Lviv University: Where history meets modernity

Mariya Zubrytska,
Ph.D. (Philology), Professor,
Adviser to the Rector in International Projects Development,
Vice-Rector for Academic and International Affairs (2014-2019),
Ivan Franko National University of Lviv,

Lviv is a medieval city in Western Ukraine with a population of 724,000 habitants. Founded in 1256 by Ukrainian king Danylo, the city is located only 70 km from the Polish border (EU border). It is the city with a rich history and culture, its historic center assemble was included into UNESCO World Heritage List. We used to say that Lviv is a model of old multicultural city with dynamic nature of modern identity building. This multiculturalism as a model living-together still is present in different pronunciation of city name: Lviv-Leopolis-Lemberg- Lwów-Lvov. Among the tourists, Lviv is famous as the coffee capital of Ukraine. City coffee houses became a very important hub for academic, intellectual and cultural life. Students and professors, painters, actors and filmmakers came together to share plans and dreams with people of different origin and status.

One of the most famous Lviv interwar cafes was “Kawiarnia Szkocka” (Scottish Coffee House). There, the mathematicians from Lviv School of Mathematics collaboratively discussed research problems, particularly in functional analysis and topology. Among them, there were scholars of different ethnic backgrounds – Stefan Banach, Hugo Steinhaus, Stanislaw Ulam and others. Stanislaw Ulam recounts that the tables of the cafe had marble tops, so they wrote in pencil – directly on the table surface or napkins during their discussions. To keep the results from being lost, Stefan Banach’s wife presented them with a large notebook that was used for putting down the problems and answers and eventually became known as the “Scottish Book”. Today the copy of this book can be found in a contemporary cafe that bears its historical name.

This well-known story is only one of the brightest storytelling fragments about Lviv as a city of academic life with long-lasting intellectual traditions. In a very central part of the city is located Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, one of the oldest universities in East-Central Europe. It was founded in 1661, and throughout its history has demonstrated scholastic innovation that fosters critical thinking and social responsibility. Lviv University was named after the famous Ukrainian writer, politician and activist Ivan Franko (1856-1916), who studied at the university’s Faculty of Philosophy.

Currently, Lviv University is a leading Ukrainian higher education institution. Over 20 000 students obtain academic degrees offered by the University’s 19 Faculties and 3 colleges. The University library is the oldest in Ukraine (founded in 1608), and it stores 3.2 million volumes in more than 150 languages, including famous Manuscripts and Rarity Books Collection. University has 6 objects of the National Property of Ukraine: Zoological Museum (founded in 1885), Herbarium (founded in 1783), Botanical Garden (founded in 1852), Microbial Culture Collection of Antibiotic Producers (1995), Astronomy Observatory (founded in 1769).                

Lviv University, like most universities around the world, maintains a broad network of international partnerships. We signed 180 agreements with foreign higher education institutions and research institutes from 61 countries. Over 1000 guests from different countries visit University annually to study here, do fieldwork, deliver lectures, do research, participate in conferences, work in libraries and in the archives of Lviv. Approximately the same number of researchers and students of the University every year go abroad for studying, doing research, participating in conferences and seminars etc.

We particularly enjoy a dynamic cooperation with Baltic and Scandinavian universities, particularly with Tartu Ülikool (University of Tartu), Turun yliopisto (University of Turku), Latvijas Universitāte (University of Latvia), Lithuania Mykolo Romerio universitetas (Mykolas Romeris University), Lithuania Kauno technologijos universitetas (Kaunas University of Technology), Šiaulių universitetas (Siauliai University), University of Bergen.

Lviv University is a member of the Baltic University Program. There is a Center of Northern European Countries which is driving force of our interactions with our partners from Baltic and Scandinavian states. Our university is the only university in Ukraine which offers students teaching of Estonian, Lithuanian, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian languages, Finally, the idea and the project of the Baltic-Black Sea alliance of Eastern European states, is being developed by Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian geo-political scientists for over 100 years. The first President of Ukraine Mykhailo Hrushevsky, the famous Ukrainian historian, introduced the idea of creation of the Baltic-Black Sea Alliance in his work “The Black Sea Conception” (1918). In 1894 Mykhailo Hrushevsky was appointed professor of the newly created chair of Ukrainian history (officially it was called The Second Chair of Universal History, with special reference to the History of Eastern Europe) at Lviv University. That is why it was very symbolic for our academic community to offers students in a  new 2019/2020 academic year Master’s Degree Program “Baltic-Black Sea Regional Studies”.

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