Saint Petersburg State University

Saint Petersburg State University
Saint Petersburg State University
Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет

Arms of the State University of Saint Petersburg
Latin: Universitas Petropolitana
Motto Hic tuta perennat
(Here we stay in safety)
Established 1724 (1819)
Type Public
Rector Nikolai M. Kropachev
Admin. staff 11,854
Students 32,400
Undergraduates 26,872 [1]
Postgraduates 5,566
Location Saint Petersburg, Russia Russia
Campus Both urban and suburban
Website www.спбгу.рф

Saint Petersburg State University (SPbSU, Russian: Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет, СПбГУ) is a Russian federal state-owned higher education institution based in Saint Petersburg and one of the oldest and largest universities in Russia.

It is made up of 22 specialized faculties, 13 research institutes, the Faculty of Military Studies, the Academic Classical School, and the Department of Physical Culture and Sports. As of 2010, the university has a teaching staff of 6,855. The university has two primary campuses: one on Vasilievsky Island and the other in Peterhof. During the Soviet period, it was known as Leningrad State University (Russian: Ленинградский государственный университет), in 1948—1989 named after Zhdanov.


Reputation and international rankings

The Twelve Collegia building on Vasilievsky Island in Saint Petersburg is the university's main building and the seat of the rector and administration (the building was constructed on the orders of Peter the Great)

Saint Petersburg State University is considered the second best multi-faculty university in Russia after Moscow State University, however, it performs relatively poorly in both national and international rankings. While the university was ranked 251st[2] in 2011 by the QS World University Rankings, it was placed 351-400th[3] by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 301-400th[4] by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Furthermore, national rankings produced by RIA Novosti / Higher School of Economics and Forbes consistently place Saint Petersburg State University outside top 10 in Russia.[5]

Nonetheless, the university has a reputation for having educated the majority of a Russia's current political elite; these include presidents Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev, both of whom studied Law at the university.

The university is widely considered to be one of Russia's oldest universities. There is an ongoing debate as to whether it is, in fact, Russia's oldest university, as this title is also claimed by the Lomonosov State University of Moscow (Moscow State University). The reason for this uncertainty can be ascribed to the two separate occasions on which the university was founded; the first occasion, 1724, predates the foundation of Moscow State University in 1755. However, the second occasion, in 1819, does not. Thus the case is open to interpretation and currently there is no definitive answer.


Hallway in the Twelve Collegia building, St. Petersburg State University: one of the longest academic hallways in the world[citation needed]

It is disputed by the university administration whether Saint Petersburg State University or Moscow State University is the oldest higher education institution in Russia. While the latter was established in 1755, the former, which has been in continuous operation since 1819, itself claims to be the successor of the university established on January 24, 1724 by a decree of Peter the Great, together with the Academic Gymnasium and Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Immanuel Kant State University of Russia in Kaliningrad claims to be the successor of the Albertina founded in East Prussia in 1544, though there is hardly any degree of continuity at all.

In the period between 1803 and 1819, Saint Petersburg University officially did not exist; the institution founded by Peter the Great, the Saint Petersburg Academy, had already been disbanded, because the new 1803 charter of the Academy of Sciences stipulated that there should be no educational institutions affiliated with it. The Petersburg Pedagogical Institute, renamed the Main Pedagogical Institute in 1814, was established in 1804 and occupied a part of the Twelve Collegia building.

On February 8, 1819 (O.S.), Alexander I of Russia reorganized the Main Pedagogical Institute into Saint Petersburg University, which at that time consisted of three faculties: Faculty of Philosophy and Law, Faculty of History and Philology and Faculty of Physics and Mathematics, and enrolled several dozen students. Since there is some degree of continuity between the Academy, the Pedagogical Institute, and the University, Saint Petersburg State University may be considered the oldest university in Russia. In 1821 the university was renamed Saint Petersburg Imperial University. In 1823 most of the university moved from the Twelve Collegia to the southern part of the city beyond the Fontanka. In 1824 a version of the charter of Moscow University became the first charter of the Saint Petersburg Imperial University. In 1829 there were 19 full professors and 169 full-time and part-time students in the university. In 1830 Tsar Nicholas passed the entire building of the Twelve Collegia back to the university, and the courses returned there. In 1835 a new Charter of the Imperial Universities of Russia was approved. According to it during the following years the Faculty of Law was established and the Faculty of History and Philology and Faculty of Physics and Mathematics were merged into the Faculty of Philosophy as the 1st and 2nd Departments, respectively.

