Vorobiovy Gory. MSU (Moscow State University)

Moscow State University (MSU), named after Mikhail Lomonosov, is one of the oldest and biggest traditional universities of Russia. It is one of the centres of Russian science and culture.

In 1940 the university was named after Mikhail Lomonosov;  the official name of the institution isthe Federal State Budget Higher Education Institution ‘Moscow State University named after M.Lomonosov’. But more often its famous abbreviation  MSU is used instead of this long name.

MSU is:

  • 15 research institutes;
  • 41 faculties;
  • More than 300 specialized departments;
  • 6 campuses (5 of them are situated in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States\ Countries of the Former Soviet Union);
  • 35,000 students studying for bachelor’s, master’s or specialist programs;
  • 5,000 postgraduate students and external doctoral candidates;
  • 10,000 students of preparatory courses;
  • All in all, 50,000 people.

There are 4,000 professors and teachers as well as 5,000 research scientistsworking at the MSU faculties and research institutes. The number of supporting and maintenance staff is close to 15,000 personal. V. Sadovnichiy, a member of the Academy of Sciences, has been the head of the university since 1992.

The creation of the university was the idea of Ivan Shuvalov and Mikhail Lomonosov and at first the  opening was planned for 1754, but due to renovations, the university was opened a year later, in 1755.

A decree on the creation of the university was signed by Empress Elizabeth of Russia on January 24th (04 February), 1755. As a commemoration of this day the university celebrates Tatiana’s Day (on 12 January according to the Julian calendar, and in the 20th and 21st centuries on 25 January according to the Gregorian calendar).

There were many members of the Russian Governing Senate who supported the university during its creation and early years including Duke Ivan Odoevsky, Duke Nikita Trubetskoy, Duke Boris Yusupov, Ivan Bakhmetyev, Duke Ivan Scherbatov, Count Peter Shuvalov, Nikolay Zherebtsov, Count Alexander Buturlin (governor general of Moscow), Count Alexey Ryumin-Bestuzhev, Duke Alexey Golitsin. They evaluated proposals connected with Moscow State University before passing them on to Her Majesty as there was a special decree prohibiting any verbal or written proposals concerning  the university from the  Senate coming into force without the signature of the Empress.

Contemporaries of the University considered it to be a continuation of Peter the Great’s education policy introducing the institutes of European science in Russia.  However, Moscow State University was substantially different from western analogs  in its form and implementation. It was a truly Russian university, and its main peculiarities, such as its inclusion into the Russian state system, high levels of control and support from the government, a wide  social context and an orientation towards the development of Russian science and culture, will find their place in the ensuing evolution of Russian higher education.

Today the university consists of more than 600 buildings, including the main building situated on Vorobyovy Hills. Their overall floor space is about 1 million square meters.

The main building of  MSU is the central building at the Moscow State University campus situated at Vorobyovy Hills. It is also one of the seven so called «Stalin skyscrapers». Its height is 183.2m, with the spire – 240m. Its central part consists of 34 floors. The height of its base above sea level is 194m. Architectrs B. Iorphan, L. Rudnev, S. Chesnyshev,  P. Abrosimov and A. Khryakov built it  from 1949 to 1953. The decorative details of the façade came from Vera Mukhina’s workshop.

While the main MSU building was being built, 7 million cubic meters of soil were removed, 180 million bricks were used, more than 53,000 tons of metal framework were cast, 270,000 sq. m. of  ceramic tiles were laid and 68,000 sq. m. with granite. More than 480,000 cubic meters of concrete and reinforced concrete were poured, 2,160,000 sq. m. were plastered and 2,500,000 sq. m. were painted.

The diameter of a star decorated with wheat plants is 9 meters and the clocks, thermometers and barometers on the university towers have nearly the same diameter. The building comprises more  than 45.000 rooms.  To visit them all you would have to walk more than 145 km and spend 750 hours, just to look in all of them for one minute only.

For 37 years, till the Messeturm in Frankfurt was built in 1990, the main building of MSU was the tallest building in Europe.

For 50 years, till the Autumn of 2003 when construction of the Triumph Palace skyscraper was finished, the main building of MSU was the tallest building in Russia.


  • You may think that the spire, as well as the star and spikes on the top of it are covered with gold, but it is not true. The coating is not gold-plated as wind, rain and snow would have quickly ruined it. The spire, the star and the spikes are clad with yellow glass sheets whose inner sides are covered with aluminum. As any other elastic structure, the spire of the MSU main building slightly vibrates when it is windy. The frequency of the main vibration is 0.76Hz.

  • The manufacture of the giant clock mechanisms  belonging to the MSU main building took place in the Moscow Engineering Institute. The mounting of the mechanisms on the towers started on 14 May 1952. These clocks are still the biggest in Europe.The diameter of the dials is 9 meters, the length of the minute hand is 4.13 meters, and of the hour hand – 3.7meters. The height of the clock numbers is 0.7 meters. The clock hands weigh 39 and 50kg accordingly. The dials were made of stainless steel and the clock numbers were made of aluminium and fixed on the gold-coloured glass. One can make out the clock hands from as far as 3 kilometres from the main building. Initially the clocks had pendulous on cables which went down six floors deep. However, these mechanisms didn’t last long as the number of maintenance staff needed to work with them was too large. Hand cable winches used for pulling up the weights were replaced with a drive unit. In 1957 the giant mechanisms were completely exchanged in favour of electric motors. The clocks are situated on two towers of the university, another two are decorated with a thermometer and a barometer with remote controls.

  • A remarkable story is connected with the fence surrounding the main building of the MSU. Yury Gagarin, the future first man into space, while studying at the vocational school of Lyubertsy from 1949 to 1951, had his apprenticeship in a small metal casting shop of a plant where he and a group of workers were assigned a very important task: to cast fences and decorative fence post caps for new buildings of Moscow State University.  Several  representatives of the customer came to the metal-working shop and invited a group of young casters on an excursion to the university campus. As one if his comrades recollects, «Yury Gagarin beamed with joy and said rather loudly, ‘I like to go on excursions but I’d rather study at this university’.

  • Alain Robert climbed up the MSU main building within sight of numerous spectators on September 4th, 2011 as a part of Alpha-Show-4D.

  • For three days, from September 23rd  till 25th, 2016 a tremendous multimedia light show took place on the walls of the MSU central building as part of the “Circle of Light Festival” (www.lightfest.ru). One multimedia show named “Limitless MSU” was a journey through the infinite world of knowledge hidden inside the walls of this university. A legendary founder of MSU, Mikhail Lomonosov told and showed spectators how this world was created and how it grew bigger and bigger, led them through mysteries of many sciences, and told them about the secrets of the skyscraper on Vorobyovy Hills. Another multimedia show under the name Guardian showed an enchanting cartoon story about the travels of a young  courageous Wolf Cub and an elderly and wise Albatross carrying out the lofty task of saving the world from a boisterous fire.