In honour of this event, a monument to its founder Catherine the Great was unveiled at Russia's oldest technical university.
Wednesday, 1 November marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of the St. Petersburg Mining University. Exactly a quarter of a millennium ago, on 21 October 1773 according to the old style, Catherine the Great wrote on the decree on the foundation of the first higher technical educational institution in the country "so be it". As recognised by almost all historians and experts, this decision was extremely relevant and timely. After all, it allowed Russia to start training its own competent specialists capable of increasing the efficiency of exploitation of mineral deposits and creating domestic technologies for the extraction and processing of raw materials.
Previously, before the resolution of the Empress, our engineers were educated exclusively abroad. Their number was not too great, and therefore foreigners were invited to supervise work at the deposits or metallurgical plants, who were not always eager to go far away from the developed infrastructure to the Urals, where the main resource base of the state was located at that time. Copper, iron, bronze and many other metals were needed like air at that time, first of all, for the army, which faced very serious historical tasks - to put an end to the Crimean Tatar raids and suppress Pugachev's rebellion forever.
"It was possible to preserve the sovereignty of our country two and a half centuries ago only through the creation of a system of personnel training - masters capable of managing enterprises and understanding how this or that technology worked. After all, we were extremely dependent on foreign specialists in this respect. It was Empress Catherine II's decision to establish the Mining School that allowed us to change the situation," Rector Vladimir Litvinenko addressed the audience at the monument unveiling ceremony.
He recalled that the first students here were students of the Moscow University and the Berg Collegium's chemical laboratory, who had already acquired a certain set of knowledge and skills by the time of their enrolment, and therefore began their studies immediately according to the senior course programme. They started their studies in 1774 and graduated from their alma mater in 1776, becoming the first Russian mining engineers and laying the foundation for a new class of technical intelligentsia, which has been making a colossal contribution to the social and economic development of Russia for a quarter of a millennium. These three years, from 1773 to 1776, can be rightly considered the birth of higher technical education in our country.
"Russia today faces challenges, in many respects similar to those of the times of Catherine the Great. Therefore, once again, as 250 years ago, we need to focus on improving the quality of personnel training and creating conditions for technological sovereignty. St. Petersburg Mining University is currently participating in a pilot project to improve the higher education system on behalf of our President Vladimir Putin. We have already put many of our ideas into practice, they will allow us to abandon the bachelor's degree, return the best of the Soviet system of training specialists for the real sector of the economy and not to lose the positive experience of the last decades," the rector emphasised.
The bronze sculpture of the Empress is full-length. It was created using a unique technology of jewellery casting and is distinguished by a high degree of detail achieved thanks to the art of Ural masters of metal and stone carving. The statue is mounted on a podium made of labradorite and malachite and edged with gilded elements.
The entire area of the wall behind the monument is occupied by a unique geographical map of the Russian Empire from the time of Catherine the Great, made of ornamental and semi-precious stones. They were extracted from domestic deposits, and therefore embody the wealth and beauty of the Russian land. In order to fulfil this project, the prototype of which was the map created at the Mining School in 1792, a huge archival and scientific work was carried out. It made it possible to reconstruct all historical details, in particular, to put on the canvas all the governorates, provinces and regions, rivers and seas washing the empire from all sides of the world, as well as mineral deposits.
The work was carried out by representatives of the stone-cutting House of Alexei Antonov, located in Yekaterinburg. Its head also took part in the ceremony of the monument's inauguration, emphasising that the sculpture of Catherine was made using a unique technology, and no one had ever done such a work before.
"It was a great honour for us to implement this project, and to do it in the shortest possible time. Time was very short indeed, but we realised that this was a big date, a very important event not only for the university and St Petersburg, but for the whole country. The monument will stand here for many years to come, inspiring new generations of young scientists and engineers, inspiring them with confidence in the power of art, beauty and creation," emphasised Alexey Antonov.
The St. Petersburg Mining University received a huge number of congratulations on the anniversary. They were sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation Valentina Matvienko, Deputy Prime Ministers Alexander Novak, Denis Manturov, Dmitry Chernyshenko, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov, heads of major domestic companies, representatives of the academic community, including foreign partners.