In 1849 after the Spring of Nations the Senate of the Russian Empire decreed that the Rector should be appointed by the Minister of National Enlightenment rather than elected by the Assembly of the university. However, Pyotr Pletnyov was reappointed Rector and ultimately became the longest-serving rector of Saint Petersburg University (1840–1861).

Dmitry Mendeleyev
The Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics in Peterhof
Botanical garden of the University

In 1850 the 1st and 2nd Departments of the Faculty of Philosophy were turned back into the Faculty of History and Philosophy and Faculty of Physics and Mathematics, respectively, the latter specializing not only in mathematics and physics, but also in other natural sciences, such as biology and chemistry. The Oriental studies were separated from the Faculty of History and Philology, and in 1855 the fourth faculty, Faculty of Oriental Languages, was opened.

In 1859–1861 female part-time students could attend lectures in the university. In 1861 there were 1,270 full-time and 167 part-time students in the university, of them 498 were in the Faculty of Law, the largest subdivision. During 1861–1862 there was student unrest in the university, and it was temporarily closed twice during the year. The students were denied freedom of assembly and placed under police surveillance, while public lectures were forbidden. Many students were expelled. After the unrest, in 1865, only 524 students remained.

The new Charter of the Imperial Russian Universities adopted in 1863 restored the right of the university assembly to elect the rector. In March 1869, student unrest shook the university again but on a smaller scale. By 1869, 2,588 students had graduated from the university.

In 1880 the Ministry of National Enlightenment forbade students to marry and married persons could not be admitted. In 1882 another student unrest took place in the university. In 1884 a new Charter of the Imperial Russian Universities was adopted, which granted the right to appoint the rector to the Minister of National Enlightenment again. On March 1, 1887 (O.S.) a group of the university students was arrested while planning an attempt on the life of Alexander III of Russia. As a result, new admission rules to gymnasiums and universities were approved by the Minister of National Enlightenment Ivan Delyanov in 1887, which barred persons of ignoble origin from admission to the university, unless they were extraordinarily talented.

By 1894, 9,212 students had graduated from the university. Among the renowned scholars of the second half of the 19th century affiliated with the university were mathematician Pafnuty Chebyshev, physicist Heinrich Lenz, chemists Dmitri Mendeleev and Aleksandr Butlerov, embryologist Alexander Kovalevsky, physiologist Ivan Sechenov, pedologist Vasily Dokuchaev. On March 24, 1896 (O.S.), on the campus of the university Alexander Popov publicly demonstrated transmission of radio waves for the first time in history.

As of January 1, 1900 (O.S.), there were 2,099 students enrolled in the Faculty of Law, 1,149 students in the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics, 212 students in the Faculty of Oriental Languages and 171 students in the Faculty of History and Philology. In 1902 the first student dining hall in Russia was opened in the university.

Since about 1897 regular strikes and unrests of students had shaken the university and spread to other higher education institutions across Russia. In 1905 during the Revolution the charter of the Russian universities was amended once more, the autonomy of the universities was partially restored and the right to elect the rector was returned to the academic board for the first time since 1884. In 1905–1906 the university was temporarily closed due to the student unrest. The autonomy was revoked again in 1911. In the same year the university was temporarily closed again.

