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Russian universities to mark nationwide Student Day on January 25

It is related most immediately to the foundation of Moscow University

MOSCOW, January 24. /TASS/. On Thursday, January 25, the Russian community of university students and academics marks Student Day, which is related most immediately to the foundation of Moscow University. It also known broadly as Tatiana’s Day.

On January 25, the Russian Orthodox Church venerates the early Christian martyr, deaconess Tatiana of Rome who was beheaded around 225 AD or 230 AD after a refusal to make sacrifices to Apollo and subsequent hair-raising tortures. The Christian Church canonized her somewhat later.

It was on January 25, 1755, under the Gregorian [New Style] calendar that Russian Empress Elizabeth signed a decree on instituting a university in Moscow. The idea to create the first-ever properly Russian university came from the researcher and natural scientist Mikhail Lomonosov and the Empress’s aide-de-camp, General Ivan Shuvalov.

On January 25, 1755 - or January 12 under the ‘Old Style’ Julian calendar that was in effect in Russia at the time - Count Shuvalov sent a bill on setting up the university to Her Majesty Elizabeth. January 25 was also the day of patron saint of the count’s mother Tatiana and that is why he declared St Tatiana the heavenly patroness of the newly opened university.

It was seventy-two years after the foundation of the university, however, that Moscow students began to celebrate St Tatiana’s Day as a festival in honor of their alma mater. Traditionally, the gala events would initially take place on April 26, or on the day when regular lectures at the university began in 1755.

However, in 1827, Emperor Nicholas I, whose reign was marked by the opening of a number of new universities and vital engineering colleges, signed a decree to shift the festivities to the day of instituting the university in Moscow.

In the old days, the celebrations would begin in an official atmosphere at the university’s Church of St Tatiana and would be followed the awarding ceremonies, receptions in honor of the leading lecturers and concerts. Eventually they would grow over into big drinking feasts for the students.

The latter would celebrate the birth of their alma mater broadly and noisily, with the main carnivals on Tverskoi and Nikitsky Boulevards and Trubnaya Square.

Journalist and writer Vladimir Gilyarovsky recalled in his books ‘Moscow and the Muscovites’: "On no other day of the year would the streets of Moscow be filled with noise so much as on Tatiana’s Day."

The young Anton Chekhov offered the following description of Tatiana’s Day in a feuilleton: "This year, the public drank up everything except the Moskva River - it luckily avoided the finale thanks to the fact it had frozen."

By the end of the 19th century, celebrations of Tatiana’s Day embraced the student communities in many other parts of Russia but the Ministry of Public Education banned them after a student revolt in St Petersburg in February 1899. Moscow University managed to revive the tradition briefly in 1911.

Tatiana’s Day fell into disfavor with the authorities again after the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917. The new government closed down the St Tatiana’s Church on the university compound in 1919 and turned its premised first into a reading hall, then into a club, and later into a student theater.

The first religious service devoted to St Tatiana was held at the church again on January 25, 1991. It was led by Patriarch Alexiy I. The tradition of festivities in honor of the students returned to Moscow Lomonosov State University in 1992 with the arrival of the new university president, Dr. Viktor Sadovnichy.

The Research Board of the university endorsed restoration of the home church on the old compound on Mokhovaya Street, right opposite the Kremlin, in 1993. Regular liturgies resumed there in 1995.

Moscow City Mayor Yuri Luzhkov made Tatiana’s Day, or Moscow University Day, an annual festive events in 2004. In 2005, it became an all-Russia student holiday by President Vladimir Putin’s decree.

Universities and colleges across the country will mark the festival this year by concerts, theatricals, the ceremonies of handing awards to best students, public actions, trivia games, quests, sightseeing tours, and sports competitions. Movie houses and museums in some cities cut down the entrance fees for students on this day. Some retail chains offer student discounts for the occasion, too.

In St Petersburg, the best students of the city will enjoy a special privileged opportunity to make the daily noon salvo from an artillery gun in the St Peter and Paul’s Fortress. Members of the student community will be invited to an annual winter ball later in the day.