Moscow State University

Lomonosov Moscow State University is a coeducational and public research university located in Moscow, Russia

Moscow State University
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It was founded on January 25, 1755 by Mikhail Lomonosov. MSU was renamed after Lomonosov in 1940 and was then known as Lomonosov University. 

The main Building in winter
pinterest button The main Building in winter Alfred Schaerli, CC0 1.0

It also claims to have the tallest educational building in the world. Its current rector is Viktor Sadovnichiy.

Staff and students

Currently the university employs more than 4,000 academics and 15,000 support staff. Approximately 5,000 scholars work at the university's research institutes and related facilities. More than 40,000 undergraduates and 7,000 advanced degree candidates are enrolled.

More than 5,000 specialists participate in refresher courses for career enhancement. Annually, the university hosts approximately 2,000 students, graduate students, and researchers from around the world.

Academic reputation

A few more narrowly specialized Moscow colleges, including the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations were split off from MSU at one time or another and have since established strong reputations of their own, arguably even surpassing their parent in terms of prestige and quality of education.

The university has well-established contacts with the most distinguished universities in the world, exchanging students and lecturers with the leading international institutions of higher education. It houses the UNESCO International Demography Courses, the UNESCO Hydrology Courses, the International Biotechnology Center, the International LASER Center, courses or seminars on Russian as a foreign language. In 1991 the French University College, the Russian-American University and the Institute of German Science and Culture were opened. The university has awarded honorary degrees to more than 60 scientists, statesmen and politicians from abroad. Many prominent university scholars and scientists in return hold honorary degrees from foreign academies and universities.

Moscow State University is one of Russia's most prestigious institutions of higher learning, and has demanding entry requirements for prospective students. Nonetheless, it performs inconsistently in international rankings.

While it was placed 77th overall by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and 112th by QS World University Rankings, it was not included among the top 200 universities by recent Times Higher World University Rankings and came in at 296th (based on the full THE World University Rankings in their iPhone application).

On a highly cited and consistent ranking, Moscow State University ranked 43rd in 2008, 44th in 2009–2011, and 45th among 300 Best World Universities in 2012 compiled by Human Resources & Labor Review (HRLR) on Measurements of World's Top 300 Universities Graduates' Performance. Despite its large number of departments, Moscow State University seems to be strong mostly in natural sciences and mathematics (currently placed between 38th and 75th in the world) but considerably weaker in other disciplines.

Despite the fact that it is still the highest ranked Russian university according to the three international rankings mentioned above (with the nearest Russian competitor being Saint Petersburg State University that scored 300–400th), the university was consistently placed outside top 5 nationally in 2010–2011 by Forbes and Ria Novosti / HSE., with both ratings based on data set collected by GU VSHE from Russian Unified State Exam scores averaged per all students and departments of university.


The establishment of the university was at the initiative of Ivan Shuvalov and Mikhail Lomonosov.

Russian Empress Elizabeth decreed its creation on January 25  1755. The first lectures were held on April 26. January 25 is still celebrated as Students' Day in Russia.

Main buildings of the university in the Mokhovaya Street, 1798
pinterest button Main buildings of the university in the Mokhovaya Street, 1798 unknown, Public Domain

St. Petersburg State University and Moscow State University have a friendly argument about which is actually Russia's oldest.

While Moscow State University was established in 1755, its St. Petersburg competitor has been in continuous operation as a «university» since 1819, and claims to be the successor of the university established on January 24, 1724, by a decree of Peter the Great.

Originally located in the Principal Medicine Store on Red Square, the university was transferred by Catherine the Great to a Neoclassical building on the other side of Mokhovaya Street. This main building was constructed between 1782 and 1793 in the Neo-Palladian style, designed by Matvei Kazakov, and rebuilt after the 1812 Fire of Moscow by Domenico Giliardi.

Today, the Old Building houses the department of Oriental studies.
pinterest button Today, the Old Building houses the department of Oriental studies A.Savin, CC BY-SA 3.0

In the 18th century, the university had three departments: philosophy, medicine, and law. A preparatory college was affiliated with the university before it was abolished in 1812. In 1779, Mikhail Kheraskov founded a boarding school for noblemen (Благородный пансион), which was transformed into a gymnasium for the Russian nobility in 1830. The university press, run by Nikolay Novikov in the 1780s, published the most popular newspaper in Imperial Russia — Moskovskie Vedomosti.