In 1914 with the start of the First World War, the university was renamed Petrograd Imperial University after its namesake city. In 1915 a branch of the university was opened in Perm, which later became Perm State University. The Assembly of Petrograd Imperial University openly welcomed the February Revolution of 1917, which put an end to the Russian monarchy, and the university came to be known as just Petrograd University. However, after the October Revolution of 1917, the staff and administration of the university were initially vocally opposed to the Bolshevik takeover of power and reluctant to cooperate with the Narkompros. Later in 1917–1922 during the Russian Civil War some of the staff suspected of counter-revolutionary sympathies suffered imprisonment (e.g. Lev Shcherba in 1919), execution, or exile abroad on the so-called Philosophers' ships in 1922 (e.g. Nikolai Lossky). Furthermore, the entire staff suffered from hunger and extreme poverty during those years.

In 1918 the university was renamed 1st Petrograd State University, and in 1919 the Narkompros merged it with the 2nd PSU (former Psychoneurological Institute) and 3rd PSU (former Bestuzhev Higher Courses for Women) into Petrograd State University. In 1919 the Faculty of Social Science was established by the Narkompros instead of the Faculty of History and Philology, Faculty of Oriental Languages and Faculty of Law. Nicholas Marr became the first Dean of the new faculty. Chemist Alexey Favorsky became the Dean of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. Rabfaks and free university courses were opened on the basis of the university to provide mass education. In the fall of 1920, as observed by freshman student Alice Rosenbaum, enrollment was open and the majority of the students were anti-communist including, until removed, a few vocal opponents of the regime. Seeing that they were educating "class enemies", a purge was conducted in 1922 based on the class background of the students and all students, other than seniors, with a bourgeois background were expelled.[6] During the 1920s the university, like other higher education institutions in the Soviet Union, became subject to educational experimentation. The structure and status of the faculties and departments of the university underwent major changes. Many of them were merged, split or renamed, new subdivisions were established, independent institutes were merged into the university as faculties, sometimes only to be restored to their old status a few years later.

In 1924 the university was renamed Leningrad State University after its namesake city. In 1925 the Faculty of Geography was opened. In order to suppress intellectual opposition to Soviet power, a number of historians working in the university, including Sergey Platonov, Yevgeny Tarle and Boris Grekov, were imprisoned in the so-called Academic Affair of 1929–1930 on fabricated charges of participating in a counter-revolutionary conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the government. Some other members of the staff were repressed in 1937–1938 during the Great Purge.

In the 1930 a number of new faculties were established. The Faculty of Biology opened in 1930, the Faculty of Geology in 1931, the Faculty of Chemistry in 1932, the Faculty of Physics and Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics in 1933, the Faculty of History in 1934, the Faculty of Philology in 1937. The Faculty of Philosophy and Faculty of Economics split from the Faculty of History in 1940.

During the 1941–1944 Siege of Leningrad in World War II, many of the students and staff died from starvation, in battles or from repressions. However, the university operated continuously, evacuated to Saratov in 1942–1944. A branch of the university was hosted in Yelabuga during the war. In 1944 the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union awarded the university with the Order of Lenin on the occasion of its 125th anniversary and for its contribution to science and culture. The Faculty of Oriental Studies was split from the Faculty of Philology, and the Faculty of Law was re-created in 1944.

In 1948 the Council of Ministers named the university after Andrei Zhdanov, a recently deceased prominent communist official. This decision was revoked in 1989 during Perestroika.

In the late 1940s the university was hit hard by ideological and anti-Semitic purges. In particular, in 1949 several leading professors of the Faculty of Philology were accused of "cosmopolitanism", and some of them (Viktor Zhirmunsky, Mark Azadovsky, Grigory Gukovsky) were expelled from the university. Throughout the post-war Soviet years, unofficial ethnic quotas severely limiting Jewish admittance to Leningrad State University existed, which lasted at least until Perestroika.

In 1949–1950 several professors died in prison during the investigation of the Leningrad Affair fabricated by the central Soviet leadership, and the Minister of Education of the RSFSR, former rector Alexander Voznesensky, was executed.

In 1961 the Faculty of Journalism split from the Faculty of Philology. In 1966 the Council of Ministers decided to build a new suburban campus in Petrodvorets for most of the mathematics and natural science faculties. The relocation of the faculties had been completed by the 1990s.

The Faculty of Psychology split from the Faculty of Philosophy in 1966. In 1969 the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union awarded the university with the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. The Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes was split from the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics in 1969.

