Text 4 The History of University Education in Belarus

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Text 4 The History of University Education in Belarus


The universities of Europe appeared during the Middle Ages in connection with the growth of cities, in Italy, Spain, France and England first universities were founded between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. As for Russia's oldest universities, Moscow University was founded in 1755.

Education and science have a very old tradition in Belarus. In the past Belarus formed a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The oldest university in the Soviet Union was the Main School of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which dated from the sixteenth century and enrolled about 500 students in the beginning. It was renamed Vilnius University in 1579. During the Middle Ages the University had a preparatory faculty, the faculty of Arts, that prepared students for entering one of the three higher faculties - of Law, Medicine and Theology. Later this preparatory faculty was renamed the Philosophy faculty with Latin as the main language of instruction. Students studied seven liberal arts subjects consisting of the trivium of Grammar, Rhetoric and Dialectics, followed by the quadrium of Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music. Students became Bachelors of Arts after finishing their trivium course. On completing tire quadrium, students were awarded a master's degree. At each higher faculty master's degree and doctor's degree were conferred in accordance to the requirements of a faculty.

The University was a leader in many areas. In 1645 Vilnius University became the first university to recognize and adopt the Copernican view of the universe. A Ukrainian graduate of the University, Milenty Smotritsky, published the Old Church Slavonic Grammar. Another outstanding academician and professor of History, Philosophy and Rhetoric, Matsey Kazimezh Sarbevsky, was well known all over Europe for his Latin verses. The first works of Francis Skoryna were published by the Vilnius University Printing House, and in 1753 an observatory was commissioned which continues to function today.

There were no institutions of higher learning on the territory of Belarus before the October Revolution. Vitebsk Pedagogical Institution and Mogilev Pedagogical Institution were founded in 1918. Vitebsk Architectural Institution functioned from 1918 till 1923. The Narkompros (the People's Committee on Education) passed a resolution in 1919 to open 15 new Soviet universities but the resolution was never implemented into life because it was the period of foreign intervention. The Belarusian Polytechnic Institution was opened in 1920; Vitebsk Veterinary Institution in 1924; and the Medical Institution in 1930.

The Belarus State University was opened in 1921. The University consisted of the RABFAK (Pre-University Training subdivision for working youth), the Social Sciences Division (which trained lawyers and economists), the Medicine Division, the Agricultural Division and the Physics and Mathematics Division. The Division of Social Sciences opened its doors for the first time to 237 students. Later this division changed its name several times. Starting from 1925, it was called the Law and Economics Division, it had four brandies in it, namely: Industry & Administration, Planning & Statistics, Finance and Cooperative Societies. For the first time in many years, the republic got 85 graduates from this university to work in all spheres of industry, finance and credit.

The Belarus State Economic University deserves the name "grandfather of the country's economists". The state's growing need for educated specialists was reflected in the Communist Party Central Committee Plenum resolution 'on national economic leadership' in 1929. The resolution stressed the importance of training of economists. In 1930, the Department of National Economy was formed which comprised five subdivisions, namely. Industrial Economics, Agricultural Economics, Planning, Statistics, and Cooperative Societies. The Department's student body accounted initially for about 300 students but the number rose to over 700 students by 1931.

The Soviet of Peoples' Commissars of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic passed resolution #215 on July 7, 1931. It ordered to transform the Social Sciences Department into three independent institutions - the Economic Planning Institution, the Financial Planning Institution, the Institution of Consumers' Co-operatives. These three Institutions are the forerunners of our university. In the two years of their functioning, they trained 335 graduates, but there was still a lack of experienced economists in Belarus, it was partly because of the fact that the graduates were distributed across the entire Soviet Union, from Brest to Kamchatka and the Far East. On May 20, 1933, the Soviet of Peoples' Commissars of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic passed resolution #721 to form a new university which had to join these three Institutions. This date is the birthday of our university. Located in Minsk, this university was originally called the Belarusian State National Economy Institution. At the request of the University's faculty members, the government issued a decree to name the University after the distinguished economist V.V. Kujbyshev. The University carried this name from 1935 till 1992.

