Moscow University through Revolution and the Soviet Period
The revolutionary storm that swept across Russia in 1917 had a varied and inconsistent impact on the destinies of higher education. On the one hand, it had become much more democratic with the elimination of tuition fees and the entitlement of students to state grants. From 1919 Moscow University entirely went over to the state-financing scheme. To make sure that young people from working-class and peasant families had adequate proficiency to pass University entrance examinations, the University in 1919 opened a preparatory worker faculty that remained an affiliation of Moscow University until 1936. The world-renowned scientists D.N. Anuchin, N.E. Zhukovsky, N.D. Zelinsky, A.N. Severtsov, K.A. Timiryazev, S.A. Chaplygin and others continued to teach for the first ten years after the revolution.
At the same time, that split in society which had occurred during the revolution had a very negative effect on Moscow University. Some students, prominent scholars and scientist had to leave it. A certain amount of damage was done by the reorganizations of the 1930s, begun in pursuit of training a larger number specialists. The faculties of medicine, Soviet law and chemistry (temporarily) spun off and formed independent institutions. The sections of geology, minerology and geography within the faculties of natural sciences broke off to become independent institutions. On the basis of the humanities faculties, in 1931 opened the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History that didn’t come back until ten years later. Things were carried too far also in the arrangement of the curriculum that introduced a "team-laboratory method" to the training process, cancelling lectures and placing a serious job of acquisition in the hands of student teams of 3-5 persons working on their own, while a standard examination when students individually show their proficiency was replaced by collective team reports.
Fortunately, that period in the life of the University didn’t last long. In 1932 the team-laboratory method was dropped. On the heels came new curricula and the general arrangement of work in universities and institutes was changing as well. Candidate dissertations, the first from the years of Soviet rule, were defended at Moscow University in 1934.
Moscow University did not prove immune from the tragic developments in public life of the country in the 1930s -50s. The ideological and administrative pressure from the authorities stood squarely in the way of the freedom of creative work. The system restricted contact with foreign scientific centres, while many scientists and scholars were subjected to unjust reprisals and entire sectors of research particularly in social sciences, philology, cybernetics and biology were closed down.
Though having suffered such heavy losses, University science as a whole had made great headway. By 1941, the day department alone had about five thousand undergraduates. Over 30 professors and researchers became full members of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The scholars and scientists of Moscow University had written text-books for secondary school, universities and institutes.
The 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War proved a great ordeal for the nation. Already on June 25, 1941, the first units of students and staff from Moscow University left for the front, mainly to join the ranks of officers or to become political workers. Moscow University volunteers manned the 8th (Krasnopresnenskaya) Division of the Home Guard in the Red Army that fought heroically during the defence of Moscow.
From October, 1941, the University was evacuated first to Ashkhabad and then, in summer, 1942, to Sverdlovsk and did not return to Moscow until the spring of 1943, though classes with students remaining in Moscow resumed in February, 1942, just after the rout of the Nazi occupants near Moscow.
During the war years Moscow University produced more than three thousand specialists. The University personnel with their achievements in science and research made a considerable contribution to the cause of the country’s defence and the strengthening of its economy. In the four years of the war the University carried out more than three thousand projects in research and development. Among others, the projects included: the development of aircraft construction and the perfection of naval ship control, the proof of the theory that ensures the precision of ordinance firing and range firing, working out and introduction of a precise time signal system for the whole country, the invention of explosives. The medical workers introduced the preparation known as "thrombine" that improved blood coagulation; projects were launched for research into the physical and chemical properties of unranium; geologists discovered vast deposits of tungsten, facilitated the opening up of the "second Baku"; the geographers provided the cartography material for the Red Army, and so on. The scholars of the humanities made a great contribution to strengtheing the morale of the army and the nation, exposing the criminal nature of fascism, and promulgating the patriotic ideals. The documents of the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, where Nazi war criminals were put on trial, contained the elaborations worked out by the law scholars at Moscow University, e.g. on individual criminal liability for the former Nazi leadership.
All in all, more than five thousand University people fought in the battles, over a thousand were awarded orders and medals of the USSR and the allied countries, and seven were honoured with the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
About three thousand undergraduates, postgraduates, professors, tutors and staff of Moscow University perished at the fronts of the war. In their honour, a memorial was erected next to the First Academic Building, and therein was lit the Eternal Flame of Glory.
