University of Tartu

Tartu, Estonia | C.1632

Photo Credit: Valeria Kuznetsova

The University of Tartu is located in a city of the same name in Estonia. It is the largest university and the only classical university in the country. Although the new Physics Building was completed in 2014, the University’s roots date back to being established by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1632.

The first students began taking classes in April 1632 as the academy taught Philosophy, Law, Theology, and Medical Faculties. On account of the Russian-Swedish war, the University moved to Tallinn in 1656, and then to Parnu in 1699 only to be closed as a result of the Great Northern War.

The university reopened almost a century later by the Baltic Germans, and since the country first became independent in 1918, it has been an Estonian-language institution. The name changed from “Ostland-Universitat” during the German occupation in 1941-1944 and then “Tartu State University” in 1940-1941 and 1944-1989, during the Soviet occupation.

Although Estonian remained the principal language of instruction during Soviet rule, some courses were taught in Russian. Estonia regained independence in 1991, and since the full recovery of academic autonomy of the university there are no courses in Russian.

The university possesses some 150 buildings in and outside of Tartu with more than 30 decorating the city as architectural monuments. There are also recently constructed or renovated buildings and student dormitories. Many of them are located in Maarjamoisa, about 2km (1.2mi) southwest of the historical university center, such as the Technology Institute, the Chemistry building, and the new Physics building.

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