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Voronezh State University: from occupation to liberation

25.01.2024 13:42

Events, dates, anniversaries, Important / Views: 87

In 1918, the university evacuated from Derpt (Yuriev) was housed in Voronezh in the building of the former Cadet School. The times were difficult: the Civil War, devastation, hunger, and cold... But eventually life got better, and the university remained in Voronezh. Petrovskaya Street became University Street, and Gruzovaya Street became Student Street. “The corner of Student Street and University Street” sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? It is even symbolic!

The university construction began, and a real university campus began to take shape near the railroad station. The initial plan included the students’ campus in the north, Anatomicum in the west, the medical faculty in the east, on Revolutsii avenue, and the sanitary building of the medical faculty in the south. But they never materialised! In 1930, the medical faculty was transformed into a medical institute. The historical composition was broken.

Nevertheless, the university continued to grow. ...

Nowadays it is hard to imagine that Mira Street with its magnificent architectural ensemble appeared after the Second World War. It used to be the territory of the university, and the Railwaymen’s Garden was arranged closer to the railway station. Right here, on Friedrich Engels Street, next to the former Cadet School, a new building was constructed. It was the physics and chemistry section of Voronezh State University. The old-timers of the Faculty of Physics called it simply “physics building”.

The length of the new building of VSU was 120 metres. It occupied the area from dormitory No. 2 to the corner of the house standing on Mira Street and registered as No. 12 on Friedrich Engels Street. The building was monumental. In front of the facade, there were sculptures: Mr Stalin and a figure with a T-square and notes. There was also a monument to Lenin, a very good sculpture, lifelike and dynamic, embodying the power of thought of the leader of the global proletariat. The rector’s office moved to the new building.

In July 1942, the right bank of Voronezh was occupied by the German army. On January 25, 1943, Soviet troops (60th Army led by General Chernyakhovsky) liberated Voronezh.

During six months of occupation, the city was 95% destroyed, and Voronezh State University was also badly damaged.

Voronezh Frontline, January 25. (Special correspondent of TASS). The forces of the Voronezh frontline inflicted a new defeat on the Germans. Soviet troops cleared the city from the Nazis.

On January 25, our army took the offensive near Voronezh, overturned the German troops, and gained total control of the city.

Voronezh was liberated.

In other parts of the Voronezh frontline, our forces continued offensive operations in the same directions. Some units advanced and retook several settlements. The enemy garrison in a large settlement was destroyed. Up to 2000 enemy soldiers and officers were captured. Soviet troops captured 250 vehicles, 300 horses, ammunition, and food stores. In another area, Soviet units captured an important enemy resistance centre. 3 tanks, 28 heavy guns, and other trophies were captured.

Voronezh State University was almost completely destroyed.

The commission on the damage to the property of VSU inspected the territory and remains of the university buildings. It consisted of D.G. Raznotsvetov, authorised officer of VSU, A.F. Shcherbin, associate professor of VSU, and M.K. Afanasiev and S.V. Abroskin, representatives of the Voronezh Regional Committee of the All-Union Communist Party. The commission reported the following:

1. The main building of the university was blown up by fascists during the retreat and completely destroyed. All the equipment of departments, classrooms, and laboratories was destroyed or taken to Germany <...> The aerodynamic laboratory with two wind tunnels was destroyed. The collections of the university library totalling more than half a million books (including unique items) and the collections of the geological museum were completely looted and destroyed. The explosion also destroyed the university auditorium and the reading room for researchers, which were among the most beautiful rooms in Voronezh.

2. The new academic building of VSU was partially blown up, the remaining part was burnt down. The equipment of the departments of electromagnetic oscillations, thermal physics, general physics, hydrology, animal physiology, and others was destroyed.

3. The biological building of VSU was burnt down. The equipment of four departments of the Biology Faculty was destroyed <...>.

4. A freestanding chemical laboratory was partially blown up and destroyed <...>

6. The university’s botanical garden was destroyed <...>

8. Student dormitories were barbarously destroyed <...>

9. The university’s housing was destroyed.... 97 apartments of the academic and service staff with their personal belongings were burnt down and destroyed. The premises and property of the kindergarten were destroyed.

10. In addition, on the territory of the university, the substation and all electric power facilities of VSU, warehouses with the teaching equipment, a warehouse with chemical reagents, a fuel warehouse, a backyard with stables, wagons, and other equipment, a laundry, the only winter swimming pool in Voronezh, a shooting range with training rooms, a weather station, a greenhouse, and a ski centre were damaged or destroyed.

11. The entire university archive was destroyed.

Years of reconstruction were ahead.

The cadet school building was blown up to dust. It was decided not to restore the physics and chemistry building.

Today, dormitory No. 3 and apartment building No. 12 on Friedrich Engels Street take its place.

Text: Mikhail Steinberg

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