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Saint Petersburg State University ( ) is a Russianmarker federal state-owned higher education institution based in Saint Petersburgmarker and one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious universities in Russia.

It is made up of 20 specialized faculties, 13 research institutes, Canada College, Faculty of Military Studies, and a Chair of Physical Culture and Sports. As of 2004, the university had a teaching staff of 4,055. The university has two main campuses: on Vasilievsky Islandmarker and in Peterhofmarker. During the Soviet period, it was known as Leningrad State University (Ленинградский государственный университет)

Reputation and international rankings

Saint Petersburg State University is considered the second best university in Russia after Moscow State University and is ranked 84th worldwide by the Global University Ranking 2009, 239th on the 2007 THES - QS World University Rankings, 305th–402nd on the 2007 Academic Ranking of World Universities and 421st (score 22.79%) on the Wuhan University's Rankings.

The university has a reputation for having educated a number of Russia's most prominent politicians; including presidents Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev, both of whom studied Law at the university.

The university tends to place relatively high in the various world rankings (placed 2nd in Russia after Moscow State Universitymarker in the THES - QS World University Rankings) and has established itself as one of Russia's premier institutions of higher education.

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 sperate occasions on which the university was founded and then refounded; 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 there is, as of yet, no deffinitive answer.


Hallway in the Twelve Collegia building, St. Petersburg State University.
One of the longest academic hallways in the world.
It is disputed by the university administration whether Saint Petersburg State University or Moscow State Universitymarker 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 Sciencesmarker. Immanuel Kant State University of Russia in Kaliningradmarker also 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—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 Main Pedagogical Institute in 1814, was established in 1804 and occupied a part of the Twelve Collegiamarker 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 dozens 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 the amended charter of the Moscow Universitymarker became the first charter of the Saint Petersburg Imperial University. In 1829 there were 19 full professors and 169 regular and irregular students in the university. In 1830 Nicholas I of Russia passed the entire building of the Twelve Collegia to the university, and the courses returned there back from the south of the city. In 1835 a new charter of 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 in history (1840–1861).

Dmitri 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 specialized 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 irregular students could attend lectures in the university. In 1861 there were 1270 regular and 167 irregular students in the university, of them 498 were at the Faculty of Law, the largest subdivision. During 1861–1862 a major student unrest took place in the university, and it was temporarily closed twice during the year. The students were denied freedom of assembly and placed under police surveillance, public lectures were forbidden. Many students were expelled. After the unrest, in 1865, there were 524 students only.

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, a smaller student unrest shook the university. By 1869, 2588 students had graduated from the university.

In 1880 the Ministry of National Enlightenment forbade the students to marry and the married students to be admitted to the university. 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, 9212 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 2099 students enrolled in the Faculty of Law, 1149 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, 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 Permmarker, 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 the 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. 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 excluded back in a few years.

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 the 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 to overthrow 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 Saratovmarker in 1942–1944. A branch of the university was hosted in Yelabugamarker 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 of the Soviet Union named the university after Andrei Zhdanov, a prominent communist official who had recently deceased. 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 of the Soviet Union decided to build a new suburban campus in Petrodvoretsmarker 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.

Among the renowned scholars affiliated with Leningrad State University were mathematicians Vladimir Smirnov, 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.

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 Faculty of International Relations in 1994 and the Faculty of Medicine in 1995.

List of rectors

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 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 shall elects the Rector and the Academic Board of the University for a five-year term, as well as adopt 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 into 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). Like in other higher education institutions in Russia, the academic year is divided into two terms. The first semester ends by late December, the second one starts in mid-February and lasts until late May. Both terms are followed by a series of preliminary tests (in the last week of December/May) and exams (in January/June).


The university is organized around two main campuses: on Vasilievsky Islandmarker in the historical city center and in Peterhofmarker (formerly Petrodvorets), a southwestern suburb, which can be reached by railway from the city's Baltiysky Rail Terminalmarker. The main building of the university, Twelve Collegiamarker, 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 Embankmentmarker of the Bolshaya Nevamarker, 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 and Political Science, and Clinic. The Faculty of Psychology is situated in front of it on Admiral Makarov Embankment of the Malaya Nevamarker. The Graduate School of Management, Faculty of Journalism, Faculty of Geography and Geo-Ecology, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Law and Faculty of Military Studies are all situated on Vasilievsky Island, but farther to the west. Three other social science faculties are hosted in the east of the city center on the southern bank of the Nevamarker: the Faculty of Economics is not far from the Chernyshevskayamarker metro station, while the Faculty of Sociology and Faculty of International Relations both occupy historical buildings of Smolny Conventmarker. 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 Peterhofmarker.


Faculty of Philology and Faculty of Oriental Studies on Universitetskaya Embankment
Faculty of Psychology on Makarov Embankment
SPbSU is made up of 20 specialized faculties (departments), which are:

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

There is also a Faculty of Military Studies and a Chair of Physical Culture and Sports.

Famous 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.

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

Partner universities

See also


  2. Pages 42-43 and 50-51, Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand, Doubleday (1986), hardcover, 442 pages,
  3. Page 54, Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand, Doubleday (1986), hardcover, 442 pages,


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 9780880333412.

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