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The Palace

The Palace of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences

The palace of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences is situated in the central avenue of the capital, a couple of hundred metres from the Old Town and the Cathedral of Vilnius.

Over a hundred years ago, in 1906, the construction of a palace of the subdivision of the Russian State Bank was finished here. It was built to the design of the Russian architect Mikhail Prozorov. Some attribute this building to eclectic architecture, while others consider it an example of the Art Nouveau style. During the First World War and the years of the Polish occupation it housed various credit institutions. During the Second World War it was the headquarters of the German commissar of the Vilnius district. In July 1944, when the Soviet Army occupied Vilnius, the building became the seat of the Council of the People’s Commissars (the Council of Ministers). In 1956, a decision was passed to hand the palace over to the Academy of Sciences, but it was implemented only in 1958. Along with the Presidium and its offices, the building was also home to two of the Academy’s institutes, those of economics and of geography and geology. In 1971, these institutes were provided with their own buildings. In 1993, the Seimas of the independent Republic of Lithuania passed a decree by which the palace became legitimate headquarters of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences.

The building has an imposing façade, ingeniously distributed of inner spaces, and an ornate interior. The rooms and the conference halls are amply decorated with lattices, metal chandeliers, high reliefs, capitals adorned with floral motifs, decorative ornamented bands, lunettes, railings of wrought and cast iron, the mosaics of ceramic tiles in the corridors, and the like. The architectural solutions and the use of some new materials and unique structures were original for that time. For the first time in the architecture of Vilnius, large spaces were covered with a reinforced concrete dome of elliptical cross-section.

After the re-establishment of Lithuania’s independence, two granite commemorative plaques were places on each side of the main entrance: the one on the left honours Juozas Matulis, an academician and President of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences of many years, and the one on the right marks the place where the Sąjūdis, or the National Reform Movement, was founded.

From 1883 to 1906, Mikhail Prozorov, the architect of the palace, occupied various construction-related positions of responsibility in Vilnius. It is known that he was born in 1830 and that the traces of his life faded in 1914. Presumably he died during the First World War.

Mikhail Prozorov studied construction and architecture at St Petersburg University of Architecture and Civil Engineering. Emphasis on the technical aspects of construction and search for rational solutions and planning novelties were characteristic of its graduates and this is evident in Prozorov’s works: he was an expert in metal and reinforced concrete structures that were new for his time. Besides the palace of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, Prozorov designed two other buildings in Vilnius: a bank and a trading house at 18/2 Didžioji Street in the Old Town and the Merchants’ Club at 35/1 Gedimino Avenue.