Friday, September 12, 2008

200th Anniversary of the University of Belgrade

The University of Belgrade is the largest and most prominent academic institution in Serbia. A place of educational and scientific excellence and the centre of academic life, this year marks its Bicentennial.

The origins of the University may be traced back to 1808. During the Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire, led by the Supreme Leader Karadjordje (ancestor of HRH Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia), the first Grand School was founded by Dositej Obradovic, the most influential proponent of Serbian national and cultural Renaissance. One of the first students was Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, major reformer of Serbian language.

In 1813, following the collapse of the Uprising, the Grand School was closed, however, in 1838 a new high school, called the Lyceum, was opened in the town of Kragujevac. In 1841 it was moved to Belgrade, to the Palace of the Princess Ljubica (Obrenovic).

In 1863 it evolved into Grand School and moved to a new building, the gift of The Danube Captain - Misa Anastasijevic. It had been originally designed to serve for the anticipated court of the grandson of Karadjordje Petrovic, who was married to Captain Misa’s youngest daughter Sara. Nevertheless, following the realization of construction, Captain Misa Anastasijevic gave his mansion as a gift to “his fatherland for educational purposes”. This building is often regarded as one of the most beautiful in Belgrade. Today, the seat of the University of Belgrade is headquartered within its premises.

The original courses of Philosophy (1838), Law (1841) and Nature and Mechanics (1853) formed the first faculties.

Grand School had an outstanding reputation, not just in the Principality (and later Kingdom) of Serbia, but throughout Europe of that time. Its most prominent lecturers were educated at the leading European universities, and maintained close cooperation with their foreign professors and colleagues.

King Peter I (great-grandfather of HRH Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia) formally granted university rights by a royal charter, on March 12, 1905. It guaranteed autonomy of the University, stating that „lecturers are free in explaining science“.

During the First and Second World Wars, the University was closed. The period between the two wars is regarded as the golden age of the University, when thanks to many donations, it became one of the best equipped and wealthiest universities in Europe. There were 500 professors and over 10,000 students.

The importance of the University of Belgrade, regarding the countries heritage, is that the origins of all other universities in Serbia and Montenegro and some other countries owe their very existence to the resources of Belgrade University.

Today, Belgrade University incorporates 31 faculties, divided into five groups (Mechanical Sciences, Social Sciences, Medical Science, Natural Science and Mathematics and Biotechnical Sciences) with currently 72,000 students, taught by 2,500 lecturers.

Throughout its history, the University has promoted the ideals of a democratic society, civil liberties, national traditions and European orientation.

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