Татьянин День – students’ holiday

January 25th (January 12th Old Style) is commemorates the death of the 3rd Century Christian martyr, St. Tatiana of Rome. St. Tatiana was a pious young woman, who was brought up by her father as a Christian and became a deaconess of the fledgling sect in Rome, when it was still in hiding from the authorities. She was captured and ordered to make a public renunciation of Christianity by making a sacrifice to the Roman deity, Apollo. Legend says that Tatiana prayed for deliverance, and an earthquake shook the ground, toppling and smashing the marble statue of Apollo. The Romans then gouged Tatiana’s eyes out with a hook and threw her into a pit with a hungry lion. The lion curled up at her feet and purred peacefully. Ignoring all these really quite obvious signs that she knew what she was about, the Romans then beheaded her.

Tatiana and the day commemorating her death might have slipped unnoticed into the Church calendar as yet another saint’s day, but historical events took over.

On January 25 (January 12 Old Style), in 1755, Empress Elizabeth founded Russia’s first University: Moscow University, noting that: “Any good comes from an enlightened mind, and evil is eradicated thereby.” Credit for founding the University goes to Mikhail Lomonosov, a prominent Academician and Professor of Chemistry, and the well-connected courtier I.I. Shuvalov, who served as the university’s first Curator. Prominent alumni include writers Anton Chekhov and Ivan Turgenev, Nobel Laureate and Politian Mikhail Gorbachev, and the artist Vassily Kandinsky.

In the early years, the University offered a general course in Philosophy and liberal arts from which students went on to a concentrated course in one of three branches of study: law, medicine, or philosophy. The University was housed for most of its history directly opposite Red Square, in the yellow and white classical buildings on Mokhovaya Street which today house the faculties of Journalism, Asian and African Studies and Law. In 1953, the doors opened for the first academic year.

Today, Moscow State University, or “MGU” is the largest University in Russia with over 40,000 students who study in 39 departments, under the tutalege of more than 10,000 professors. Coincidentally 25 January is also end of the first term of the traditional academic year for Russian students – the end of winter exams session, followed by a two-week winter holiday.

Happy student’s day!!!

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