Ура! Moscow State University (MSU) is in the world’s top 100 universities!

Exciting news for students considering studying in Russia! Moscow State University (московский государственный университет имени ломоносова) has climbed into the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings, rising 30 places since 2014. With over 30,000 students and 6,000 faculty members, MSU is considered one of the most prestigious higher education institutes in Russia, and has links to countries including Switzerland, China, Iran, Cuba and Italy.

Unfortunately, most of us won’t get the chance to study at MSU, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit as a tourist. Situated on Sparrow Hills (Воробьёвы горы), the main building of MSU is an extraordinary example of Stalinist architecture. At 240m, it is the tallest university building in the world, and boasts an incredible view over all of Moscow. Surrounded by green trees in the summer, and with the star decorating the spire eerily covered in frost during the winter, it is truly an amazing sight to behold. If you’re looking to explore inside the buildings, MSU holds open days where you can visit lecture theatres, classrooms, and even see experiments put on by students.

However, the stunning main building harbours a dark past. Built between 1949-1953, construction was carried out by over 14,000 gulag prisoners, who were moved from prison camps specifically for this project. Whilst at first these prisoners lived in a campsite nearby, the decision was made to move the prisoners to the 24th and 25th floor towards the end of construction to lower the security risk, and shorten the ‘commute’ to work.

Nowadays, the building contains classrooms, lecture theatres, student accommodation, and even a natural history museum. Some departments, such as Physics and Chemistry, are housed in buildings nearby, whilst others such as Journalism and Psychology, can be found right in the centre of Moscow, near Manege Square.

MSU has its fair share or myths and urban legends: here are the top 4.

  1. The Haunted Floors: During construction, many gulag workers lost their lives due to the harsh conditions. Some students have reported hearing screams and wails coming from the top floors of the main building- could they be from gulag workers whose ghosts never left the building?
  2. The Secret Bunker: During the cold war, bunkers were said to have been constructed all around Moscow, with a secret metro connecting them. One such bunker is supposedly 200-300 metres below the main campus, connected to key locations around the city. Although the existence of this bunker has yet to be confirmed, you can visit another one in the city centre at Taganskaya- click HERE for more information.
  3. The Do-it-yourself pilot: During the construction years, it is said that one intrepid prisoner attempted to escape the 24th floor prison camp by building his own aeroplane using left-over materials. Choose for yourself the ending of the story: whilst some say that the prisoner escaped in the Luzhniki direction, others say that, having been captured, he was personally pardoned by Stalin due to his ingenuity, whilst pessimists simply say he was shot down by guards.
  4. The Renewable Energy Doors: To enter MSU, one has to go through reportedly very heavy revolving doors. It is rumoured amongst students that the reason for this inconvenience is actually rooted in renewable energy: the university is harnessing the force of the thousands of students who go through the doors each day to power the building!

Want to find out more about the 90th best university in the world? Take a visit to MSU to see if you can get to the bottom of these urban legends (or just to enjoy the view).

To get to MSU, take the red line to Stantsia Universityet, and walk 20 minutes east to reach the viewing platform/main university building.

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