Jan Kazimierz University

ID: 68

The Franz (Francis) I University of Lviv was reorganized as the Jan Kazimierz University in 1918, after the Polish-Ukrainian war and the battles for Lviv. During the period, the University was one of the largest and most significant scientific and cultural centers of interwar Poland. It was renamed after the beginning of the Soviet occupation in 1939 into Ivan Franko State University.


The Jan Kazimierz University (1919-1939) was the third (after the Warsaw and Jagiellonian Universities) largest scientific and educational center of the Second Polish Republic; it was the largest educational institution in Lviv during the twenty-year-long interwar period (among other institutions, there were Lviv Polytechnic, the Academy of Veterinary Medicine, the High School (later Academy) of Foreign Trade) and one of the most important centers of the Second Republic's cultural life.

The University's initial activities concurred with the November 1918 events in Lviv. The University originated in the context of the Polish-Ukrainian war, in the atmosphere of struggle for Lviv. After the city was won by the Poles on 22 November 1918, on 27 November 1918 the Rector Antoni Jurasz pledged allegiance to the Polish government in the presence of Professor Marceli Chlamtacz, a representative of the governing commission. The Vice-President of the Governor's Office in Lviv, Stanisław Grodzicki, in a statement dated 17 April 1919 urged all civil servants to take a solemn oath of loyalty to the Polish state. On 14 May Kazimierz Gałecki, the General Delegate of the Government in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, sent the Lviv University;s Academic Senate an instruction of the Governor's Office Presidium to obtain the oath text from the institution employees. Those who would have declined signing the document were to be discharged. Almost all Ukrainian professors refused to pledge allegiance and therefore were deprived of work (some of them drew attention to the fact that it was too early to swear as the Conference of Ambassadors had not yet taken a decision regarding Eastern Galicia by that time).

In August 1919 the conditions for entering the University of Lviv were announced in the press. The possibility of admission was provided to young people who recognized their Polish citizenship and fulfilled the duty of military service in the Polish army or who were not accepted to the army after coming to the military enlistment office, as well as citizens of the states, which were members of the coalition or neutral. This blow was directed straight against the Ukrainian young people, who had fought on the side of the Western Ukrainian People's Republic. Admission to the University started on 25 September 1919. Two days later lectures in Ukrainian were banned. On 22 November 1919 the educational institution received the official name of the Jan Kazimierz University: the proposal to grant the University the name of the Polish king was presented to the head of the state Józef Piłsudski by the Minister of Religious Denominations and Public Education Jan Łukasiewicz. The moment chosen to announce the decision about granting the new name was not accidental: the event took place during the celebrations in honor of "the 22 November liberation of Lviv". According to the decision of the Academic Senate dated 15 March 1920, the instruction on giving lectures in the Ukrainian language was rejected. In this way, the Ukrainian departments were eliminated, and the University became a Polish educational institution with Polish language of instruction. In 1921 Ukrainian youth began a boycott of the Polish educational institution and started entering the Secret Ukrainian University.

Already in 1918, the Academic Senate began to petition for the transfer of the former Galician Sejm building (Universytetska street 1) to the educational institution. The university was developing and therefore needed new premises for laboratories and auditoriums for practical classes and lectures. In accordance with the provisions of the law adopted on 30 January 1920, the Sejm and the Provincial Department of the former Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria were eliminated, and less than a month later (26 February 1920) the Council of Ministers transferred the buildings of the Sejm to Lviv University. This decision was confirmed by a law of the Legislative Sejm of the Polish Republic, introduced in February of the following year. Finally, according to the law of 23 April 1923, the former Sejm buildings formally became permanent property of the Jan Kazimierz University. The solemn transfer of the building to the educational institution was held during the celebration of the Third May holiday in 1920.

The activities of the University were regulated in accordance with instructions and resolutions of the Government of the Second Polish Republic (especially the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Education) and decisions of the Academic Senate as well as on the basis of the University Charter. In the hierarchy of the educational institution, the highest authority was the Academic Senate, which included the Rector, Vice-Rector, deans, deputy deans, and representatives of the councils of the faculties (one from each council). At the very beginning of the Second Polish Republic, there were four faculties in the University: the Theological Faculty, the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, the Faculty of Medicine, and the Faculty of Philosophy. In 1924 the Faculty of Philosophy was divided into separate faculties of philosophy and natural sciences. Within the Faculty of Medicine in 1930-1939, there was a pharmaceutical faculty. On the basis of the Faculty of Law diplomatic studies were founded in April 1930.

