University of Tartu, University of Tartu Museum (Estonia)
How Much Science Can a University Hold?
Over its history, the University of Tartu has found different ways of combining pure science and the practical needs of society. As an early 19th – century Russian university, it tried to satisfy the state’s practical needs and offer useful knowledge by providing top quality education and making its professors “Priests of the Enlightenment”, who were responsible for educating the young of all school levels, free from economic concerns and without fear for their future. Teaching had to be connected to scientific research. In 1802, when the University of Tartu was reopened as Dorpat University, it became a research university with clear administrative functions in the form of censorship of all literature (books, calendars, journals, etc.) before it was printed in the Tartu education district (Estland, Livland, Courland) as well as the supervision of all the schools in that district.
In 1919, when the University of Tartu started its activity as the national university of Estonia, the attitude was that the university must first develop national sciences – those necessary for the Estonian state. As there were many foreigners among the professors, this did not mean isolation from world science, and there is reason to be proud of what has been done.
When Estonia restored its independence in 1991, it was again the sciences that would support the idea of a self-sustaining Estonia. Metrics in the form of international publications (in English) drove researchers quickly in the direction of basic science with an international focus. However, the drive to be an internationally recognized science or research university is not very compatible with the function of developing national sciences. The University of Tartu has so far boldly tried to develop both, which is a rather unique case considering our small population.