In 1804, medical education was split into clinical (therapy), surgical, and obstetrics faculties. In 1884–1897, the Department of Medicine, supported by private donations, City Hall, and the national government, built an extensive, 1.6 kilometer long, state-of-the-art medical campus in Devichye Pole, between the Garden Ring and Novodevichy Convent. It was designed by Konstantin Bykovsky, with university doctors like Nikolay Sklifosovskiy and Fyodor Erismann acting as consultants. The campus, and medical education in general, were separated from the university in 1918. Devichye Pole is now operated by the independent Moscow Medical Academy and various other state and private institutions.

The roots of student unrest reach deep into the 1800s. In 1905, a social-democratic organization was created at the university calling for the tsar to be overthrown and for Russia to be turned into a republic. The Tsarist government repeatedly threatened to close the university. In 1911, in a protest over the introduction of troops onto the campus and mistreatment of certain professors, 130 scientists and professors resigned en masse, including prominent figures such as Nikolay Dimitrievich Zelinskiy, Pyotr Nikolaevich Lebedev, and Sergei Alekseevich Chaplygin. Thousands of students were also expelled.

After the October Revolution in 1917, the school began admitting proletariat and peasant children. In 1919, tuition fees were abolished, and a preparatory facility was established to help working class children prepare for entrance exams. During the implementation of Joseph Stalin's First Five-Year Plan (1928–1932), parts of the university were constructed by prisoners of the Gulag. As stated above, the intelligensia would later be ironically mocked, repressed, and imprisoned by Stalin.

After 1991, nine new faculties were established. In 1992, the university was granted a unique status: it is funded directly from the state budget (bypassing the Ministry of Education), which provides a significant level of independence.

On September 6, 1997, the entire front of the university was used as the backdrop for a concert by French electronic musician Jean Michel Jarre, who had been specially invited to perform there by the mayor of the city. The entire front of the building was used as a giant projection screen, while fireworks, lasers, and searchlights were all launched from various points around the building. The stage was directly in front of the building, and the concert, titled «The Road To The 21st Century» in Russia, but renamed «Oxygen In Moscow» for worldwide video/DVD release, attracted a world record crowd of 3.5 million people.

On March 19, 2008, Russia's most powerful supercomputer to date, the SKIF MSU (Russian: СКИФ МГУ; skif is Russian for «scythian») was launched at the university. Its peak performance is 60 TFLOPS and LINPACK is 47.170 TFLOPS, making it the fastest supercomputer in the CIS.


Since 1953, most of the faculties have been situated on Sparrow Hills, in the southwest of Moscow, 5km from the city center. The main building was designed by architect Lev Vladimirovich Rudnev.

In the post-war era, Joseph Stalin ordered seven huge tiered neoclassic towers to be built around the city. It was built using Gulagor labour, as were many of Stalin's Great Construction Projects in Russia.

Located on Moscow's outskirts at the time of its construction, the location of the main building is now about half-way between the center of Moscow at the Kremlin and the city's current limits.

The Journalism Department now occupies the university's original location in downtown Moscow across from the Manezh, steps from the Kremlin and other government buildings.

Indeed, frequent student unrest, including street protests, well pre-dating 1917 may be one reason why Stalin's planners sited the university across the Moscow River, so far away.

Students celebrating the university's 250th anniversary in 2005.
pinterest button Students celebrating the university's 250th anniversary in 2005 Vladimir Vyatkin, CC BY-SA 3.0

The MSU main building was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City at the time of its construction, and remained the tallest building in Europe until 1990. The central tower is 240 m tall, 36 stories high, and flanked by four huge wings of student and faculty accommodations. It is said to contain a total of 33 kilometers of corridors and 5,000 rooms.

Facilities available inside the building include a concert hall, a theater, a museum, administrative services, a library, a swimming pool, a police station, a post office, a laundry, a hairdresser's salon, several canteens, bank offices and ATMs, shops, cafeterias, a bomb shelter, etc. Along with the university administration, the Museum of Earth Sciences and four of the main faculties – Department of Mechanics and Mathematics, the Department of Geology, the Department of Geography, and the Department of Fine and Performing Arts – now reside in the Main building.

