History of the Department of Russian Philology
Russian has been taught at the old Vilnius University since 1797. The department of the Russian language and literature was grounded in 1803. That year, the university was called Imperial Vilnius University. It is known Lithuanian was a part of the Russian Empire in that period. So, it is not surprising the activity of the department was closely related with the universities of Saint Petersburg and Moscow, but the development of the Lithuanian culture was also considered.
Five departments of the faculty of literature and arts including that of the Russian language and literature were enumerated in the Statute of Vilnius University which was approved on the 18-30th of May 1830. Adam Mickiewicz listened to the lectures of the first professor of the department, Ivan Chernyavsky in 1805–1820 (in 1812–1814 the lectures were interrupted by the war with Napoleon). When Mickiewicz was having lectures in Paris later, he used the philosophic and culturologic conception of literature by Professor Chernyavsky. In 1821 Professor Ivan Lobojko started managing the department and included the contrastive grammar of the Russian, Polish and old Slav language in the list of subjects taught to students. He was the first to read the manuscript of poem “Gražina” by Mickiewicz in 1822, compared the author with Friedrich Schiller and prognosticated a great future for the young poet. Lobojko together with the Lithuanists of the university ‒ Dionizas Poška, Leonas Uvainis ‒ researched the Lithuanian language and folklore.
Michał Bobrowski, who taught the old Slav language at the university, became famous for his discovery in the scientific world ‒ he found the manuscript of “Codex Suprasliensis”dated the middle of the XI century. In 2007 this record of the old Slav language was included in the World Heritage Register by UNESCO.
In the interwar, the Russian language and literature was taught at the Polish Steponas Batoras University in Vilnius and at the Lithuanian Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas.
The lectures of Russian literature about the Russian, Polish and French romanticism as well as influence of Byron on the Russian romanticists were given by the famous Slavist Marian Zdziechowski at the Polish University. Zdziechowski communicated with the emigrants Russian writers and philosophers ‒ Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Nikolai Berdiajev, Jevgeny Trubeckoy.
At the Lithuanian Vytautas Magnus University, the lectures of Russian literature were given by the most famous Lithuanian writers who translated Russian literature into Lithuanian. The old Russian literature was taught by Vincas Krėvė-Mickevičius, the history of the Russian literature and theatre – by Balys Sruoga. In 1931‒1933 his two volumes of the “History of Russian literature” were issued. Moreover, the lectures were also given by the famous folklore researcher, ehtnographist Eduardas Volteris and author of the monograph “Life and poetry of Pushkin” (1934), Mykolas Banevičius.
A new trend of Russistics and Lituanistics developed in the interwar – these were translations of the works by A. Pushkin into Lithuanian. It was the merit of known writers and reviewers, such as Maironis, Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas, Kazys Binkis, Liudas Gira and signatory of the Act on the Independence of Lithuania, Mykolas Biršiška.
Russistics was taught at Vytautas Magnus University considering the European cultural context. It is evidenced by the article published by B. Sruoga, Pushkin ‒ a Russian European.
The department of the Russian language and literature was restored at Vilnius National University in 1940 and V. Krėvė-Mickevičius started managing it. The Russian folklore and literature was taught by Professor B. Sruoga, the literature of the XVIII century – by lecturer Ona Juodelienė, the history of Russian language and the old Slav language – by Professor Pranas Skardžius. At the beginning of World War II, O. Juodelienė was expelled from the department and B. Sruoga was arrested and sent to Stutthof concentration camp in 1943.
The department restored its work in the school-year 1944‒1945. At first it was one subdivision where the Russian language and literature was taught (the department was managed by Kostas Korsakas) and two more departments – of Russian language and of Russian literature – appeared in 1945‒1946.
Docent G. Nefedov started managing the department in 1950 (he worked at the university in 1950‒1958). The research of dialects of Lithuanian Russian Orthodoxes is related with his name. In January 1953 the first dialectology expedition was organized to Zarasai district.
The other field of scientific research at the department was the history of Russian language. Academician Dmitry Abramovich (worked at the department in 1949‒1958) encouraged establishing the post-graduate studentship and researching the records contained in the library manuscript funds of the university and Scientific Academy.
The following trends of the scientific activity of the department of Russian language developed at the beginning of 1970s of the XX century:
- History and dialectology of Russian language.
- Research of the language of Russian writers. The vocabulary of the works by Konstantin Paustovsky was compiled. In 1998 the centre-museum of research of the works by Paustovsky issued a volume of the vocabulary prepared by the docent of the department, Lilija Sudavičienė.
- Comparative and typological Russian and Lithuanian studies.
- Analysis of the Russian language culture in Lithuania.
- Methodology of teaching the Russian language and literature at secondary and higher schools.
The research of these trends was performed by the department’s collective: docent Lilija Sudavičienė, docent Zinaida Zakarjan, docent Elzė Galnaitytė (together with docent Marija Sivickienė and Lithuanist docent Juozas Pikčilingis prepared and issued the “School vocabulary of Russian and Lithuanian phraseology” in 1983), docent Marija Sivickienė, docent Ona Dundaitė (prepared and issued the “Vocabulary of the old Slav language” in 2005), docent (later professor) Eleonora Lassan, docent Tatjana Vlasova, docent (later professor) Ala Lichachiova, docent Michail Kudriavcev, lecturer Regina Čičinskaitė, assistants Nina Senchenko, Tatjana Londareva, Tatjana Ktitorova, Valentina Stankevičiūtė (prepared methodical means for teaching the Russian language).
The main trends of scientific works of Russian literature in 1945–1991 were the relations between Russian and Lithuanian literature and history of Russian literature in the XIX‒XX century.
The brightest scientists and pedagogues of the department of Russian literature in 1970s – 1980s were professor Elena Červinskienė (she went deep into the works by F. Dostoyevsky, presented new insights about the works of Russian literature classics); docent and later professor Birutė Masionienė ‒ researcher of Russian classics, Ukrainian and Estonian literature, poet, prosaist; docent and later professor Eleonora Safronova who taught the literature of the beginning of the XX century and charmed students with her eloquence; docent Aleksandr Lysov ‒ a subtle poetry expert, poet, specialist of the works by writers Leonid Leonov and Andrej Platonov, a very productive scientist who issued a lot of scientific publications. He patronized young talents by rounding them up to poetry circle “Ruslo”. Rimantas Sideravičius, who was almost the best expert in the works by A. Pushkin, also worked at the department; he wrote monograph “Pushkin and Lithuania”.
After restoring the Independence in Lithuania, the Russian language and Russian literature were analyzed in the country as heritage and presence of the national minority. Professor Pavel Ivinsky, professor Birutė Masionienė, docent B. Meržvinskaitė, docent Rimantas Sideravičius prepared chrestomathy “Russian literature in Lithuania. XVI–XX centuries”. Docent Pavel Lavrinec consistently analyzes the phenomena of Russian culture in Lithuania, first in the interwar. In 2008 he wrote the monograph about Jevgeny Shklyar, a lot of articles and a book about the Russian writers and cultural players of the beginning of the XIX–XX centuries in Lithuania.
In 1996 the Senate of VU and the department of Russian literature decided to rename the department of Russian literature to the department of Slav literature and in 2001 the departments of Russian language and Slav literature were connected together; since then, the united subdivision has been called department of Russian philology. In 2007 it was renamed to the department of Slavistics for a while, and in 2022 the name of Slavic Studies was applied to the department. It was managed by Assoc. Prof. Dr Elena Brazauskienė from 2006 to 2013; presently Assoc. Prof. Dr Pavel Lavrinec is head of the department.