Saint Petersburg State Polytechnical University is a major Russian technical university situated in Saint Petersburg.
Saint Petersburg Polytechnical Institute was founded in 1899 as the most advanced engineering school in Russia. The main person promoting the creation of this University was the Finance Minister Count Sergei Witte who saw establishing a first-class engineering school loosely modeled by the French École Polytechnique as an important step towards the industrialization of Russia. The idea was advanced by Agricultural scientist and Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Kovalevsky and the great chemist Dmitri Mendeleev who are often considered to be the founders of the school. The first Director of the Institute became Prince Andrey Gagarin. Unlike École Polytechnique the Polytechnical institute was always considered to be a civilian establishment. In tsarist Russia it was subordinated to the Ministry of Finance and its students and faculty wore the uniform of the Ministry.
The main campus was built by the architect Ernst Virrikh on the rural lands beyond the dacha settlement Lesnoye. The location was intended to provide some separation between the campus and the capital city of Saint Petersburg.
The Institute was opened to students on October 1, 1902. Originally there were four departments: Economics, Shipbuilding, Electro-mechanics and Metallurgy.
Its work was interrupted by the Russian Revolution of 1905. One student, M. Savinkov was killed during the Bloody Sunday events of January 22 [O. S. January 9] 1905. The reaction of other students was so strong that classes resumed much later in September 1906 almost two years after the events. Among the students-polytechnics who participated in the Revolutionary events were the future prominent bolshevik Mikhail Frunze and the future prominent writer Yevgeny Zamyatin. Among the deputies of the First Duma were four Polytechnical Institute’s faculties: N. A. Gredeskul,
N. I. Kareev, A. S. Lomshakov and L. N. Yasnopolsky.
In 1909 the Shipbuilding department opened the School of Aviation. It was the first aviation and aerodynamics school in Russia. In 1911 the same department opened the School for Car Manufacturing.
In 1910 The Institute was named Peter the Great Polytechnical Institute after Peter I of Russia. In 1914 the number of students reached six-thousand.
With the onset of World War I many students found themselves in the Army and soon the number of students decreased to three thousand. Some students, like future Soviet Military commander Leonid Govorov studied at the Institute for the brief period of one month. Part of the Institutes’s buildings were transferred into the Maria Fyodorovna Hospital at that time the largest military hospital in Russia.
Despite the War the Institute did not stop its work. In 1916 Abram Ioffe opened his Physics Seminar at the Polytechnical Institute. The seminar prepared three Nobel Prize-winners and many other prominent Russian physicists. Eventually, this seminar became the core of the Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute.
In June 5, 1918 the institute was renamed to First Polytechnical Institute (with the Second Polytechnical Institute being the former Women’s Polytechnical Institute). In November 1918 Sovnarkom abolished all forms of scientific decrees, licenses and certifications. There remained only two positions for the faculty: Professor (that required three years of engineering experience) and instructor (with no formal requirements at all). Departments were renamed Faculties, and the director became rector.