First established on the 8th of November 1833, the University was originally known as the Imperial University of Saint Volodymyr. The first Rector, a 30-year-old professor of history, botany, and folklore, named Mykhailo Maksymovych was appointed by Emperor Nicholas I on the 18th of October 1834. There was only two departments in operation between 1834 and 1835, namely the Department of
Mathematics and Physics and Department of Linguistics and History and only one faculty, the Faculty of Philosophy.
Only 62 students were studying at the facility. In 1835 another faculty was added, the Faculty of Law, followed by the addition of a medical school in 1841. The University was using rental premises at the time which hampered the smooth running of the facility.
In 1837, Vincent Beretti, a professor of Architecture at the St.Petersburg Academy of Arts put forward a design for the University building, which was subsequently constructed. This classic building became the central building of the University and is still being used to this day.
A botanical garden, supervised by Professor Trautfetter was added to the grounds and is also still a feature of the modern University. The University charter was adopted in 1842 and the growth of the University seemed to be in no dispute. There were now 37 departments at the University.
Expecting the University to be an outpost of Russian autocracy, the current government may not have expected the more progressive approach to the teachers and students at the facility. The University placed at the center of the democratic movement from 1830 to 1860
and saw the establishment of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood between 1845 and 1847. M. Kostomarov, a historian of distinction and head of the Russian History Department authored the credo of the Brotherhood.
Taras Schevchenko, a brilliant poet who was employed at the Art School as a teacher and also held a temporary position in the Archeography commission to study antique documents, was the intellectual inspiration for the Cyril and Methodius society members.
Liberal reforms and a new charter in 1963 saw a revival of educational and scientific activity at the University with their autonomously status being extended. The Department list was increased to 52 by the addition of 15 new departments.
European lecturers and Russian lecturers were invited to join the staff, resulting in 90 new educators at the University. Departments began singling out skilled and talented students to join the academic and research teams at the University.
By 1883, more than 1700 students were enrolled at the University. These students were mostly Russian and Ukrainian as opposed to the predominantly Polish enrolment in the 1830s to 1840s.
More than 5000 students were studying at the University by 1913 and more than 160 Professors conducted lectures in the various programs available at the time. There were 2 libraries (student and academic), 2 observatories (meteorological and astronomical), 4 faculty clinics, 2 clinical departments, 9 laboratories, 3 hospitals, an anatomy theater and a botanical garden and other facilities, making up 45 teaching and ancillary facilities at the University.
The University was becoming globally active, academics were traveling on research trips to other countries, collaborating with prominent scientists all over the world and publishing papers in journals internationally.
The cultural relations aspect can clearly be seen in the number of distinguished academics and cultural figures being elevated to honorary members of Kyiv University.
These included the microbiologist Ilya Mechnikov, author Ivan Turgenev, Max von Pettenkofer (Doctor of medicine), chemist Dmitri Mendeleyev and historian Leopold van Ranke, amongst others.
The start of the twentieth century saw the Intelligentsia of the Ukraine; raise the issue of ‘Ukrainianization’ with regards to education in the Ukraine.
This led to added departments to the Kyiv University to accommodate the demands by the Ukrainian community representatives on the 20th of April 1906.
These departments for the study of Ukrainian history, language, literature, common law, and ethnography were mandated in May 1906. Symon Petliura, Ivan Lypa, Borys Hrinchenko, Dmytro Doroshenko, Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Oleksandr Lototsky and Serhiy Yefremov were some of the cultural and public figures to emerge from the University of Kyiv during this time period.
Ukrainian students were able to submit their transfer applications to the new departments on the 27th November 1906.
The Rector of the University, M.Tsytovych was against the idea of “Ukrainization” even though 1430 students had already submitted their applications for transfer to the new departments. He was backed by several reactionary professors as well as upper-level staff from the Imperial Ministry of Education.
Professors V.Perets and A.Loboda decided in 1907 to start teaching Ukrainian literature at the University of their Own Accord in 1907 until this study route was banned shortly thereafter.
The First World War saw most of the students being conscripted into the armed forces, putting paid to their studies at the University.
