Bursas and student residences

Image - Kyivan Mohyla Academy: old bursa (student residence) building (1778).

Bursas and student residences. The first student residences in Ukraine were known as bursas (singular bursa) and were established by religious brotherhoods at brotherhood schools in the late 16th century; they usually housed students from poorer families and orphans. The best-known bursas were at the Lviv Dormition Brotherhood School and the Kyivan Mohyla Academy; they were also found at Jesuit schools (at the Zamostia Academy and elsewhere). In the early 18th century bursas were set up at the Chernihiv College, Pereiaslav College, and Kharkiv College and remained when the colleges became seminaries. The residences were supported by donations (which were forbidden in eastern Ukraine after 1786) and by special foundations. They had their own organization and customs. Two prefects and several assistants and secretaries were elected annually in each bursa. Residents with full or partial board staged Christmas and Easter plays; poor students earned their keep by singing. In the 18th century there was a school and residence at the Church of the Holy Protectress at the Zaporozhian Sich.

In Ukraine under Russian rule at the end of the 18th century boarding schools (pansiony) for children of the nobility, particularly the poorer gentry, began to appear. The name ‘bursa’ was retained for all student residences within the system of religious educational institutions; sometimes the term denoted the institutions themselves. By the turn of the 20th century such residences could be found at theological seminaries that had been former colleges or had recently been founded in provincial capitals; at schools for children of the clergy (dukhovni uchylyshcha, popularly known as bursas); and at eparchial schools for women. Other institutions with student residences were the institutes for daughters of the nobility (instytuty blahorodnykh divyts), military schools, certain gymnasiums, especially private gymnasiums for women, and schools that were part of the system of secondary pedagogical education (teachers' seminaries, religious teachers' schools, etc). However, the majority of students in secondary schools and higher schools in the 19th century lived in private lodgings as opposed to student residences. Despite the prevailing Russification in the educational system, some residences, especially at seminaries, housed active Ukrainian student circles, out of which emerged many prominent civic leaders. The best known were Galagan College and the Kyiv Theological Academy, which boarded about 200 students annually. Anatolii Svydnytsky based his novel Liuborats'ki (1861–2) on his own experiences at the residence of the Kamianets-Podilskyi Theological Seminary in 1851–6.

In Galicia, under Austrian rule, the Institute of the Basilian Sisters in Yavoriv was established in 1848. In time many residences were established by various associations and religious corporations, among them the Ruthenian Bursa (later known as the Ukrainian Bursa) in Ternopil (1873) and Stryi (1876), the Institute of the Basilian Sisters in Lviv (1880), the Trade and Industrial Bursa in Lviv (1890), the Ukrainian Girls' Institute in Peremyshl (1895), and the residences of the Ruthenian Pedagogical Society and Prosvita (beginning of the 20th century). In 1914 there were 68 Ukrainian student residences in 37 towns; 54 were for boys, and 14 for girls. They housed about 3,500 students, or close to 3 percent of the student population in Galicia. More than 30 residences owned their buildings. The Academic Home in Lviv (1909) for students at institutions of higher learning, which was funded by Yevhen Chykalenko and Vasyl Symyrenko, held a special place among residences. It played an important role in raising the level of national consciousness among Ukrainian students. There were also 30 Russophile residences. After the First World War the number of residences in Galicia, now under Polish rule, declined almost every year. In 1942–4 the number increased, mainly owing to the efforts of the Ukrainian Central Committee in the German Generalgouvernement. In 1943 there were 102 residences, housing over 6,000 students.

In Transcarpathia the first residences were established in Uzhhorod: in 1826 a boys’ residence, which operated until 1946, and in 1840 a girls’ residence; both were for orphans of the Greek Catholic clergy. Eparchial residences were established in other towns and accepted students without regard to origin. In the interwar period the student residences were supported by the Czechoslovakian government. There were 14 residences (one of them for Czech children), housing 700-1,000 secondary school students. Although Russophile influence dominated, some of these residences, for example, the Basilian residence in Uzhorod and others in Khust, Berehove and Mukachevo were able to maintain a Ukrainian character. The Shkolnaia Pomoshch Society was one of the private Russophile institutions that operated residences.

In Bukovyna the oldest Ukrainian bursa—the Fedkovych Bursa—was established for gymnasium students in Chernivtsi in 1896 and functioned until 1940. Four other residences, which were opened in the early 1900s, declined under Romanian rule.

After the First World War the most important residence outside Ukraine belonged to the Ukrainian Gymnasium in Řevnice, and later Modřany, Czechoslovakia. In Canada today there are five Ukrainian student residences: at the Mohyla Ukrainian Institute in Saskatoon, Saint John's Institute in Edmonton, the Saint Vladimir Institute in Toronto, Saint Andrew's College in Winnipeg (all four are Orthodox), and the Catholic Sheptytsky Institute in Saskatoon. In Brazil there is one student residence, at Mohyla College in Prudentópolis.

In the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the term hurtozhytok was used for residence. The Marxist view of the school system as an instrument of class power led to the rapid establishment of preparatory ‘workers’ faculties for students of desirable ‘proletarian’ backgrounds and forced the government to set up student dormitories in the early 1920s. Later, residences for secondary-school students were built. According to official statistics, 41.5 percent of students lived in residences in the 1926–7 school year. In the following years this percentage increased with the general rise in student enrollment but dropped after the Second World War. By 1968–9 only 21.8 percent of students lived in residences. Since the 1930s and especially after the Second World War, the residence system has expanded to the tekhnikums, the ‘labor reserve schools,’ and the military schools. Living conditions and food were modest in the residences; they were better in certain industrial institutes and tekhnikums that were supported by the ministries of various industries. By controlling access to the residences and regulating the size of scholarships the state could control student activities. In 1956 several privileged secondary boarding schools were established, primarily for children of the Soviet elite. In 1960 exclusive ‘semiboarding’ secondary schools (‘schools with a prolonged day’) with a simpler program were created.

Zhuk, A. ‘Statystyka ukraïns'kykh burs v Halychyni,’ Nasha shkola (Lviv), 1911, nos 2-3
Lovyts’kyi, Iu. Materiialy do statystyky burs (Lviv 1914)
Iasinchuk, L. Piatdesiat' lit Ridnoï Shkoly (1881–1931) (Lviv 1931)
Siropolko, S. ‘Istoriia osvity na Ukraïni,’ Shliakh vykhovannia i navchannia (Lviv), 1937, nos 2-3

Petro Polishchuk

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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