In orter to repair the massive damage brought on by the war, to move ahead, the county needed a boost in University education. In the late 1940s - early 1950s the infrastructure of Moscow University was greatly improved. A huge complex of new University buildings was erected on Lenin (Vorob’yovy) Hills. On the First of September, 1953, they opened their doors for the students. The laboratories, classrooms and auditoriums were outfitted with the most modern equipment available. The University budget rose five-fold compared to the pre-war years.
The improved infrastructure and the steps taken in the mid-1950s to ease off the restrictions imposed on Russian political life, the extension of contacts with foreign countries allowed a substantial enlargement the scope of research carried out in Moscow University. The University opened a great many specialized laboratories and set up a major research computing centre. Some new faculties integrated into the structure of Moscow University. Among them were the Institute of Oriental Languages (the Institute of Asian and African Countries since 1972, an affiliate of Moscow State University), the faculty of psychology, the faculty of computing, mathematics and cybernetics, and the faculty of soil science, the first of its kind opened in Russia. The overall number of undergraduates in the day department rose from thirteen thousand in 1953 to twenty-six thousand in 1992.
Moscow University was transformed into a major international centre for the training of undergraduates and post-graduates. To teach Russian to foreign citizens, the University opened a specialized faculty, one of the first of its kind (now known as the International Education Centre).
All in all since 1917 Moscow University has produced more than 180 thousand specialists and some 35 thousand candidates of sciences in the fields of economics, culture and education.
Among the faculty Moscow University included the following prominent scholars and scientists: mathematicians and mechanics P.S. Alexandrov, V.V. Golubev, D.F. Egorov, M.V. Keldysh, A.N. Kolmogorov, N.N. Luzin, I.G. Petrovsky, I.I. Privalov, V.V. Stepanov, O.Yu. Schmidt; physicists V.K. Arkad’ev, L.A. Artsimovich, N.N. Bogolyubov, S.I. Vavilov, V.I. Veksler, A.A. Vlasov, P.L. Kapitsa, I.V. Kurchatov, L.D. Landau, G.S. Landsber, Ya.B. Zel’dovich, A.S. Predvoditelev, D.V. Skobel’tsyn, I.E. Tamm, R.V. Khokhlov; chemists A.A. Balandin, I.V. Berezin, S.I. Vol’fkovich, Ya.I. Gerasimov, B.A. Kazansky, V.A. Kargin, A.N. Nesmeyanov, A.V. Novosyolova, P.A. Rebinder, N.N. Semyonov, A.N. Frumkin, N.M. Emanuel’, geographers N.N. Baransky, A.A. Borzov, K.K. Markov, V.N. Sukachev, I.S. Schukin; geologists A.D. Arkhangel’sky, N.V. Belov, A.A. Bogdanov, A.P. Vinogradov, Yu.A. Orlov, M.M. Filatov; biologists and soil scientists A.N. Belozersky, D.G. Vilensky, L.A. Zenkevich, N.K. Kol’tsov, G.V. Nikol’sky, A.I. Oparin, N.P. Remezov; historians A.V. Artsikhovsky, B.D. Grekov, A.A. Guber, N.M. Druzhinin, N.I. Konrad, M.V. Nechkina, A.M. Pankratova, S.D. Skazkin, M.N. Tikhomirov, L.V. Cherepnin; art historians V.N. Lazarev, A.A. Fyodorov-Davidov; philologists D.D. Blagoi, S.M. Bondi, V.V. Vinogradov, N.K. Gudzy, R.M. Samarin, D.N. Ushakov; philosophers V.F. Asmus, V.P. Volgin, G.E. Glezerman, E.V. Il’enkov, B.M. Kedrov; law scholars M.N. Gernet, P.E. Orlovsky, A.N. Trainin; psychology scholars A.N. Leont’ev, A.R. Luriya, S.L. Rubinstein; economists L.Ya. Berri, A.Ya. Boyarsky, B.S. Nemchinov, K.V. Ostrovityanov, S.K. Tatur, N.A. Tsagolov, and others.