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Vilnius University
Universitas Vilnensis
Latin: Universitas Vilnensis
Established 1579
Type Public
Chancellor Benediktas Juodka
Faculty 1 517 [1]
Undergraduates 18,969
Postgraduates 4,286
Location Vilnius, Lithuania
Campus Urban
Affiliations EUA

Vilnius University (Lithuanian: Vilniaus Universitetas, formerly known as Vilnius State University, earlier - Stefan Batory University and before that Almae Academia et Universitas Vilnensis Societatis Jesu), is one of the oldest universities in both the Baltic states and Europe. It is also the oldest and largest university in Lithuania.




Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Grand Courtyard of Vilnius University and the Church of St. John., Jan Kazimierz Wilczyński, drawing, circa 1850

In 1568, the Lithuanian nobility[1] asked the Jesuits to create an institution of higher learning either in Vilnius or Kaunas. The following year Walerian Protasewicz, the bishop of Vilnius, purchased several buildings in the city center and established the Vilnian Academy (Almae Academia et Universitas Vilnensis Societatis Jesu). Initially, the Academy had three divisions: humanities, philosophy, and theology. The curriculum at the College and later at the Academy was taught in Latin.[2] At the beginning of 17th century there are records about special groups that taught Lithuanian speaking students Latin, most probably using Konstantinas Sirvydas' compiled dictionary.[3] The first students were enrolled into the Academy in 1570. A library at the college was established in the same year, and Sigismund II Augustus donated 2500 books to the new college.[1] In its first year of existence the college enrolled 160 students.[1]

On April 1, 1579, Stefan Batory King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, upgraded the academy and granted it equal status with the Jagiellonian University of Kraków, creating the Almae Academia et Universitas Vilnensis Societatis Jesu. 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 scientists from various parts of Europe and expanded the library, with the sponsorship of many notable persons: Sigismund II Augustus, Bishop Walerian Protasewicz, and the Marshal of the Crown, Kazimierz Lew Sapieha. Lithuanians at the time comprised about one third of the students (in 1568 there were circa 700 students), others were Germans, Poles, Swedes, and even Hungarians.[1]

The Grand Courtyard of Vilnius University and Church of St. John.
A bronze door at the Vilnius University library commemorates the first Lithuanian book.

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 the first surviving book in Lithuanian printed in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was in 1595. It was entitled Kathechismas, arba Mokslas kiekvienam krikščioniui privalus, and was authored by Mikalojus Daukša.

The Academy's growth continued until the 17th century. The following era, known as The Deluge, led to a dramatic drop in both the number of students that matriculated, and in the quality of its programs. In the middle of the 18th century, educational authorities tried to restore the Academy. This led to the foundation of the first observatory in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, (the fourth such professional facility in Europe), in 1753, by Tomasz Żebrowski. The Commission of National Education (Komisja Edukacji Narodowej), the world's first ministry of education, took control of the Academy in 1773, and transformed it into a modern University. Thanks to the Rector of the Academy, Marcin Poczobutt-Odlanicki, the Academy was granted the status of Principal School (Szkoła Główna) in 1783. The Commission, the secular authority governing the academy after the dissolution of the Jesuit order, drew up a new statute. The school was named Academia et Universitas Vilnensis.


After the Partitions of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Vilnius was annexed by the Russian Empire. However, the Commission of National Education retained control over the Academy until 1803, when Tsar Alexander I of Russia accepted the new statute and renamed the Academy to The Imperial University of Vilna (Императорскiй Виленскiй Университетъ). The institution was granted the rights to the administration of all educational facilities in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Among the notable personae were the curator (governor) Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, and Rector Jan Śniadecki.

The University flourished. By 1823, it was one of the largest in Europe; the number of students exceeded that of the Oxford University. A number of students were arrested in 1823 for conspiracy against the Tsar (membership in Filomaci). Among them was Adam Mickiewicz, who later became one of the most important poets of his time. In 1832, after the November Uprising, the University was closed by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.

Vilnius University in 2006.jpg

Two of the faculties were turned into separate schools: the Medical and Surgical Academy (Akademia Medyko-Chirurgiczna) and the Roman Catholic Academy (Rzymsko-Katolicka Akademia Duchowna), but those were soon banned as well. The repression that followed the failed uprising included banning both the Polish and Lithuanian languages, and all education in those languages was halted. Finally, most of the property of the University was confiscated and sent to Russia (mostly to St. Petersburg).