In 1989 the Faculty of Sociology was opened. In 1991 the university was renamed back to Saint Petersburg State University after its namesake city. During the 1990s three new faculties were opened: the Faculty of Management in 1993, the School of International Relations in 1994 and the Faculty of Medicine in 1995. During the period 2008 - 2010 three new faculties were organized: the Faculty of Political Science, the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Dentistry and Medical Technologies.

List of rectors

Aleksandr Aleksandrov.
1819–1821 Mikhail Balugyansky
1821–1825 Yevdokim Zyablovsky
1825–1836 Antoine Jeudy Dugour
1836–1840 Ivan Shulgin
1840–1861 Pyotr Pletnyov
1861–1863 Alexander Voskresensky
1863–1865 Heinrich Lenz
1865–1867 Alexander Voskresensky
1867–1873 Karl Kessler
1873–1876 Pyotr Redkin
1876–1883 Andrei Beketov
1883 (1884)–1887 Ivan Andreevsky
1887–1890 Mikhail Vladislavlev
1890–1897 Pyotr Nikitin
1897–1899 V. Sergeevich
1899–1903 Adolf Holmsten
1903–1905 A. Zhdanov
1905–1910 Ivan Borgman
1910–1911 David Grimm
1911–1918 Erwin Grimm
1918–1919 Alexander Ivanov
1919 Sergei Zhebelev
1919–1922 Vladimir Shimkevich
1922–1926 Nikolay Derzhavin
1926–1927 V. Tomashevsky
1927–1930 Mikhail Serebryakov
1930–1932 Yury Nikich (director)
1932–1933 V. Seryozhnikov (director)
1933–1938 Mikhail Lazurkin (director)
1938–1939 Konstantin Lukashev (director)
1939 A. Marchenko (director)
1939–1941 P. Zolotukhin (director)
1941–1948 Alexander Voznesensky
1948–1950 Nikita Domnin
1950–1952 Alexey Ilyushin
1952–1964 Aleksandr Aleksandrov
1964–1970 Kirill Kondratyev
1970–1975 Gleb Makarov
1975–1986 Valentin Aleskovski
1986–1993 Stanislav Merkuriev
1993(1994)-2008 Lyudmila Verbitskaya
since 2008 Nikolai Kropachev



The Twelve Collegia Building

The university is a federal state institution of higher education managed by the government of the Russian Federation. It consists of twenty two faculties, which are further subdivided into departments, and other main structural subdivisions, including the Sports Department, Rectorate, Gorky Scientific Library, Academic Gymnasium, publishing house, and clinic.

The superior body of self-government of the university is its Assembly, which elects the Rector and the Academic Board of the University for a five-year term, and also adopts the Charter of the University and the Routine Regulations later approved by the Rector. The Assembly of the University consists of the members of the Academic Board of the University and the staff delegated by the general assemblies of the main structural subdivisions according to quotas set by the Academic Board of the University. The general administration of the university is vested in the Academic Board, which consists of the Rector, who presides over it, as well as the President of the University, vice rectors and representatives of the main structural subdivisions.

Likewise, the general administration of a faculty is vested in its respective academic board elected by the faculty assembly for five years. The procedure of election and department quotas are decided by the faculty-level academic board itself. The dean, who leads the faculty and presides over its academic board, is elected for five years by the faculty academic board.

Academic year

The academic year in St. Petersburg State University according to the Routine Regulations normally starts on September 1. One lesson normally lasts 1 h 30 m (two academic hours). As in other higher education institutions in Russia, the academic year is divided into two semesters. The first semester (term) ends by late December, the second one starts in mid-February and lasts until late May. Each term is followed by a series of preliminary tests (in the last week of December/May) and exams (in January/June).