With constantly succeeding reforms, the learning methods improved and the student body number increased. Better facilities and equipment also worked for success. Each year several graduates from the University took assignments to work for GosPlan BSSR (the Ministry of State Planning for BSSR). In fact, the University's graduates were distributed across all the country.

During the Great Patriotic War the invading Fascist Army caused severe damage to the University. Many pre-war graduates did not survive the war; classroom buildings, laboratories, offices and equipment were destroyed and the library partly burnt.

After World War II the University was restored. The SNK BSSR passed a resolution on the University reopening on October 28, 1944. Regular classes started in the premises of Secondary School #12 in March, 1945. When the University restarted its activity, only 12 faculty members gave classes for 54 students. The following year, however, there were already 38 staff members and 252 students. The library already had the collection of 6,000 books. In 1945, the Republican Council on

Science awarded graduation diplomas to the first students of the pre-war alumnus class of 1941. First post-war graduates received their diplomas on March 2, 1946. This group numbered no more than 71 students, 22 of them fought in the battle-fields of the Great Patriotic War. From 1946 till 1950, 455 students graduated from the University. The main University's building (7 Sverdlov st.), started functioning on January 3, 1950. Those days one section of this building served as a dormitory for girl-students, for there was a constantly growing number of students those days. Today the University's premises complex comprises 8 students' dormitory buildings.

We remember with respect the faculty members, veterans of the Second World War, who fruitfully worked for the University for many years. Among those outstanding professors are Belokhvostikov, Dudich, Frolov, Zubchenok, Lasovsky, Kulikov, Levanovich, Kuchinsky, Petukhov, Skuratovich, Tsygankov, Protaschik, Galchenja, Satsunkevich and others. Over 100 war veterans worked as teachers and employees for the University. Among them are Visjulin, Borovik, Gapanovich, Gnevko, Zakharov, Zavidova, Zarubin, Zjatikov, Zavjalov, Komlev, Kruk, Lisitsin, Myskov, Mitukov, Mavrischev, Milovanov, Nekhay, Osmolovsky, Pekun, Piko, Pusikov, Potaenko, Pominov, Surdo, Sapeshko, Svirjakin, Tolkachev, Tsvelodub, Tsygankov, Chentsov, Tschukovich, Bankov and many others.

Our graduates are our pride, many of them went on to distinguished careers. An alumnus of the class of 1936, former BSSR Minister of Finance, Prime Minister of the State Planning Board, the deputy-chair of the Board of Ministers of BSSR, F. L. Kokhanov celebrated his 90th birthday on October 9, 2001; another alumnus, M.G. Tkachev (the class of 1939) became a writer, worked as the Secretary-in-chief for the Writers’ Union of BSSR, he was also the director of the 'Mastatskaja Literatura' publishing house. I.V. Protaschik (the class of 1947) fought as a partisan in World War II, made all the way to Berlin. After the war he did research for the Academy of Sciences' Chemistry Institute in the area of topochemical transformations and was honoured with the title of the 'Inventor Emeritus of the USSR' in 1980. His discoveries in lubricant materials saved the country a great deal of money. Among the graduates of 1949 is A. E. Gurinovitch, he was the Foreign Affaires Minister from 1966 till 1990. F.V. Borovik (the class of 1950) was the Rector of the University from 1969 till 1991. N.A. Sukhy (the class of 1953) was awarded the title of the 'Labour Hero of the USSR'. V.V. Miloserdov, Ph.D. in Economics, full member of the Soviet Union's Agriculture Academy, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; later he served as the Director of the Science and Technology Experimental Complex for the Agro-Industrial Association of the Soviet Union. E. I, Krivejsha, Ph.D. in Economics, was awarded the title of the 'Honorary Professor of BSEU'. M.S. Kimjavsky (the class of 1957), Ph.D. in Economics, served as the President of the Entrepreneurs and Lessee Union; while I.N. Stashenkov (the class of 1957), Ph.D. in Economics and Honorary professor, served as the BSSR Minister of Trade.

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