Lithuania declared its independence in February 1918. The university, along with the rest of Vilnius and Lithuania, was opened three times between 1918 and 1919 by different powers. The Lithuanian National Council re-established it in December 1918, with classes to start on January 1, 1919. An invasion by the Red Army interrupted this plan. A Lithuanian communist, Vincas Kapsukas-Mickevičius, then sponsored a plan to re-open it as "Labor University" in March 1919, but the city was taken by Poland in April 1919. Marshall Józef Piłsudski reopened it as Stefan Batory University (Uniwersytet Stefana Batorego) on August 28, 1919. The Vilnius Region was subsequently annexed by Poland. In response to the dispute over the region, many Lithuanian scholars moved to Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, the interwar capital.[4]

The University quickly recovered and gained international prestige, largely because of the presence of notable scientists such as 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 grew quickly, thanks to government grants and private donations. Its library contained 600,000 volumes, including historic and cartographic items which are still in its possession.[4]

In 1938 the University had:

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

The University's international students included 212 Russians, 94 Belarusians, 85 Lithuanians, 28 Ukrainians and 13 Germans.

World War II

Following the Invasion of Poland (1939) the University did not stop teaching. The city was soon occupied by the Soviet Union. Most of the professors returned to the university after the hostilities ended, and the faculties reopened on October 1, 1939. On October 28, Vilnius was transferred to Lithuania which considered the previous eighteen years as an occupation by Poland of its capital.[5] The University was closed on December 15, 1939 by the authorities of the Republic of Lithuania. All the University staff and its approximately 3,000 students dismissed.[6] Following the Lithuanization policies, in its place a new university, named Vilniaus Universitetas, was created. The new University Charter specified that Vilnius University was to be governed according to the statute of the Vytautas Magnus University of Kaunas, and that Lithuanian language programs and faculties would be established. Lithuanian language was named as the official language of the university. Law and Social Sciences, Humanities, Medical, Theological, Mathematical-Life sciences faculties continued to work underground [7]. Soon after the annexation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union, while some Polish professors were allowed to resume teaching, many others (along with some Lithuanian professors) who were deemed reactionary were arrested and sent to prisons and gulags in Russia and Kazakhstan. Between September 1939, and July 1941, the Soviets arrested and deported nineteen Polish faculty and ex-faculty of the University of Stefan Batory, of which nine perished: Professors Stanisław Cywinski, Wladyslaw Jakowicki, Jan Kempisty, Jozef Marcinkiewicz, Tadeusz Kolaczynski, Piotr Oficjalski, Wlodzimierz Godlowski, Konstanty Pietkiewicz, and Konstanty Sokol-Sokolowski, the last five victims of the Katyn massacre.[6]

The city was occupied by Germany in 1941, and all institutions of higher education for non-Germans were closed. However, the remaining Polish 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 Operation Ostra Brama. The majority of the them were later arrested by the NKVD and deported to the Soviet Union.

Soviet period (1945-1990)

Educated Poles were expelled from Lithuania after WWII [2]. As the result many of former students and professors of Stefan Batory 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 the newly-founded Medical University of Gdańsk. The Toruń university is often considered to be the successor to the Polish traditions of the Stefan Batory University.

In 1955[8] the University was named after Vincas Kapsukas. After it had been awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour in 1971 and the Order of Friendship of Peoples in 1979, its full name until 1990 was Vilnius Order of the Red Banner of Labour and Order of Friendship of Peoples V. Kapsukas State University.[8] Though restrained by the Soviet system, Vilnius University grew and gained significance and developed its own, Lithuanian identity. Vilnius University began to free itself from Soviet ideology in 1988, thanks to the policy of glasnost.

After 1990

On March 11, 1990, Lithuania declared independence, and the University regained autonomy. Since 1991, Vilnius University 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.

Vilnius University today

The Vilnius University campus in the 19th century.
The Grand Courtyard of Vilnius University.
The Aula (or Hall) of Vilnius University in the Grand Courtyard.
The Vilnius University Observatory.
Petras Repšys’ fresco "The Seasons of the Year" (painted in 1976-1984) with motifs from Baltic mythology at the Centre of Lithuanian Studies.
Auditorium of Kazimieras Būga.
University's Aula
Vilnius University featured on a litas commemorative coin released in 2004 to honor its 425th anniversary
Commemorative bell in Vilnius University
Layout of the Central Campus
Vilnius University Coat of arms and flag

In modern times, the University still offers studies with an internationally recognized content.

As of January 1, 2007, there were 23,255 students studying at Vilnius University[9].

