest in Russia during this period (Moscow University was the first Russian university to be founded in 1755). Under the administrative supervision of the Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire and good friend of Alexander I, Adam Jerzy Czartoryski , the university enjoyed a great deal of funding and a heyday in science. The professors elected the deans and their rector themselves. In 1805 the university library was opened to the public, and in 1816 Latin was given up as the language of instruction in favor of Polish.

At the same time, Vilnius University has always been a refuge for enlightenment and thus for the idea of ​​national self-determination. From 1821 onwards, thanks to lectures by Poland's most important historian and later freedom fighter Joachim Lelewel, it became a center of national enthusiasm among young academics. The university flourished so well that it was one of the largest in Europe by the mid-1820s and had more students than Oxford University . However, this led to Lelewels being replaced by the Russian administration in 1824. At the same time, the repression intensified : as early as 1823, several students who belonged to the student clubs of the "Philomats" and the "Philaretes", including the poet Adam Mickiewicz sponsored by Lelewel , were arrested for conspiracy and plans to overthrow. After the November uprising of 1831 , the university was completely dissolved in 1832.

Prominent names who worked as scholars at the university are from the Enlightenment period besides the above: the astronomer Jan Śniadecki (1756–1830; rector of the university), his brother, the doctor and chemist Jędrzej Śniadecki (1768–1838) , the architects Martin Knackfuss (1740–1821; architect of the new building of the university observatory) and Laurynas Gucevičius (Polish Wawrzyniec Gucewicz ; 1753–98), the painter Franciszek Smuglewicz (lit. Pranciškus Smuglevičius ; 1745–1807), founder of the art school at the university (1797), as well as the German doctors Johann Peter Frank (1745-1821), his son Josef Frank (1771-1842), and Ludwig Heinrich Bojanus (1776-1827), professor of veterinary medicine (from 1806) and comparative anatomy (from 1816), rector 1822–23. Two outstanding personalities of the Polish national romantic movement, the poets Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855) and Juliusz Słowacki (1809–1849), studied in Vilnius. Mickiewicz was one of the most active members of the "Philomats" student union, which was banned in 1823. Simonas Daukantas (1793–1864) also studied at Vilnius University, who wrote the first history of Lithuania in Lithuanian and was thus one of the founders of the Lithuanian national movement.

Polish period (1919-1939)

The First World War brought unstable conditions in Lithuania. Lithuanians, Poles and Soviet Russians fought for rule over Vilnius . After the Poles were finally able to assert themselves militarily in August 1919, the university officially reopened on October 11, 1919, now as the "Polish Stefan Batory University". In times of rampant nationalism there was no room for other peoples and the university became a purely Polish-language educational institution. The Lithuanian professors and students, who for their part announced their intention to re-establish the university in December 1918, but were no longer able to do so because of the Polish-Lithuanian war and the subsequent annexation of the Vilnius area and the establishment of the so-called Litwa Środkowa by Poland, moved to Kaunas . The university founded there in 1922 saw itself in the tradition of the Vilnius University, but in 1930 it was named Vytautas Magnus University .

The Stefan Batory University placed its emphasis on the humanities. Despite its relatively low reputation in the Polish university landscape of the interwar period, it can refer to a few well-known names in this area. The philosopher Władysław Tatarkiewicz (1886–1980) taught here, as did the mathematician Antoni Zygmund (1900–1992). Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004), who later won the Polish Nobel Prize for Literature, studied briefly in Vilnius.

With the end of World War II and the return of the Vilnius land to Lithuania (or to the Lithuanian SSR), almost all Polish lecturers and students left the university. A large part of the teaching staff went to the newly founded Nicolaus Copernicus University in Thorn , from which the traditions of the old Stephan Bathory University in Vilnius were maintained, some emigrated to Western Europe and North America.

Second World War

On September 17, 1939, shortly after the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, Lithuania came under the Soviet sphere of influence (details here ). First, the Vilnius Land was added to the Republic of Lithuania and the University of Vilnius was litanized in December 1939. When the communists came to power and joined the Soviet Union in June 1940, a year of communist power also followed at the university; from the end of June 1941 ( Germany invaded the Soviet Union ) to October 1943 it was under the control of the Nazi occupiers. The Jewish students and teachers were expelled from the university and most of them were murdered in 1941 ; later also Polish and Russian students. In March 1943 the university ceased operations entirely.

Soviet time

After the Soviet Union came to power again , the university reopened in October 1944. It remained a Lithuanian educational institution, but was "cleaned up" according to Stalinist ideological criteria: many former lecturers were dismissed or even banished to Siberia , the last rector of the Polish university, Stefan Ehrenkreutz, died in the KGB prison in Vilnius. Many other, middle-class teachers had left Lithuania before it was retaken by the Red Army . The origin of the university as the foundation of the Catholic Jesuit Order was a nuisance to the communist authorities: celebrations for the 375th anniversary of the university had to be omitted in 1954. In 1955 the university was renamed "State Vincas Kapsukas University Vilnius" after a leading Lithuanian communist .

