100 years of Masaryk University
It was only months since Czechoslovakia had become an independent country and politicians already had ambitious plans with the new country, and how it would be better than the previous one. One of these plans saw the foundation of a second Czech university, the present-day Masaryk University. Let’s look at the key milestones throughout its history as experienced by the school itself, its faculty and students.
Turn of the century
Battle for a university
The university was ultimately founded after decades of negotiations. Writing in 1885 in the Athenaeum journal, then-professor at Charles University in Prague Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk asserted: “If you know how universities are run, you will agree with me that should we have one university, we need to have two”, referring to the fact that the quality of schools, and in fact not only schools, increases through competition with other schools. The idea of a university in Brno was opposed from the very beginning by the local German minority. The conflict escalated in early October 1905, during the so-called Volkstag, resulting in clashes in the streets during which Czech worker František Pavlík died.
Off to a good start with four faculties
Pursuant to a resolution of the National Assembly and act number 50/1919 Sb. z. and government decree dated 28 January, the second Czech university was founded („československá státní Masarykova universita“, or Czechoslovak State Masaryk University). By the way, it was long before the city even had plans to build the exhibition centre. Plans for the university initially included four faculties: the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Science. Lectures started in the fall of 1919; the official “inauguration ceremony” was held on 11 November.
Let there be campus
When, in 1919, an act was passed approving the establishment of the university, one of its provisions stipulated that the buildings for teaching and administration were to be found or built by the year 1930. It did not happen. Although plans existed to build a huge campus near the end of the present-day Veveří street (at the base of Kraví hora), only the present-day Faculty of Law was built and opened in 1932. The project was halted by the financial crisis, nationalist clashes and the efforts to curb the development of the school and, ultimately, World War II.
Nazis are closing down Czech colleges and universities. They say it is for three years, but ultimately it is six. Many students and teachers joined resistance movements. Some of them were imprisoned, even at the Špilberk Castle from which they would be brought to questioning to the Gestapo HQ for Moravia and Silesia in what is today the Faculty of Law. Some academics were kept in prison; some were taken to concentration camps. Many students died in Sachsenhausen, while some professors were deported to Mauthausen. Hundreds of people died in the Kounicovy koleje dormitories.
Recovery and February 1948
On 26 April 1945 Brno was liberated by the Russian and Romanian armies. In spite of immense casualties and damages teaching resumes in the summer semester. The fifth faculty (the Faculty of Education) was founded in 1946. However the communist coup d’état in 1948 meant further political repressions which affected the education sector. In 1950 the Faculty of Law is closed down and in 1953 the Faculty of Education is separated from the rest of the school. Both would ultimately re-join the university in the 1960’s.
Purkyně better than Masaryk
Masaryk University is renamed to Jan Evangelista Purkyně University, after years of debate on the new name, as Masaryk was not favoured by the regime and his books had to be removed from libraries. Several options were considered, including “Gottwald University”, “Univerzita pracujících” (literally Working People’s University) or “Dobrovský University”. The latter was rejected due to the fact that Dobrovský used to be a priest. Today we do not know whose idea it was to name the school after the famous physiologist, scientist and philosopher.
The Faculty of Arts would become the centre of the student movement. Its faculty and students played a key role in the Velvet Revolution. A “press centre” was established at the university which created and disseminated materials throughout the region, encouraging people to support the regime change. One year later, after the fall of communism, the university “takes back” its original name, Masaryk University. Also in 1990 the Faculty of Economy and Administration was founded, as a result of efforts in further economic development.
Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 there was strong development in many fields of study which would ultimately warrant the foundation of three new faculties. Having separated from the Faculty of Science in 1994, several fields of study and departments would form the Faculty of Informatics, the first of its kind in the country. Similarly, in 1997 the Faculty of Social Sciences was founded after certain departments separated from the Faculty of Arts. The youngest faculty so far is the Faculty of Sports Studies (since 2002).
Let there be campus. Now, really.
For decades the university had been waiting and planning the future site for the much needed campus were several faculties could co-exist and cooperate on joint projects. It was ultimately built next to the University Hospital in Bohunice and saw its grand opening in 2010. It encompasses almost 40 buildings and its CZK 7 bln construction took ten years. It is “home” to approximately 5,000 students and 1,500 faculty and staff of three faculties: the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Sports Studies.
Celebrating 100 years
Masaryk University is entering its second century of existence. It has given itself a new modern logo (“MUNI”) ensuring more effective presentation both domestically and internationally. Currently ahead of it is a year of celebrations but also numerous new projects.