The University Medical School was turned into a military hospital. A number of researchers evacuated to Saratov due to the occupation of Kyiv by Austrian and German troops. There were severe losses to the offices, museums, laboratories and scientific and academic collections during this time period.
The Ukraine was involved in revolutionary activities to establish their own heritage and independence. The Ukraine-orientated Departments were reopened after the fall of the autocracy and by request from lecturers and students of the University.
The 27th of June 1917 saw the establishment of four Ukraine-orientated departments namely Ukrainian Literature, Language, History of Law and History. These were set to be ready for operation by the end of January 1918 but Ukraine politics put a
damper on this issue for a period of time. The Central Rada, created in March 1917, saw many lecturers and students becoming involved in the fight for independence in the Ukraine. In January 1918, 300 plus school and university students formed a student battalion in Kruty encourage by the Ukrainian People's Republic.
Andriy Omelchenko, a student, led 130 volunteers to hold the Kruty railway junction in the Chernihiv area against the Russian Bolshevik offensive on the 29th January 1918. July 1918 saw the Kyiv Ukrainian National University being founded.
The Bolsheviks merged the Kyiv Ukranian National University and the University of St. Volodymyr during their occupation in February 1919 and renamed the facility Kyiv University.
The main purpose of the establishment was to educate the Soviet intelligentsia. In 1919 the Commissariat of Education was established in Soviet Ukraine and all autonomy was removed from education facilities. Commissars of Higher Education took on the management of the University and academic titles and degrees were abolished.
Under Soviet rule, even this limited version of the University was a thorn in their sides and the People's Commissariat of Education believed it should be abolished in the Soviet communist society. In 1920, all Universities in the Ukraine were disbanded. The Medical Faculty at the University of Kiev was turned into a Medical Institute and the Faculty of Law became the Institute of People's Economics.
The faculties of physics, mathematics, natural science, history, and linguistics became the Drahomanov Institute of Higher People's Education. The Kyiv
Teacher training College and the Kiev Institute of Higher Women's Courses were also incorporated into this institute.
This institution was renamed the Kyiv Institute of People's Education (KIPE) in 1926. At this point, Ukrainian students were at 65% of the student body. Tertiary education in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was reformed to the point that Russian Universities were of little value to students completing a high school education in Soviet Russia.
Despite this, Russian Universities were not closed and were still functioning in Leningrad, Moscow and a few other Russian cities. Soviet education policy was striving for unification in education and in the decade between 1920 and 1930 the higher education system was completely restructured to a Russian model.
The change in the university education structures resulted in a shortage of teaching staff and scientists, the absence of academic traditions at universities and poor standards of tertiary education during this period.
There was nothing to replace the Universities as Soviet authorities were not able to set up an equivalent higher educational establishment. They did not have the necessary experience and knowledge on how to manage a similar type of facility that lived up the educational standards of the traditional university model. The Kyiv State University, along with other universities in the Ukraine, was re-established in autumn 1933.
The daunting task of training high school leavers to take up the positions of lecturers in high schools through a post-graduate system as well as developing scientists to work in research facilities lay before them. The universities needed to get back on track with academic training for all of the sciences.
The University of Kyiv celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1934. Research and teaching activities had resumed operations at this point in time and the basic structure for postgraduate education was back in place. A year later, in 1935, the University started to publish academic journals on natural science and the humanities. By 1938, 8 new faculties were in operation namely, history, chemistry, linguistics, law, physics and mathematics, foreign languages as well as geology and geography. The Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR renamed the institution Kyiv State University honoring the 125th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko's birth.The Kaniv Bio-Geographical Reserve was incorporated into the university during the same year, bringing an educational center and a scientific-experimental center to the Faculties of Natural Science to the University. The Humanitarian Faculties (now named as the Maksymovych Academic Library Building) was opened during the following year. Despite the strict repression and ideological restrictions, by the advent of World War II, the University was ranked as one of the leading universities of the USSR,
taking up the 3rd spot amongst Soviet Universities.
