Vilnius University Marks its 441st Birthday

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Today, on the 1st of April, Vilnius University (VU) is celebrating its 441st birthday. After commemorating a major anniversary last year, this, one of the oldest universities in Europe, is still playing a key role in developing and applying mankind’s most advanced technologies not only in Lithuania, but worldwide.

The accomplishments of the university’s present-day researchers include the first Internet connection in Lithuania, the first laser, invention of the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tool, and the launch of LituanicaSAT-1, the first Lithuanian satellite.

The anniversary year did not go unnoticed at VU either – in addition to numerous celebratory events, the university also hosted important international conferences, adopted decisions leading to change, and approved the Diversity and Equal Opportunities Strategy.

The circumstances due to the threat of coronavirus have led to a different kind of celebration for VU’s 441st birthday, but it will still be special, since the rector-elect, Prof Rimvydas Petrauskas, will be taking his oath of office. This ceremony will be broadcast live on VU’s YouTube channel and Facebook pages, as well as on the LRT portal.

Birthday Present – a Virtual Review of the Catechism

As per tradition, the Vilnius University Library will invite the people of Lithuania to celebrate the university’s birthday by becoming closer acquainted with the first Lithuanian book – Martynas Mažvydas’s Catechism. The exhibition of the Catechism will be untraditional, with the VU Library, which is commemorating its 450th anniversary, inviting guests to view the unique publication virtually.

The Catechism is at the very top of the list of the Lithuanian National Memory of the World Register, and there are only two known surviving copies of this book worldwide. One is held by VU, and the other by the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Poland). Approximately 200 copies of this book were printed. The Vilnius University Library copy was obtained in 1957 as part of a barter with the Odessa A. M. Gorky State Scientific Library (Ukraine).

Mažvydas’s Catechism was written in the old Lithuanian dialect, which, due to its archaic nature, is of particular significance for Indo-European studies and comparative linguistics. The very publication of the book in Lithuanian was a major step forward for the further promotion of standard Lithuanian, as well as its development and survival.

The VU Library is also the custodian of an autograph of Martynas Mažvydas which has been recognised as an item of national significance and inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. This is the only text known in Lithuania handwritten by the author of the first book in Lithuanian, Martynas Mažvydas, and indicates the owner of the book. It is believed that he acquired this book, which was published in 1524, while studying at the University of Königsberg.

1 Apr 2020