Saint Petersburg State University

The university is organized around two main campuses: on Vasilievsky Island in the historic city center and in Peterhof (formerly Petrodvorets), a southwestern suburb, which can be reached by railway from the city's Baltiysky Rail Terminal. The main building of the university, Twelve Collegia, is located on Vasilievsky Island and includes the Library, the Faculty of Biology and Soil Science and the Faculty of Geology. The Faculty of Philology and the Faculty of Oriental Studies share the nearby 18th-century Petrine Baroque building on Universitetskaya Embankment of the Bolshaya Neva, designed by Domenico Trezzini and originally built as the Palace of Peter II of Russia. The New Gostiny Dvor designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built in the 19th century in that part of the island is now occupied by the Faculty of History, Faculty of Philosophy. The Faculty of Psychology is situated in front of it on Admiral Makarov Embankment of the Malaya Neva. The Graduate School of Management, Faculty of Journalism, Faculty of Geography and Geo-Ecology, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Dentistry and Medical Technologies, Faculty of Law and Faculty of Military Studies are all situated on Vasilievsky Island, but farther to the west. Four other social science faculties are hosted in the east of the city center on the southern bank of the Neva: the Faculty of Economics is not far from the Chernyshevskaya metro station, while the Faculty of Sociology, Faculty of Political Science and the School of International Relations occupy historical buildings of Smolny Convent. The new suburban campus consists of the Faculty of Applied Mathematics, Faculty of Chemistry, Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics, and Faculty of Physics, which are situated in modern buildings in Peterhof.


Faculty of Philology and Faculty of Oriental Studies on Universitetskaya Embankment
Faculty of Psychology on Makarov Embankment

SPbSU is made up of 22 specialized faculties , which are:

  • Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes (*rus)
  • Faculty of Arts
  • Faculty of Biology and Soil Studies (*rus)
  • Faculty of Chemistry
  • Faculty of Economics (*rus)
  • Faculty of Geography and Geoecology (*rus)
  • Faculty of Geology (*rus)
  • Faculty of History (*rus)
  • School of International Relations (*rus | *eng)
  • Faculty of Journalism (*rus | *eng)
  • Faculty of Law
  • Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics (*rus | *eng)
  • Faculty of Medicine (*rus)
  • Faculty of Oriental Studies (*rus)
  • Faculty of Philology (*rus)
  • Faculty of Philosophy (*rus)
  • Faculty of Physics (*rus)
  • Faculty of Political Science (*rus)
  • Faculty of Psychology (*rus)
  • Faculty of Sociology (*rus)
  • Graduate School of Management
  • Military Faculty (*rus)

There is also a Department of Physical Culture and Sports. (*rus)

Notable alumni and faculty

Saint Petersburg State University has produced a number of Nobel Prize winners. Both the former President, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and the current President Dimitry Medvedev of Russia are alumni.

Eight of the graduates of the university are Nobel Prize recipients: Ivan Pavlov (Physiology and Medicine, 1904), Ilya Mechnikov (Physiology and Medicine, 1908), Nikolay Semyonov (Chemistry, 1956), Lev Landau (Physics, 1962), Aleksandr Prokhorov (Physics, 1964), Wassily Leontief (Economics, 1973), Leonid Kantorovich (Economics, 1975) and Joseph Brodsky (Literature, 1987). However, none received the prize while working at the university or for the work done while affiliated with it.

Among the renowned scholars affiliated with Leningrad State University have been mathematicians Vladimir Smirnov, Solomon Mikhlin, Yuri Linnik and Aleksandr Aleksandrov, physicist Vladimir Fock, astrophysicist Viktor Ambartsumian, botanists Vladimir Komarov and Vladimir Sukachev, historians Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan, Yevgeny Tarle and Boris Grekov, philologists Lev Shcherba, Vladimir Propp and Viktor Zhirmunsky, orientalists Vasily Struve, Joseph Orbeli and Boris Piotrovsky.

The American novelist Ayn Rand attended the university from 1920 to 1924 graduating with honors in history.[7]

Partner universities

See also



The history of the university, with a particular focus on the Law Faculty, from the 19th century to the perestroika period, is documented in English in David Lempert, Daily Life in a Crumbling Empire: The Absorption of Russia into the World Economy, Book 2, Eastern European Monograph Series, Columbia University Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0-88033-341-2.

See also

  • List of early modern universities in Europe

External links

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