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Russia Engages the World, 1453-1825
1453 Through the Reign of Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584) The Time of Troubles to the First Romanovs (1598-1682) Peter the Great and His Legacy (1682-1762) The Age of Catherine the Great (1762-1801) The Reign of Emperor Alexander I (1801-1825)


Explore this Section:

A Proposal for Constitutional Monarchy, 1809
University Education

Russia's Globalization:
A Key

Events marked Russia Symbol are specific to Muscovy/Russia's internal development.
Those marked World Symbol are important world historical or cultural events.
Engagement Symbol indicates specific points of sociocultural or military engagement between Muscovy/Russia and foreign powers or individuals.




Catherine the Great (r. 1762–96) laid the foundation for a state system of education through the establishment of a teacher’s college and elementary and middle schools. Alexander took the next major step.

The Ministry of Education, founded in 1802, divided Russia into six educational districts, each of which was to have a university and a curator who would report to the minister. Thus, during the first and liberal part of his reign, Alexander I founded five new universities in addition to the University of Moscow established in 1755 by Empress Elizabeth (r. 1740–61). Unusual in an absolute monarchy, the universities functioned autonomously and were accorded academic freedom. The university councils, made up of faculty members, had the right to elect rectors, deans, and other personnel, to run independent courts of justice, to impose their own censorship, and to choose textbooks.

However, in the second part of Alexander’s reign, Prince Aleksandr Golitsyn (1773–1844) and others involved in the Russian Bible Society took over the educational ministry and made religion the central element in higher education. They ordered purges of the universities, during which secular textbooks were replaced by the Bible, even in science classes; faculty who supported the ideas of the Enlightenment were fired; and students had to obey monastic rules. After this bleak episode and the end of Alexander’s reign, Russian universities became respected institutions of learning on a par with those in the rest of Europe.