Every day, local citizens and camera-flashing foreigners pass the pillars of the University of Tartu Main Building, not to mention thousands of students along with the lecturers. In the beginning of the 19th century, this was only a dream.
It was a dream that found its chance to become reality in 1801 when the Keiser Alexander the First finally reached a decision: the university would not be built in Miitava, Kuramaa (today we know it as the Latvian town called Jelgava), but in Tartu, Liivimaa, instead! Two years later, Johann Willhelm Krause arrived in town and went on to become the architect of the university ensemble in Tartu.
Enlightenment brought a novel conception of the university, a vision of the architecture that was suitable to the era and was widespread from Europe to the United States. In many ways, the student campuses that formed in the 19th century have become a reflection of the changes that took place in the social consciousness and inter-societal relationships, and paved the way to the development of the modern world of today. In this tumultuous rising tide, the architectural ensemble of the University of Tartu was born, one of the most genuine and best-preserved examples of a university of the Enlightenment era.
When speaking about our alma mater, we have to start from the year 1632, when the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf founded one of the four universities in the Swedish empire, then known as Academia Gustaviana, in Tartu. In the 18th century the Great Northern War forced the university to cease activities, but the university was reopened in 1802. After some disputes about where to locate the university, the new emperor of Russia, Keiser Alexander the First, conclusively designated Tartu as the location.