Department of History and Archaeology
In 1992, the Centre for West Lithuanian and Prussian History (VLPIC), and in 1993 the Department of History were founded within the framework of Klaipėda University. From the very first day of establishment of this dual structure, both institutions have worked in close cooperation under the same roof, however, they specialized in different areas: VLPIC focused on scientific research, whilst the Department of History on the organization of teaching process. Shortly after the establishment of the Centre for History, University of Klaipėda entered into close contacts with associates in Germany, which enabled development of a solid base of sources and reference literature in Klaipėda, and provided an opportunity for the historians working at the University to join the global scholarly community. Permanent contacts were instituted with scientific research institutions and researchers in Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Latvia, Russia and the United Kingdom. The augmented contacts of the institution are evidenced by the arrival of Prof. Stephen C. Rowell from the University of Cambridge to work in Klaipėda. The current practice came into being when historians studying in Klaipėda receive instruction not only from local scholars, but also from lecturers invited from other learning institutions of Lithuania and foreign countries on a permanent basis. These factors, already at the beginning, enabled creation at the Department of History of high levels of students’ education and instruction meeting international standards. In 1996, experts of the Research Council of Norway, who assessed the state of research in Lithuania as a whole, arrived at the conclusion that the joint structure of VLPIC and the Department of History created at Klaipėda University “stands out as a modern, internationally oriented institution, conducting and publishing research on a clearly satisfactory international level.” Achievements of the historical study structure developed in Klaipėda are further testified by its continuous development: in 1997 studies for master’s degree were started, and in 2003, the right for doctoral studies was granted.
A significant change in the activities of Klaipėda University historians occurred in 2003, when VLPIC was reorganized into the Institute of Baltic Region History and Archaeology (BRIAI), thereby becoming an autonomous subdivision of the University engaged in scientific research. This development made possible to enhance capacities of the department to a greater extent, and foremost in the area of archaeology: the heretofore team of archaeologists headed by Vladas Žulkus, consisting of a few members, was gradually incremented by a number of archaeologists from Vilnius. As a result, the scholars of Klaipėda University filled in the niche, which hitherto had attracted little attention within the context of the Lithuanian science, by focusing on the archaeological research areas, such as Baltic Sea Region historical archaeology research, underwater archaeology and landscape archaeology, which had been underdeveloped in Lithuania before. As of 2006, specialization in archaeology was introduced into study programme for bachelor’s degree courses, since 2010, the Department has offered a new study programme for master’s degree in Landscape archaeology, and since 2014, a new study programme for bachelor’s degree in Archaeology. In the course of development of the Integrated Science, Studies and Business Centre (Valley) at Klaipėda University, equipment, unique for the Baltic States, was acquired for the needs of archaeological research, which will enable to obtain and process the data required for archaeological research in a faster and more accurate manner.
For nearly a decade, the Department of History has been among the few departments at the University, which supervise doctoral studies and providing opportunity to acquire the highest qualification in the area of historical research. The highly active contacts with the Lithuanian Institute of History in Vilnius, maintained from the very beginning of activities of the Department, in 2003 evolved into a joint school of University of Klaipėda and the Lithuanian Institute of History for postgraduate doctoral (PhD) studies in the area of humanities. Admission of students to this doctoral institution proceeded in the years 2003 to 2010. Throughout its existence (2003–2015), 37 doctoral theses (dissertations) have been defended, including 9 external theses. As of 2011, doctoral students are admitted to the joint school of postgraduate history studies of Klaipėda University and Vytautas Magnus University. Based on the data of the 1st of October 2015, 14 doctoral students are listed in the Department of History.
The Department of History makes every effort in providing the best conditions of pursuing the study programmes supervised by the Department at the highest standards. The students of the Department avail themselves of the richly stocked and continuously replenished Library of BRIAI. At the moment, the library boasts more than 26 thousand copies of special-purpose literature in the field of history and archaeology in multiple languages, including a computerised reading room. The routine of studies is diversified by sightseeing trips and practical training. The ablest and intellectually inquisitive students are involved in the scientific research projects; they are given opportunity to participate in archaeological and historical research conducted on commission.
