The memorial service to Lyudmila Verbitskaya, the President of St Petersburg University, Dean of the Faculty of Philology, and Honorary Citizen of St Petersburg, took place on 27 November in the Assembly Hall of St Petersburg University.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin came to pay his last respects at the public viewing for Lyudmila Verbitskaya. He laid flowers and spoke with her family. Lyudmila Verbitskaya was an outstanding scholar, professor and leading figure. 

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Alexander Beglov, the Governor of St Petersburg, also came to say his final farewell to Lyudmila Verbitskaya. He noted that she had possessed rare, truly St Petersburg qualities and a solid public stance. ‘She loved our city enthusiastically and did everything possible not only for the University, but also for our city,’ emphasised Alexander Beglov.

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Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, addressed the audience. He noted that it was thanks to Lyudmila Verbitskaya that the University managed not only to survive the hard times of the 1990s, but also to gain a new impetus for development.

The University is powerful due to its unity, which today is provided by information technology, the Research Park with common access for everyone, and other things. In the 1990s, there were none of these. There was neither money to pay for electricity and heat nor to pay salaries. There was nothing that could preserve the unity of the University, and it was at that time she became the rector. She was the woman who was supposed to solve all these complex challenges. I am sure it is this particular period of university life that was the main one in the history of the University. Lyudmila Verbitskaya’s role was essential in it: it was she who became the core that made it possible to preserve the University.

Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University

Valentina Matvienko, Chairwoman of the Federation Council, also recalled the role of Lyudmila Verbitskaya in preserving the University. ‘Lyudmila Alekseevna not only preserved the University, but also did a lot for its development: new faculties and new directions appeared at the University. The main thing she managed to do was to preserve that special university atmosphere of academic freedom and democracy,’ noted Valentina Matvienko.  

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She also added that the best memory of Lyudmila Verbitskaya would be our masterly command of the Russian language; the preservation of which the scholar had devoted all her life to.

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Andrei Fursenko, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation, noted that Lyudmila Verbitskaya had helped preserve the Russian education system, as well as bring a lot of improvements to it.

She did not only advise, but she also did a lot of things herself. She was a role model and showed how things were supposed to work.

Andrei Fursenko, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation

A lot of distinguished guests came to pay their last respects to Lyudmila Verbitskaya. Among them were: Olga Vasilyeva, the Minister of Education of the Russian Federation; Sergei Ivanov, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport; Viacheslav Makarov, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of St Petersburg;  Aleksandr Drozdenko, Governor of the Leningrad Region; Yury Zinchenko, President of the Russian Academy of Education; Mikhail Kovalchuk, Dean of the Faculty of Physics of St Petersburg University and President of the National Research Centre ‘Kurchatov Institute’; Viktor Sadovnichy, Rector of Lomonosov Moscow State University; Viktor Zubkov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of PJSC Gazprom, Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation in 2007-2008 and Chairman of the Russian Coordinating Committee of the St Petersburg Dialogue Forum; Sergei Stepashin, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the state corporation ‘Support Fund for the Reform of the Housing and Utilities Sector’, Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation from May to August 1999, Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation in 2000-2013.

After the civil funeral service, a church funeral service was held in the church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. Lyudmila Verbitskaya was buried in the Northern cemetery of St Petersburg.

Lyudmila Verbitskaya was born in Leningrad. In 1958 she graduated from Leningrad State University with a degree in Russian Language and Literature. From then on, all her professional activities were associated with the University. Starting her career as a department secretary, she went on to become a doctoral student, junior research associate, assistant lecturer, associate professor and in 1979 a professor of the Department of Phonetics and Foreign Language Teaching Methods at the Faculty of Philology. In 1985, Lyudmila Verbitskaya became the Head of the Department of General Linguistics. In 1965 she was awarded a PhD in Philology and in 1977 a Doctor of Philology for her thesis ‘Contemporary Russian Literary Pronunciation: An Experimental Phonetic Study’.

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From 1984 she worked as a vice-rector for academic activities, a senior vice-rector, and from May 1993 to April 1994, as acting rector. In April 1994, she was elected Rector of the University. On 19 April 1999 Lyudmila Verbitskaya was re-elected to the same position. She initiated the opening of two new faculties: the Faculty of International Relations and the Faculty of Medicine. In 2004 she was elected Rector of St Petersburg University for the third time. In 2008, following a proposal from the Federal Education Agency of the Russian Federation, the Academic Council of St Petersburg University elected Lyudmila Verbitskaya President of St Petersburg University.

In 1995, she was elected a full member of the Russian Academy of Education and a member of the Presidium of the Academy’s North-West Branch. In 2013–2018 she was President of the Russian Academy of Education.

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Lyudmila Verbitskaya was the author of more than 300 scholarly publications, and was awarded numerous degrees and honours. Amongst other honours, she was a full cavalier of the Order ‘For Merit to the Fatherland’ and was awarded an Order of Honour and an Order of Friendship.

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Lyudmila Verbitskaya passed away on 24 November 2019 in her eighty-fourth year of life.

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