The star on the top of the tower is large enough to include a small room and a viewing platform; it weighs 12 tons. The building's facades are ornamented with giant clocks, barometers, thermometers, statues, carved wheat sheaves, and Soviet crests. It stands before a terrace featuring statues of male and female students gazing optimistically and confidently into the future.

Building of the Faculties of Biology and of Soil Science
pinterest button Building of the Faculties of Biology and of Soil Science APL, GNU 1.2

While the Sparrow Hills were on the outskirts of the city at the time of the construction of the main building, they are now about halfway from the Kremlin to the city limits. Several other buildings and sports facilities were later added to the campus, including the only baseball stadium in Russia.

Currently, a new building is under construction for the social sciences faculties, and another new one of vast size has just been built for the library, which is the second-largest in Russia by volume (number of books). The university also has several dormitory buildings in the Southwest of Moscow, outside the campus.

The historical building on Mokhovaya Street now mainly houses the Department of Journalism, the Department of Psychology, and The Institute of Asian and African Studies. The university includes a number of departments buildings located near Manege Square in the center of Moscow and a number of campuses abroad in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The university's main library is one of the largest in Russia. Current estimates suggest that it contains approximately 9,000,000 volumes. The library serves in the area of 55,000 readers per year, using approximately 5,500,000 books.

The university offers classes on its main campus not only in Moscow, but also on campuses in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. These include the Puschino MSU campus, Podmoskovny MSU campus, Chernomorsky MSU campus and Kazakhstan MSU campus. The Ulyanovsk branch of MSU was reorganized into Ulyanovsk State University in 1996.

Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU)

Russian: Московский государственный университет имени М. В. Ломоносова


Science is the clear learning of truth and enlightenment of the mind


As of September 2009, the university has 39 departments and 15 research centres. A number of small faculties have been opened recently, such as Department of Physics and Chemistry and Higher School of Television.

Evening classes are conducted by the Faculties of Economics, History, Journalism, Philology, Psychology and Sociology while the Faculty of Journalism offers a correspondence degree program. Here is the full list of departments, according to the official web-site:

  • Department of Mechanics and Mathematics
  • Department of Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics
  • Department of Physics
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Materials Science
  • Department of Biology
  • Department of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics
  • Department of Soil Science
  • Department of Geology
  • Department of Geography
  • Department of Medicine
  • Department of History
  • Department of Philology
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Economics
  • Department of Law
  • Department of Journalism
  • Department of Psychology
  • The Institute of Asian and African Studies
  • Department of Sociology
  • Department of Foreign Languages and Area Studies
  • Department of Public Administration
  • Department of World Politics
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Fine and Performing Arts
  • Department of Global Studies
  • Department of Education
  • Graduate School of Business Administration
  • Department of Physics and Chemistry
  • Moscow School of Economics
  • Higher School of Translation and Interpretation
  • Higher School of Public Administration
  • Higher School of Public Audit
  • Higher School of Administration and Innovations
  • Higher School of Innovative Business Administration
  • Higher School of Contemporary Social Sciences
  • Higher School of Television
  • Department of Further Education
  • Department of Military Training

Institutions and research centres

  • Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics
  • Institute of Mechanics
  • Sternberg Astronomical Institute
  • A.N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology
  • Research Computing Center
  • N.N. Bogolyubov Institute for Theoretical Problems of Microphysics
  • White Sea Biological Station
  • Moscow University Herbarium
  • and several others

Famous alumni and faculty

Ivan Turgenev

Boris PasternakAnton Chekhov

Vitaly Ginzburg

Andrei Sakharov

Mikhail Gorbachev 

11 Nobel laureates and 7 Fields Medal winners are affiliated with the university. It is the alma mater of many famous writers such as Anton Chekhov and Ivan Turgenev, politicians such as Mikhail Gorbachev or Mikhail Suslov, as well as renowned mathematicians and physicists such as Boris Demidovich, Vladimir Arnold, and Andrey Kolmogorov.