Lviv University

Image - The Galician Diet building (later Lviv University).

Lviv University [Львівський національний університет ім. Івана Франка; Lvivskyi natsionalnyi universytet im. Ivana Franka]. The oldest university in Ukraine, established in 1784 by the emperor of Austria Joseph II with Latin as the language of instruction. Candidates for the priesthood who knew no Latin could study in the vernacular, but only after the establishment of the Studium Ruthenum in 1787. In 1805 the university was transformed into a lyceum, and in 1817 the university status was restored, the institution was renamed in honor of Emperor Francis I, and German became the language of instruction. During the Revolution of 1848–9 in the Habsburg monarchy, demands were raised for the introduction of the Ukrainian and Polish languages. In 1849 the chair of Ukrainian language and literature was established (first held by Yakiv Holovatsky). Ukrainian-language instruction was introduced in the second half of the 19th century, first in the Department of Theology and then of Law (1862–72). From 1867 the struggle for the language and character of the university began between Ukrainians and Poles. In 1871 all restrictions in teaching in either Ukrainian or Polish were abolished and it was ordered that only people with the command of either of the two languages could occupy university chairs. In 1879 Polish became the administrative language at the university, and the appointment of Ukrainians to docent positions was obstructed. In 1894 the Chair of Ukrainian History was established and given to Mykhailo Hrushevsky. In 1900 a separate Chair of Ukrainian Literature was added.

The Ukrainians continued to try to establish their own university in Lviv and to get rid of the Polish domination at the existing one. Ukrainian university students, organized in the secret Committee of Ukrainian Youth (KUM), led the battle. In 1901 they staged a protest secession from Lviv University. In 1910 a member of KUM, Adam Kotsko, was killed in a fight with Polish students. In 1912 the Austrian government finally agreed to establish a Ukrainian university in Lviv by 1916, but the realization of the plan was prevented by the outbreak of the First World War.

By 1914 the university consisted of four faculties—theology, philosophy, law, and medicine (est 1894)—with an enrollment of 5,000. After the Ukrainian-Polish War in Galicia, 1918–19, and the Polish occupation of eastern Galicia the authorities abolished Ukrainian chairs and docent positions. By the order of 14 September 1919 only those who had served in the Polish army and were Polish citizens were eligible for admission to the university. Since the status of eastern Galicia was not resolved by the victorious Entente until 1923, and Ukrainians refused to consider themselves Polish citizens, they were not permitted to enroll at the university. In 1919 the name of the university was changed to Jan Casimir University in honor of the Polish-Lithuanian king, Jan II Casimir Vasa, who founded a Polish Jesuit college in Lviv (1661–1763), which the Poles claimed was the predecessor of the university. In 1920 the university was moved to its present site, the building of the former Galician Diet (built in 1877–81). Ukrainians, who continued their demands for a separate Ukrainian university in Lviv, boycotted the university until 1925 and organized the Lviv (Underground) Ukrainian University and the Department of Theology at the Greek Catholic Theological Seminary in Lviv to replace the one abolished at Lviv University. In the 1930s the university had 6,000–7,000 students and up to 200 faculty members. There were few Ukrainian lecturers (none in 1928–33). Ukrainian language and literature were taught by the Polish professor Jan Janów. A Ukrainian students' circle was organized among his students.

After the annexation of Western Ukraine by the USSR in 1939, Lviv University was Ukrainianized in language and Sovietized in spirit. The Galician Ukrainian literary scholar Kyrylo Studynsky was appointed its prorector or vice-chancellor. The Faculty of Theology was abolished, and the Faculty of Medicine was reorganized into a separate medical institute, in keeping with the Soviet education system. In 1940 the name of Ivan Franko (who had been a student at Lviv University) was conferred upon the university. The Soviets promulgated a false genealogy for the university, one claiming that it originated in 1661 but ignoring its affiliation with the Jesuits. After the retreat of the Soviets at the end of June 1941, the Ukrainian linguist Vasyl Simovych was elected rector of the university, but it was not allowed to operate under the German occupation. Its main building was occupied by the Gestapo.

The university was reopened in 1944, when the Soviets reoccupied Lviv. The Ukrainianization of 1939 was replaced with a program of Russification, which was fully reversed only after Ukraine achieved independence in 1991. Today the university has 18 faculties, including biology, geography, geology, economics, electronics, journalism, foreign languages, history, culture and the arts, international relations, mathematics, applied mathematics and informatics, physics, philology, philosophy, chemistry, and law. The student enrollment is over 23,000. The library has over 3 million volumes. The university has published its journal Visnyk since the 1960s.

Wolf, G. Geschichte der Lemberger Universität von ihrer Begründung, 1784 bis 1848 (Vienna 1893)
Finkel, L.; Starzyński, S. Historia Uniwersytetu Lwowskiego, 2 vols (Lviv 1894)
Barvins’kyi, B. ‘Predtecha Universytetu im. Frantsa I u L'vovi,’ ZNTSh, 75 (Lviv 1918)
Lazarenko, I. 300 lit L’vivs'koho universytetu (Lviv 1961)
Chuhaiov, V.; et al (eds). L’vivs’kyi universytet (Lviv 1986)

Bohdan Struminsky

[This article was updated in 2015.]

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