Professor õppekeele vahetuse situatsioonis: Jevgeni Shmurlo Tartu ülikoolis 1891-1903


  • Ljudmila Dubjeva



A Professor during the Change of the Language
of Instruction: J. F. Shmurlo at the University of
Tartu in 1891–1903
Ljudmila Dubjeva
University of Tartu Library

In the context of the late 19th century university reform and the transition
from German-medium instruction to Russian-medium instruction
(officially in 1893) the lecturing staff at the University of Tartu
was gradually replaced. The lecturers at the faculty of history and linguistics
chair of history were gradually replaced within ten years, and
the chair adopted Russian-medium instruction; as of 1891 Aleksander
Brückner, Professor of Russian history, was replaced with Professor
Yevgeni Shmurlo (1853–1934, in Tartu 1891–1903); Richard Hausmann,
Professor of general history (Middle Ages), with Professor Anton
Jassinski (1864–1933, in Tartu 1896–1911) in 1896; and Professor
of general history (Modern age) Otto Waltz with Professor Pavel Ardashev
(1865–1924, in Tartu 1901–1903) as late as in 1901.
Before coming to Tartu, Shmurlo had been a private associate professor
at the University of St Petersburg, focusing mainly on the age
of Peter I in his lectures, while he also taught at the women’s courses
at St Petersburg. In the years 1891–1895 he was a Professor Extraordinarius and in 1895–1903 the replacement of a Professor in Ordinary at the University of Tartu. As a historian, he discovered Italian
archives for Russian history, and received the title doctor honoris
causa from the University of Padua in 1892 for this.
Shmurlo began his activities when the University still used German
as the medium of instruction. Shmurlo’s predecessor, Professor
of Russian history Aleksander Brückner (worked at the University
of Tartu in 1872–1891) held lectures on Russian history in Russian
but provided explanations and held seminars in German. In case
of Russian history, the language of instruction in lectures was not
changed at all but when Shmurlo started work, seminars were also
held in Russian. While his lectures were attended by 14 people in
1891, autumn semester, 9 of those had been attending A. Brückner’s
lectures in the spring semester of the same year. As of 1897, when
the authorities allowed accepting the alumni of I rank theological
seminaries into the University, the student body increased, it started
to include students of various nationalities, while Russian students
became the majority group.
In 1895–1900 Shmurlo was the head of the University of Tartu
Library. Proceeding from the practical needs of the reformed University,
a student library (sources and reference books, a sufficient number
of copies) was created upon his initiative; this served Humaniora
students until 2005 in only a slightly different format.
Around the turn of the century, the professors at the University of
Tartu were divided into camps: Germans and Russians, liberals and
conservatives, whereas the Russian liberals could more easily find
common grounds with the Germans than the conservatives of their
nationality. Shmurlo was one of the liberals. Owing to his delicate
wording, which emphasised only literary achievements and left religious
and philosophical questions aside, Leo Tolstoy was successfully
elected an Honorary Doctor of the University of Tartu in 1902.
Shmurlo’s example proves that Russian was used, when necessary,
at the University of Tartu even before the transition to Russian-
medium instruction, whereas a delicate and intelligent professor
could smooth the contradictions between German and Russian
professors and their differing world views, so that the relations would
stay on strictly academic grounds.


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