The University of Vilnius and its „Golden age”: Introduction into the 1803–1832 epochs

Alfredas Bumblauskas, Loreta Skurvydaitė

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/AE.2018-2019.008

Abstrakt


THE UNIVERSITY OF VILNIUS AND ITS „GOLDEN AGE”: INTRODUCTION INTO
THE 1803–1832 EPOCHS

 

The article discusses the question what the University of Vilnius is? Though seemingly a paradoxically simple question it leads to another question — what is Vilnius? These conceptual considerations are preparing the ground to the main discussion what was Vilnius University during the period between 1803 and 1832? The authors try to reveal the continuity of Vilnius uni­versity’s history in the general European context from its foundation up to its closer, i.e. during the epoch which might be called “the Old University”. A great attention is given to the still emerging historiographical discussion about whether the University of Vilnius is Polish or Lithuanian? The authors analysis traditional look of the Poles at the legacy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Vilnius University. They presented overview of the Polish historiography of the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century which regarded the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as a space of the Polish civilisational mission, and at the same time regarded it as a part of Polish civilisation. This notion was further disseminated by Lubor Jilek in his exhaustive Historical Compendium of European Universities seeing two universities in Vilnius: Stephen Bathory University that functioned from 1578 to 1939 and soviet Kapsukas University which was derived from the Lithuanian University of 1939. The detailed anatomy of the Lithuanian attitude allows authors to conclude that Lithuanians themselves, opposing the attitude of Polish historiography to Lithuania and seeking to form the ideology of “divorce”, as though themselves relinquished the rights to the late legacy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and at the same time to Vilnius University. This anti-Polish attitude prevailed during the period of the first Republic of Lithuania (1918–1940) and was acceptable in the soviet epoch, as was acceptable any anti-Catholicism and anti-Westernisation. These two historiographical positions are summed up with the changes in historiography and historical memories both in Poland and in Lithuania which enable new attitudes in the policy of historical memory of Vilnius University towards the period of the Jesuit University and that of Polish University of Vilnius (Uniwersytet Stefana Batorego). This historiographical analysis is backed by the solid look at the scientific life of the University, also by the examination of images that were created in the 19th century and determined patterns of the historical memory of both the Poles and the Russians and is followed up by the interesting comparison of the Old University of Vilnius in the league of European Universities using three criteria: chronology, geography and the space of the intellectual impact. Here comes the closer look at the Imperial Vilnius University which for more than three decades right until 1832, despite pressure exerted by the tsarist authorities, was the herald of a scientific thought and political freedom, the epicentre of the Lithuanian and also Polish Enlightenment. The authors use the data of the WorldCat Identities for the comparison. The article ends with the examination and evaluation of an unappreciated tragedy of 1832. The significance of this event has not been evaluated in Lithuania yet. The authors finalise their article by concluding that the 19th century was the golden age of the University of Vilnius.

Słowa kluczowe


KEY WORDS: European universities, Vilnius University, Jesuits, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Polish historiography, Lithuanian historiography, historical memory, 19th century.

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