Historia Universitatis Iassiensis 10, 57–96

Ionuț Nistor | Originile unui litigiu. Palatul universitar din Copou

Abstract. The University of Iași is one of the emblematic and easily recognisable buildings within the local and national urban landscape. The university palace in Copou, built between 1893 and 1897, was designed to provide study and research space, but also to mark symbolically the importance of the academic establishment and the cultural status of the city. The palace building extended gradually, to the extent of the growing need for space, due to the increase in the number of university students, teachers and specialties. It underwent two traumatic experiences, during the wars, when the use of halls and laboratories by the army and the Romanian and foreign civilian institutions, the fires and bombardments caused important damage. We add here the refuge of 1944-1945, which entailed the packing and transportation of movable assets, some of them destroyed on the road, some other lost or requi-sitioned by the soviet armies. The total value of the damage is hard to determine exactly, insofar as certain accounting and administrative evidence lacks, while the value of the Leu, always oscillating, must be related to the financial-budget context of each period. However, beyond doubt, the money requested by the University accounted for significant amounts from the budget of the corres-ponding Ministry, considering the destructions. Furthermore, the multiple needs of the society in terms of reconstruction following the two world wars led to instalment-based funds sent to Iași. And for this reason, the reconstruction of the palace took until around 1920 after the First World War and until around early 50s after the Second World War. Concerning the extension of the premises in the interwar period, funds were allocated gradually, which led to a permanent delay in the deadline of the works, and the amounts received by the University were provided mostly by professors of the institution who had become ministers in Bucharest. One of the constants of the period after 1945 was the issue of sharing the building of the palace with the Polytechnic Institute, a dispute unfolding between 1958 and 1961, with tense episode. In full refuge caused by the war, The University of Iași decided to provide temporary assistance to the Institute, which was also in a difficult situation in its turn. The University Senate decided in 1945 to allocate to the Polytechnic Institute for two years the halls, labo-ratories and administrative spaces within the former palace. It was a gesture of academic solidarity, a “gentlemen’s agreement”, which did not involve a formal contract, but which was based solely on the trust and hope of the management of the Iași-based University that by the end of the two years in question, the Polytechnic Institute would find its own place. The acute lack of space in a city destroyed by bombardments, the slow rhythm or restoration after the war and the funds allocated fragmentarily for construction and reconstruction prolonged this provisory state. Subsequently, in the 50s-70s, the Communist regime focused on Polytechnic Institutes in general and on the one of Iași, implicitly, reason for which any changes in the statu-quo established in 1945 concerning the use of the palace became an attempt to undermine the Romanian strategy of development. Meanwhile, the management of the Institute made all the efforts necessary for the maintenance of the building attributed in 1945, thus trying to present it and to assume it as part of their heritage. However, the university palace could not be divided, while the status of the Polytechnic Institute of temporary “renter” changed. The entire building – mostly the old part built in the 19th century – the Aula and the Library included, belonged to the University, as often claimed by its management, throughout the entire Communist period and recognised directly or implicitly by the management of the Polytechnic Institute, too. In this dispute, the Ministry of Education or other central public authorities always attempted to negotiate with the University directly the issues regarding palace administration and to consider it “a building of the University”. The tensions between the two institutions reflected in the exchanges of letters and official memos continued until the mid-60s, when the construction of the new building of the University and then of the Polytechnic Institute headquarters on Splai Bahlui solved some of the problems generated by the lack of space. Nonetheless, the symbolical stakes of using the old wing of the palace persisted, mostly concerning the Aula and the Library, symbolical spaces of the University, without which the history of this establishment is not whole, and the palace building is impossible to understand from a functional and symbolical perspective.