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Express to Russia » Guide to Russia » Moscow Guide » Moscow Sights » Moscow State University (MGU)

Moscow State University (MGU)

Moscow State University

One of the oldest Russian institutions of higher education, Moscow University was established in 1755. Moscow University wasn’t originally situated where you’ll find it now and there were only three faculties; Faculty of Philoshpy, Law Faculty and Faculty of Medicine. Lectures were delivered either in Latin, the language of educated people at the time, or in Russian.

From the very beginning, elitism was alien to the very spirit of the University community, which determined Moscow University's long-standing democratic tradition. The university was to educate commoners; only serfs were not admitted. Lomonosov himself pointed out that in European universities it was the academic achievements of a student that mattered, not his social position or family background. In the late part of XVIII century there were only three noblemen among the 26 professors at Moscow University, most of the students were commoners too. The best students were sent to continue their education abroad, establishing the contacts with the international scientific community.

Originally, tuition at Moscow University was free for all students; later only poor students were exempt from tuition fees. The state funding did not cover all the University expenses; thus, the administration had to find ways to raise additional funds.

Moscow University played an outstanding role in popularizing science and learning in Russia making the lectures of its professors open to the public. Book publishing in Russia started in 1756, when a printing house and a bookshop were opened on campus; printing one of the first Russian newspapers “Moskovskie Vedomosti” (Moscow Gazette). The first literary periodical in Moscow “Poleznoe Uveselenie” (Useful Entertainment) was also printed at the University printing house since 1760. For over a century, since 1756, the University library was the only one open to the public in Moscow.

Moscow State University

In the 18th century, a great number of students who passed through the doors of the university later went on to do great things. Their work greatly contributed to Moscow University's becoming the educational, scientific and cultural centre of Russia.

The invasion of the French Army led by Napoleon caused many of the students and professors to offer their services to the country. Unfortunately, the university buildings were burnt down during the French occupation. However, the academic year of 1813 did go ahead, thanks to kind donations from private citizens and other establishments.

In the early XIX century, Moscow University attracted freethinking people who discussed the future of Russia. It was often a real battle of wits between the supporters of Western ideas and those who thought Russia had its own unique way of development. With the abolition of serfdom, the university went through a period of reforms, as the country needed highly qualified specialists in all sectors of work.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the government and the university went through a difficult period. Professors were unfairly dismissed, which led to protests and more professors resigning. Students were also expelled.

The Russian revolution of 1917 changed the whole system of higher education. On the one hand, it became more democratic, in the sense that students did not have to pay tuition fees and all of them received grants. The teaching methods all had to change and the aim of the university was to train as many students as possible. By 1941, the number of full-time students had grown to 5000.

Moscow State University

In 1940, the university was named after Academician Mikhail Lomonosov (1711 - 1765), an outstanding Russian scientist, who greatly contributed to the establishment of the university in Moscow.

The political repressions of the 1930s and 1950s negatively affected the development of scientific ideas, as Soviet scientists had virtually no contacts with their colleagues abroad, while certain branches of science were condemned as based on the ideology alien to Communist ideas, and a number of scientists and scholars were sentenced for life imprisonment.

The Great Patriotic War was one of the most difficult periods in the history of Russia. The first group of University students and staff joined the army on the third day of fighting. During the war, the university focused on military science, inventing new explosives and developing aircraft.

Over 5000 University students, instructors, professors and staff fought in the war. In 1975, a memorial was erected on campus to honour over 3000 people Moscow University lost during the war. During the post-war period, the new University campus was built on Vorobievy Gory (Sparrow Hills), where all the lecture halls and laboratories had the latest equipment available at the time.

Nowadays, Moscow State University is a major traditional educational institution in Russia. It offers training in almost all branches of modern science and humanities. Its undergraduates may choose from 57 qualifications, while doctoral students may specialize in 168 different areas. The total number of MSU students exceeds 40,000.

All the history of the University is the evidence of the outstanding role its alumni have played promoting the ideas of freedom, common good, humanity, and truth.

Essential Information for Visitors
Address and Contact Details

Lomonosov Moscow State University
Leninskie Gory
(495) 939-10-00
Metro: Universitet

Opening Hours

The buildings can be viewed from the outside 24 hours a day!

Admission Prices


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