The University had grown to the level of employing 300 lecturers, associate professors and full professors in its 52 departments and teaching more than 4000 students. The education staff had among their ranks 24 PhDs, 65 lecturers with higher academic degrees, 8 Academicians and 6 Corresponding Members of the Academy of Science of Ukraine. Graduates of the University were able to obtain high-level qualifications in 43 disciplines.
When the Second World War began in 1941, the university had to be evacuated. Most of the students joined the war effort and lecturers from Kyiv University continued on at the United Ukrainian State University in Kazakhstan. The Nazi occupation saw the university closed, lecturers repressed and the remaining students forced into labor in Germany. The University suffered serious damage during the war especially the battles in Kyiv itself during October and November 1943. The “Red” building was damaged and the museums, laboratories, and libraries looted.
The University of the Ukraine began rebuilding after the devastation of the war and in the decades that followed managed to strengthen and restore its potential. Educators and students involved themselves in the physical rebuilding of the Humanities and Chemistry centers and by the 15th of January 1944, classes for senior undergraduates could continue.
First years were enrolled on the 1st February. By the summer of 1944, 3 professors and 7 associate professors and 11 lecturers, along with 146 students had returned to the university from Kyzylorda. During the 1944 to 1945 academic year, nearly 1500 young people studied at the university, with this being increased to 3500 by the following year. This allowed for the employment of 290 lecturers, professors, and associate professors as well as the opening of 80 departments.
This number had swelled to 357 staff and 3800 students by 1946. By the late 1940s, the University of Kyiv was back in full swing, close to the levels seen before the war. In the 1950s, this growth trend intensified until 1958, which saw a record 10 000 students studying at the University, with 11 faculties in full operation. This led to an influx of professionals graduating from the University and ready to enter mainstream employment. From 1959 to 1984, more than 70 000 students continued on to a career in science, education, culture and economy after obtaining a graduate, post graduate or doctoral degree from the University of Kyiv.
Over the years hundreds of prominent academic have worked at Kyiv University, including:
- Historians and Linguists: M. Maksymovych, V. Tsikh, F. Dombrovski, I. Neykirkh, M. Kostomarov, P. Pavlov, V. Antonovych, V. Ikonnikov, I. Luchytsky, M. Drahomanov, V. Peretz, M. Dovnar-Zapolzky, M. Dashkevych, A. Loboda, F. Volk, F. Fortynsky, Y. Kulakovsky, S. Yefremov, A. Krymsky, A. Hermayze, Y. Tarle, N. Polonska-Vasilenko, A. Ohloblin;
- Philosophers: O. Novitsky, A. Hilyarov, H. Chelpanov, V. Shynkaruk;
- Lawyers: K. Nevolin, M. Ivanishev, M. Vladymyrsky-Budanov, A. Kistyakivsky;
- Economists: H. Sydorenko, M. Sieber, M. Yasnopolsky, P. Kovanko;
- Mathematics and Mechanics: I. Rakhmaninov, M. Vashchenko-Zakharchenko, P. Romer, V. Yermakov, D. Hrave, O. Schmidt, B. Bukreyev, H. Pfeifer, H. Suslov, P. Voronets, M. Boholyubov;
- Physicists: M. Avenarius, M. Schiller, J. Kosonohov;
- Chemists: H. Fonberg, M. Bunhe, S. Reformatsky, A. Babko, A. Holub, A. Pylypenko, A. Kipriyano;
- Geologists: K. Feofilaktov, V. Chyrvynsky, M. Andrusov, P. Tutkovsky, V. Tarasenko;
- Botanists: V. Besser, E. Trautfetter, O. Rohovych, I. Schmalhausen, S. Navashyn, K. Puriyevych, O. Fomin, Y. Baranetsky, M. Kholodny, N. Kornyushenko, D. Zerov, O. Lypa;
- Zoologists: K. Kessler, O. Kovalevsky, O. Severtsov, O. Korotnyev, S. Kushakevych, L. Shelyuzhko, B. Mazurmovych;
- Biochemist: O. Palladin;
- Medical Doctors: V. Karavayev, O. Walter, V. Bets, M. Sklifosovsky, F. Yanovsky, V. Obraztsov, V. Chahovets, M. Strazhesko and other prominent academics.