Unique Karazin University: How Vasyl Karazin Turned Kharkiv into New Athens >> Karazin University

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July 13, 2017

Unique Karazin University: How Vasyl Karazin Turned Kharkiv into New Athens


The University history is an integral part of intellectual, cultural and spiritual heritage of Ukraine. It is for more than two centuries that Karazin University has been extensively engaged in enlightening activities, scientific discoveries, education development and implementation of a large-scale program of international cooperation. All this became possible thanks to the persistence and initiative of Vasyl Karazin, whose efforts resulted in the University foundation more than two centuries ago.

The University goes back to 1804. It was then that Vasyl Karazin began to actively implement the idea of creating Kharkiv Imperial University. Vasyl Karazin persuaded the local nobility to endorse the idea of establishing a higher education institution. They jointly collected 400, 000 rubles. Other donations (from merchants,Yekaterinoslav citizens and other benefactors) also came through Vasyl Karazin's doing, who attracted some outstanding figures to the process. He was convinced that Kharkiv was to become new Athens.

This is not the only achievement of his. A native of Kruchik estate in Bohodukhiv uyezd of Kharkiv oblast, Karazin implemented his inexhaustible energy in different fields: he was a scholar, a public figure, an educator, an enlightener, the founder of the first in Ukraine school for peasants and of the first in Europe weather-station, the author of numerous works on chemistry, astronomy and selection. And this list is not exhaustive.

The monument to Vasyl Karazin is an essential symbol of Kharkiv. There is hardly a student out there who has no photo of him- or herself near the founder of the University. But few people know the history of its creation. The monument to Vasyl Karazin was designed by St. Petersburg sculptor Ivan Andreoletti. It was erected on the donations collected by the citizens over 20 years. The bronze figure was cast and erected in summer 1904 to mark the centenary of the University foundation. It was the first  full-length monument erected in Kharkiv.

At first the monument used to stand in the University Garden, where the Monument to Taras Shevchenko is currently standing. Iit was moved to Universytetska Street in February 1934. Three years later, the decision was approved to demount the monument and send it to be melt down in the foundry shop of Kharkiv Tractor Plant. Fortunately, the Monument miraculously escaped the melting, and in 1958, it was set up in Shevchenko Garden on the left of the former House of Projects. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the University, the Monument to Vasyl Karazin was moved to the spot at the Main Building of the University where it is currently standing.

All its movements (five times so far) considered, the Monument has become known as 'restless'! In this regard, there even emerged some ironic propositions, for example, to set it on wheels for easier handling.

One side of the Monument bears the quotation of the University founder, “I am blissfully happy to have had the chance to do at least as little good for my beloved Ukraine...” Vasyl Karazin really took advantage of the chance. It was thanks to his persistence that Kharkiv is now a scientific and cultural center, an educational capital of Ukraine and that the University holds the leading positions in the rankings among classical universities and is well-known far beyond Ukraine.

It seems absurd that Vasyl Karazin was sidelined from the University affairs after falling into the tsar's disfavour; he, the founder, was not even invited to the opening ceremony. However, almost 210 years later, we can say with confidence that justice has been restored: the Monument is at  its rightful place near the University. Day after day it amiably congratulates the students on the beginning of a new academic day and welcomes them to the University. You are welcome, too!

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