The current University Rector is Professor Benediktas Juodka of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

The University, specifically the courtyard, was featured in the American TV series the Amazing Race


There are 12 faculties:

The university has a number of semi-autonomous institutes:

There are also several study and research centers at Vilnius University:


A complete list of research projects may be found at [3]. Recent and ongoing projects at Vilnius University include:

  • "Laser Spectrometer for Testing of Coatings of Crystals and Optical Components in Wide Spectral and Angle Range"[10]. NATO Science for Peace programme project. NATO SfP-972534. 1999-2002.
  • "Cell biology and lasers: towards new technologies". Vilnius University - UNESCO Associated Centre of Excellence. [11]
  • "Science and Society: Genomics and Benefit Sharing with Developing Countries - From Biodiversity to Human Genomics (GenBenefit)". Doc. E. Gefenas (Faculty of Medicine). 2006-2009.
  • "Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society: Social Inequality and Why It Matters for the Economic and Democratic Development of Europe and Its Citizens. Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe in Comparative Perspective (EUREQUAL)." Doc. A. Poviliūnas (Faculty of Philosophy). 2006-2009.
  • "Marie Curie Chairs: Centre for Studies and Training Experiments with Lasers and Laser Applications (STELLA)". A. Dubietis (Faculty of Physics). 2006-2009.
  • "Research Infrastructure Action: Integrated European Laser Laboratories (LaserLab-Europe)". Prof. A. Piskarskas (Faculty of Physics). 2004-2007.
  • "Nanotechnology and nanoscieces, knowledge-based multifunctional materials, new production processes and devices: Cell Programming by Nanoscaled Devices (CellPROM)". Prof. A. Kareiva (Faculty of Chemistry). 2004-2009.

Nobel Prize winners

Notable professors and alumni of Vilnius University

Sorted in alphabetical order

Honorary Doctorates conferred by Vilnius University


  • Studia z dziejów Uniwersytetu Wileńskiego 1579–1979, K. Mrozowska, Kraków 1979
  • Uniwersytet Wileński 1579–1979, M. Kosman, Wrocław 1981
  • Vilniaus Universiteto istorija 1579–1803, Mokslas, Vilnius, 1976, 316 p.
  • Vilniaus Universiteto istorija 1803–1940, Mokslas, Vilnius, 1977, 341 p.
  • Vilniaus Universiteto istorija 1940–1979, Mokslas, Vilnius, 1979, 431 p.
  • Łossowski, Piotr (1991) (in Polish). "Likwidacja Uniwersytetu Stefana Batorego przez władze litweskie w grudniu 1939 roku". Warszawa: Interlibro. ISBN 8385161260.  

See also


  1. ^ a b c d (Lithuanian)Zinkevičius, Zigmas (1988). Lietuvų kalbos istorija (Senųjų raštų kalba). Vilnius: Mintis. pp. 159. ISBN 5-420-00102-0.  
  2. ^ (Lithuanian)Zinkevičius, Zigmas (1988). Lietuvų kalbos istorija (Senųjų raštų kalba). Vilnius: Mintis. pp. 160. ISBN 5-420-00102-0.  
  3. ^ (Lithuanian)Zinkevičius, Zigmas (1988). Lietuvų kalbos istorija (Senųjų raštų kalba). Vilnius: Mintis. pp. 161. ISBN 5-420-00102-0.  
  4. ^ a b Tomas Venclova. FOUR CENTURIES OF ENLIGHTENMENT:A Historic View of the University of Vilnius, 1579-1979. Lituanus.  
  5. ^ D. Trenin. The End of Eurasia: Russia on the Border Between Geopolitics and Globalization. 2002, p.164
  6. ^ a b Adam Redzik, Polish Universities During the Second World War, Encuentros de Historia Comparada Hispano-Polaca / Spotkania poświęcone historii porównawczej hiszpańsko-polskiej conference, 2004
  7. ^ a b (Polish) Mikołaj Tarkowski, Wydział Prawa i Nauk Społecznych Uniwersytetu Stefana Batorego w Wilnie 1919-1939, - przyczynek do dziejów szkolnictwa wyższego w dwudziestoleciu międzywojennym
  8. ^ a b History
  9. ^ Facts and Figures – Vilnius University
  10. ^ Laser Research Center
  11. ^ Research - News Centre
  12. ^ Biblioteka Uniwersytecka UMK. Dokumenty Życia Społecznego

External links

Coordinates: 54°40′57″N 25°17′14″E / 54.6825°N 25.28722°E / 54.6825; 25.28722


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