Fabio Martelli

Reflections on the origins of the first Russian University

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The origins of universities in the Russian empire have long been the subject of intense historiographical debate. This paper proposes to investigate this area of study by focusing research on the developments of the educational system in the city of Moscow. During a period of great religious and political tensions accompanying the actions of Alessio Romanov’s government, it was primarily thanks to the work of the great erudite scholar Simeon Polotsky that Russia’s educational system was bestowed an academy profoundly inspired by the Kiev model. Polotsky received his education in the Jesuit college of Vilna, renewed the educational system’s entire didactical approach in light of new ideas evolving in the West, and particular attention was given to the theatre and other ideas developed by the Society of Jesus. The main point of interest, however, is the constitution of the renowned academy’s statute, which the Tsar approved shortly before the death of Polotsky. The statute comprised a series of teaching reforms: reorganisation of teachers’ roles; a synthesis, previously unheard of in Russia, between research and teaching; and above all the jurisdictional autonomy of governing bodies. It is fair to say that this creation of Polotsky’s was the embryo of the first true university in the Empire, even though certain political upheavals delayed the project


  • University
  • Russia
  • Simeon Polotskij
  • Slavic Greek Latin Academy


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