Scientific work in the Jan Kazimierz University was done within its departments, institutes, faculties, and clinics. The number of departments usually corresponded to the number of ordinary professors and extraordinary professors. Each academic year began on October 1 and was divided into three trimestres (October 1 – December 16, January 6 – March 6, April 20 – June 30). The date of the solemn beginning of the academic year was determined by the Academic Senate at the first meeting; usually this solemnity took place in the first half of October. Classes were held not only in the former Sejm building on ul. Marszałkowska, 1 (now vul. Universytetska, 1), but also in the building of the so-called "old university" on ul. Św. Mikołaja (now vul. Hrushevskoho, 4). The students of the Faculty of Medicine also attended classes in buildings located on Piekarska, Pijarów (now Nekrasova), Głowińskiego (now Chernihivska) and Łyczakowska (now Lychakivska) streets. In 1928-1934, due to an insufficient number of educational premises for the University's needs, the so-called Collegium Maximum was built in the courtyard of the former Sejm building; it was there that the diplomatic studies were organized. In 1937 Count Stanisław Badeni handed over to the University a large building on ul. Trzeciego Maja, 6 (now vul. Sichovykh Striltsiv), which was the family palace of the Badeni before. The educational institution management assigned it for the needs of the Faculties of Medicine and Law. Apart from the academic buildings, the University also had its own library, headed by a director. In 1926, the library owned 319,533 volumes of various books, 1,149 manuscripts, 222 incunabula, 259 diplomas, 11,178 coins, and 508 medals.

The Jan Kazimierz University was one of the most important centers of the scientific life of the Second Polish Republic. The following famous humanists taught there: Juliusz Kleiner, Jan Czekanowski, Kazimierz Twardowski, Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, and Roman Ingarden, as well as Karolina Lanckorońska, an expert in history of art. There were also prominent legal professionals in the University, with Ludwik Ehrlich, Oswald Balzer, Władysław Abraham, Przemysław Dąbkowski, Juliusz Makarewicz, Maurycy Allerhand, Roman Longschamps de Berier among them. Rudolf Weigl, the inventor of the epidemic typhus vaccine, worked at the Faculty of Medicine, as well as Jakób Parnas, Franciszek Groer, Adolf Beck, Witold Nowicki. The founders of the so-called Lviv Mathematical School, Stefan Banach and Hugo Steinhaus, worked at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. An important figure associated with the Geographical Institute was Professor Eugeniusz Romer. In the academic year 1938/1939, there were 64 ordinary professors, 22 extraordinary professors and 110 associate professors on the staff of 104 departments.

In addition to scientific activities, some employees of the University took part in political life. Marceli Chlamtacz, Professor of Roman law, served as the vice-president of Lviv at the same time. Assistant professor Stanisław Dąbrowski served as Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1920-1921 and later was a deputy to the Sejm from the Popular National Union (pol. Związek Ludowo-Narodowy) and from the Polish National Democracy (pol. Narodowa Demokracja). Professors Stanisław Głąbiński and Stanisław Grabski were also associated with the National Democratic camp.

The Jan Kazimierz University awarded honorary doctorates (honoris causa). Among those awarded this title were not only scholars, but also figures related to Lviv and politicians: Raymond Poincare, the Prime Minister and President of France, Herbert Hoover, the future President of the United States, Archbishop and Metropolitan of Lviv Bolesław Twardowski, Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły, and the last president of the Second Polish Republic, Ignacy Mościcki.

By the number of students, the Jan Kazimierz University was one of the largest higher educational institutions of the Second Polish Republic. Among the famous students of the University, there were Jan Karski (Kozielowski), Louis Bruno Sohn, Henryk Vogelfänger (known as Tońko), Rachel Auerbach, Roman Zubyk. According to statistics, in the academic year 1921/1922, 4,867 students and 318 free students attended the University; in the academic year 1932/33 there were 7,358 students in this institution. In the second half of the 1930s these indices began to decrease, mainly due to young people’s economic problems (in view of the high tuition fees), as well as the repressions used by Polish nationalistic youth and directed straight against Jewish students. There were demands for the implementation of the slogan numerus nullus (i.e. the exclusion of Jewish youth from university education) and the introduction of the official "bench ghetto".

The outburst of the Second World War put an end to the University's development. Lviv was occupied by the Soviets, who made changes in the organizational structure of the educational institution. Professor Roman Longschamps de Berier was dismissed from the position of Rector, the staff of the administration and university management were replaced. In October 1939 Mykhaylo Marchenko, a Soviet partyman from Kyiv, was called to occupy the position of Rector of the University in Lviv.

Upon the arrival of the Nazis in the city, the University was closed. In July 1941, several dozens of teachers were shot on the Vuletsky hills, including Tadeusz Boy-Żełeński, professor of the history of French literature, Włodzimierz Sieradzki, a doctor of forensic medicine, Antoni Cieszyński, a dentist, and Roman Longschamps de Berier, the last elected Rector and professor of civil law.

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By Ewa Bukowska-Marczak