Hopes for liberalization and regaining autonomy were not fulfilled in 1956. The new Rector Juozas Bulavas , appointed in 1956 , who had started to replace the teaching apparatus, had to resign as early as 1958. His successor was the mathematician Jonas Kubilius (until 1990). In spite of the strict ideological supervision, especially of the humanities subjects, the University of Vilnius was able to establish itself as a center of Baltic studies and foster international exchange from the mid-1960s . The 400th anniversary celebrations took place in both Lithuania and Poland - excluding the question of whether it was a Polish or Lithuanian university - and among Polish and Lithuanian emigrants in Los Angeles. In the run-up to the celebrations in 1979, it was possible to acquire the necessary funds for a fundamental renovation of the historic university grounds. In Saulėtekis on the northern outskirts, new buildings for the faculties of physics, economic research and law as well as student dormitories were built from 1968 to 1978. In 1989 the university had a total of 14 faculties, two of them in Kaunas.

Lithuanian time (since 1990)

As early as the autumn of 1988, the signs of the emergence of a new era were growing. The independence movement Sąjūdis found broad support at the university. With the beginning of the academic year 1989/90 the lectures on Marxism-Leninism were canceled and in return the Faculty of Philosophy (with the areas of philosophy, psychology, sociology) was re-established. After Lithuania declared itself independent in the spring of 1990, the university was named "Universitas Vilnensis" (lit. Vilniaus universitetas ). In summer d. J. the autonomy of the university was restored. In December 1990, the reform-minded rector Rolandas Pavilionis was elected, who remained in office until 2000.

With the regained independence, a return was also made to the origins of the university: with the 1991/92 academic year, the traditional three-tier system of bachelor , master and doctoral studies that had been in place until the Soviet era was reintroduced. In addition, in October 1991 the St. John's Church ( Šv. Jonų bažnyčia ) came under the authority of the university again. Since 1993 it has also been run by the Jesuits again. The economics and history courses, which were particularly burdened ideologically, were restructured from the ground up, and a new faculty for communication was set up, which in turn had its own institute for journalism to set new standards for free opinion-forming. Also new since September 1992 is its own institute for international relations and political science, which moved into a separate building in the heart of the old town (Vokiečių g.) In 2002. This means that the faculties for philology , philosophy (with theology, psychology and sociology) and history as well as the institutes for foreign languages ​​and political science are represented in the city center, while all the other faculties are outside.

Faculties, institutes, centers & other departments

The university's great courtyard today
Big yard

The University of Vilnius is now divided into a total of twelve faculties, different institutes and other non-academic areas.

Faculties, institutes and academic departments

  • Business school
  • Faculty of Chemistry and Earth Sciences
    1. Institute of Chemistry
    2. Institute for Geosciences
  • Faculty of Communication
  • Faculty of Economics
  • Faculty of History
  • Faculty of Law
  • Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science
    1. Institute for Computer Science
    2. Institute for Applied Mathematics
    3. Institute for Mathematics
    4. Institute for Data Science and Digital Technologies
  • Faculty of Medicine
    1. Institute for Biomedicine
    2. Institute for Clinical Medicine
    3. Institute of Dentistry
    4. Institute for Health Sciences
  • Faculty of Philology
    1. Institute for English and Romance Studies
    2. Institute for Baltic Studies
    3. Institute for Literature, Culture and Translation Research
    4. Institute for Applied Linguistics
    5. Institute for Foreign Languages
  • Faculty of Philosophy
    1. Institute for Asian and Transcultural Studies
    2. Institute for Psychology
    3. Institute for Philosophy
    4. Institute for Sociology and Social Work
    5. Institute for Educational Science
  • Faculty of Physics
    1. Institute for Physical Chemistry
    2. Institute for Photonics and Nanotechnology
    3. Institute for Applied Electrodynamics and Telecommunications
    4. Institute for Theoretical Physics and Astronomy
  • Institute for International Relations and Political Science
  • Kaunas faculty
    1. Institute for Social Sciences and Applied Computer Science
    2. Institute for Languages, Literature and Translation Studies
  • Center for Life Sciences
    1. Institute of Biochemistry
    2. Institute of Life Sciences
    3. Institute for Biotechnology

Other areas

  • Botanical Garden
  • IT service center
  • Library
  • Cultural center
  • Health and Sports Center
  • museum
  • publishing company
  • Center for property management and services
  • Conference, seminar and leisure center Romuva
  • Center for student dormitories


The old, centrally located campus of the university reflects all of the architectural styles represented in Lithuania: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism. This “city within the city”, which has grown over several centuries, has a total of 13 courtyards. The faculties for philology, for philosophy with theology, psychology and sociology, as well as for history, the university administration and the university library are grouped around them.


