The University of Tartu

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15. October 1632

In 1631 Johan Skytte appealed to king Gustav II Adolf, to grant Tartu gymnasium the status of the university. In the summer of the following year, the king granted this request and the University of Tartu was opened on October 15, 1632. In the speech held at the opening ceremony, Skytte said that the university was meant for nobles, citizens and peasants alike. Peasants never made it into the university, though. The university was named Academia Gustaviana, in the honour of the king.
As per custom of a classic university, the University of Tartu had four departments: philosophy, religion, law and medicine. All the students studied philosophy, this was seen as a prerequisite for continuing in other departments. Studies lasted for nine years. As in everywhere Europe, studies in Tartu were in Latin. The common language enabled students to go and study abroad, which many of course did. Completing a school beforehand was not required, as the philosophy department served as the preparatory stage. Thus, even children were admitted to the university, teenagers were a fairly common sight. Already in those times, odd and merry ceremonies were conducted as initiation to the academic family. The main forms of study were lectures and disputes. Students could get grants for good results.
Swedes, Finns and Germans studied at the University of Tartu. As for local students, one Latvian is known to have studied there. There are no definite records of Estonians studying there, though one student from Tallinn was very likely of Estonian origin. Still, there were many students and professors who were interested in the locals and studied the history and national culture of the Estonians.

Image: a drawing of the first building of the University of Tartu.

Source: Ain Mäesalu, Tõnis Lukas, Mati Laur, Tõnu Tannberg. Eesti ajalugu I. Avita, Tallinn 1995
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