Key facts from the history of the Department:
January 1, 1992 – the Centre for the History of Lithuania Minor is established under Resolution of the Senate of Klaipėda University (dated December 11, 1991, No. 55). On March 6, 1992, the Centre for the History of Lithuania Minor is renamed into the Centre for West Lithuanian and Prussian History (VLPIC) by the 6 March 1992 Order of Klaipėda University Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs. The first person in director’s office was Dr Alvydas Nikžentaitis;
June 1, 1993 – under Resolution of the Senate of Klaipėda University (dated May 5, 1993, No. 33) the Department of History and Sociology (department chaired by Dr Vaidutis Laurėnas), which operated within the Faculty of Humanities, is divided into two separate departments: Department of Political and Social Sciences (chaired by Dr Vaidutis Laurėnas) and Department of History (chaired by Doc Dr Alvydas Nikžentaitis). VLPIC is made part of the Department of History by 27 May 1993 Order No. 74 of Rector of Klaipėda University; Doc Dr Vladas Žulkus is appointed to office of director of VLPIC. Klaipėda University starts admission to full-time programme studies for bachelor’s degree in history;
July 1, 1994 – a new faculty, Faculty of Social Sciences, is set up in Klaipėda University. The Department of History, together with VLPIC, is made part of this newly established faculty;
1997 – the first class of bachelor’s degree graduates trained in the Department is issued. Admission to full-time programme studies for master’s degree in history starts;
1998 – Doc Dr Vladas Žulkus is appointed as chair of the Department replacing Doc Dr Alvydas Nikžentaitis, who headed the Department for five years. As of February 1, 1998, position of Dr Žulkus at VLPIC is transferred to Professor Stephen Christopher Rowell (after the professor left for work at the Lithuanian Institute of History, office of director went to Dr Vacys Vaivada as of September 1, 1999);
June 1999 – the first class of master’s degree graduates trained in the Department is issued;
June 2001 – Dr Vygantas Vareikis is appointed as chair of the Department replacing Doc Dr Vladas Žulkus, who returned to office of director of VLPIC;
October 11, 2002 – Professor Dr Vladas Žulkus, lecturer of the Department of History, is elected as the third rector of Klaipėda University in row; Dr Silva Pocytė replaces him in office of director of VLPIC as of the 2nd of December;
June 30, 2003 – under resolution of the Rector’s Office and Senate of Klaipėda University, the Department is retransferred from the Faculty of Social Sciences to the Faculty of Humanities. VLPIC is detached from the Department and reorganized into an autonomous subdivision of the University, Institute of Baltic Region History and Archaeology (BRIAI);
July 15, 2003 – the Government of the Republic of Lithuania by Resolution No. 926 grants the right to organise the joint school for doctoral (postgraduate) studies in history and confer academic degrees to Klaipėda University together with the Lithuanian Institute of History. Admission to the school of doctoral studies starts;
2006 – students taking the programme for bachelor’s degree in history are given an option to choose specialization in archaeology in the third year;
2008 – first doctoral theses in the field of history defended by former graduates of Klaipėda University who were admitted to the joint school for doctoral (postgraduate) studies of Klaipėda University and the Lithuanian Institute of History;
April 2009 – the Department moved from the building located at Tilžės Str. 13, where it had been housed together with BRIAI since 1992, into the last renovated building of the historical neo-Gothic Klaipėda military barracks in the campus of Klaipėda University (Building VI);
September 2010 – the Department launches a new programme for master’s degree in Landscape Archaeology;
June 21, 2011 – by Order No. V-1124 of Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania, the right of Klaipėda University to conduct doctoral level studies in the area of humanities (05H) jointly with the Vytautas Magnus University is renewed;
September 2014 – the Department launches a new programme for bachelor’s degree in Archaeology;
January 1, 2016 – the Department joins the Institute of Baltic Region History and Archaeology becoming its subdivision responsible for the organization of teaching process.
Heads of the Department: 1993–1998 Alvydas Nikžentaitis, 1998–2001 Vladas Žulkus, since 2001 Vygantas Vareikis.