Lietuvos mokslo istorikų ir filosofų bendrija

The 29th Baltic Conference on the History of Science

Konferencija Scientia et historia – 2021

Konferencija Scientia et historia – 2020

Konferencija Scientia et historia – 2019

Konferencija Scientia et historia – 2018

Konferencija Scientia et historia – 2017

Konferencija Scientia et historia – 2016

The 29th Baltic Conference on the History of Science, Vilnius


University of Latvia


The Formative Years of Latvian National Higher Education: Management, Research and Studies at the University of Latvia in the 1920s–1930s




The first Latvian national higher educational establishment, the University of Latvia, was founded in Riga in 1919 and was officially opened on September 28 (the Academy of Art and the Latvian State Conservatory were also established that year). But the beginnings of higher education and research in science and technology in the territory of present-day Latvia go back to the Riga Polytechnical Institute (the Riga Polytechnicum) which was established as a private high school in 1862. It was the first polytechnic institute in Imperial Russia and some of its researchers in chemistry, mathematics and engineering achieved international recognition. The working languages at the institute were German and Russian, and only a limited number of Latvian students were enrolled there.


The earliest ideas about a Latvian national university, which would include all research subjects and where studies would be conducted in Latvian, were formulated during the First World War among the organizations of Latvian refugees in Moscow. Their realization became possible with the establishment of an independent Latvian state in 1918. Preparations for the founding of a national higher education establishment took place throughout 1919. They were made more difficult by the battles in the Latvian War of Independence. There was an unsuccessful attempt to revive the Polytechnical Institute as the Baltic Technical Higher School and another to found a Soviet Latvian university in the first half of 1919.


The infrastructure and material foundations for the newly formed University of Latvia were taken over from the Polytechnical Institute, which had been evacuated to Moscow in 1915. The Organizing Committee of the university hoped that the world renowned chemist, Professor Paul Walden (1863–1957), would become the first rector, but he preferred to move to Germany. The University of Latvia was initially named the Higher School of Latvia. It received its current name in 1923 when its constitution was approved. The main persons leading the organizational process and activities of the university during its early years were the architect Eižens Laube and the agronomist Paulis Lejiņš. The academic staff of the university included several Baltic German researchers.


The University of Latvia was the main institution of higher education and research in the sciences and the humanities in Latvia until the Soviet occupation in 1940. In 1921, the first volume of the Scientific Proceedings of the University of Latvia was published, thus starting a long-lasting tradition of research publications of the university. Among the key issues that were heavily discussed in the 1920s and the 1930s were: financing of research, requirements for academic positions, language of research publications and study materials, international contacts and recognition, and so forth. Studies and research went side by side. During the interwar period, most leading Latvian scholars and scientists were somehow connected to the University of Latvia.