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University of Helsinki A Leading European University

Building The Future Since 1640

History of the University :

The Imperial Alexander University of Finland 1809-1917

In the second stage of its history, covering the period when Finland was a Grand Duchy of Russia, from 1809 to 1917, the University was part of a university network in the Russian Empire.

As Finland became part of the Russian Empire in 1809, Tsar Alexander I expanded the University and allocated substantial funds to it. Higher education within the country was moved to Helsinki, the new administrative heart of the Grand Duchy, in 1828. In the capital the primary task of the University was to educate the Grand Duchy’s civil servants.

The University became a community subscribing to the new Humboldtian ideals of science and culture, studying humanity and its living environment by means of scientific methods. The new statutes of the University enacted in 1828 defined the task of the University as promoting the development of “the Sciences and Humanities within Finland and, furthermore, educating the youth for the service of the Tsar and the Fatherland”.

The Alexander University was a centre of national life that promoted the birth of an independent Finnish State and the development of Finnish identity. The great men of Finland, J.V. Snellman, J.L. Runeberg, E. Lönnrot and Z. Topelius, were all involved in the activities of the University.

In the 19 th century university research changed from being collection-centred to being experimental, empirical and analytical. The more scientific approach of the University led to specialisation and created new disciplines. As the scientific disciplines developed, Finland received ever more scholarly knowledge and highly educated people, some of whom entered rapidly evolving industry or the government.

Further information:

Helsinki university museum