Even before the actual university was founded in 1579, there was an extensive library of the Jesuit College, which had been established in 1570 by donations from King Sigismund II August and the then bishop Georgius Albinius. As early as 1579 when the university was founded, it comprised 4,500 publications. In 1804 it was opened to the general public. The closure of the university in 1832 (and again during the chaos of the First World War) caused heavy losses to the stock. The library was initially completely closed, opened as an antiquarian museum in 1856 and, two years after the second Lithuanian-Polish uprising in 1863, a public library and museum. Numerous books confiscated in Lithuania were brought to this museum.

After the Second World War, some of the historical writings that had been distributed all over Russia after 1832 were recovered. Today the library has 313 incunabula (the oldest book from 1467), numerous unique documents on Lithuanian history and old books in Estonian, Latvian, Cyrillic and Grahdanka . There is also an extensive collection of manuscripts , a graphic collection with over 87,000 prints and an important map collection with 1,000 atlases and over 10,000 historical maps, based among other things on the Joachim Lelewels collection.

The total inventory today is 5.3 million pieces (5,500 works from the 16th century and 19,000 works from the 17th century). Since 1965, the University Library is a depository library ( Depository Library ) of the United Nations .

The magnificent hall of the library is the former refectory on the ground floor. 1802-04 it was redesigned by the painter Franciszek Smuglewicz (lit. Pranciškus Smuglevičius; 1745-1807) and decorated with wall paintings (older ceiling painting from the 17th century). It then served as the reading room of the library, which is now also open to the public. A selection of the most valuable old volumes is also shown here to today's visitors. Also part of the library museum is the two-story, magnificent White Hall on the 3rd floor, where the observatory was housed until the 1870s.

University Church of St. John

St. John's Church of the University today

The Church of St. John the Baptist and John the Apostle and Evangelist is one of the oldest churches in Vilnius. King Władysław II Jagiełło had it built at the end of the 14th century on the occasion of his conversion to Christianity. In 1571 she was assigned to the Jesuits who had come to Vilnius two years earlier, and in 1579 they integrated her into the university they headed.

It owes its baroque appearance to the reconstruction (1738–49) after a city fire in 1737, which severely damaged large parts of the university. The Jesuits brought the Protestant and hitherto little known architect Johann Christoph Glaubitz (1707–1767) from Silesia to Vilnius as master builder . He combined the Gothic hall church, the 22 altars (ten still preserved today) and seven chapels into a harmonious whole and gave it a baroque character. He also added two floors to the free-standing bell tower from the Renaissance period. With a height of 68 meters, it is the highest in Vilnius Old Town and a landmark of the city.

Well-known graduates

Well-known students

Honorary doctors

with the year of the award


Web links

Commons : Vilnius University  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Facts and Figures
  2. ↑ number of employees
  3. ^ List of IAU Members. In: International Association of Universities, accessed August 6, 2019 .
  4. Uniwersytet Wileński ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) on (Polish)
  5. Memories of the university's teaching staff from 1810-30, their teaching methods and their conflicts with the Russian administration can now be found in the (Polish) memoirs of Zygmunt Rewkowski (1807-93), Pamiętniki , written in 1864 . Tom 1. Wilno, Ostatnie lata Uniwersytetu {Wilnius, The Last Years of the University}, Ed. Prof. Witold Więsław, Wrocław 2011: Instytut Matematyczny Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego. The author grew up in Vilnius, was a student in Prägymnasium the university, then a student and in 1828 a young professor there (he taught first in Eastern Europe probability theory), came after the dissolution of the university, suspected of being a Polish patriot, into the clutches of Okhranka (the Tsarist secret police), which sentenced him to 25 years of military service in the Caucasus.
  6. Tomas Venclova, Vilnius: A City in Europe , edition suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 2006, p. 94
  7. ^ Faculties, Institutes, Centers & Other Departments. Retrieved May 8, 2019 (UK English).
  8. ^ Structure. Retrieved May 8, 2019 (UK English).
  9. ^ Structure. In: Retrieved May 8, 2019 .
  10. ^ Structure. Retrieved May 8, 2019 (UK English).
  11. ^ VU Faculty of Philology - Institutes. Retrieved May 8, 2019 (UK English).
  12. ^ Structure. Retrieved May 8, 2019 (UK English).
  13. Departments. Retrieved May 8, 2019 (UK English).
  14. ^ VU Kaunas Faculty - Institutes. Retrieved May 8, 2019 .
  15. ^ Institutes. Retrieved May 8, 2019 (UK English).

Coordinates: 54 ° 40 ′ 57 ″  N , 25 ° 17 ′ 14.2 ″  E