In the early XX century Moscow University greatly contributed to the development of secondary education in Russia. Quite a number of new textbooks for secondary schools were compiled by the University professors. University alumni very often taught secondary schools, introducing the most advanced ideas and methods in their work.
In the late XIX century Moscow University contributed to the establishment of a number of museums in Moscow, such as the Polytechnic Museum, the Historical Museum, The Zoological Museum, The Anthropological Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, the Botanical Gardens and the Zoological Gardens.
The 1863 Charter of Moscow University promoted learning and facilitated the development of education in Russia. But after the assassination of Alexander II in 1881 the government restricted the rights of universities, trying to put the curriculum under their own control; nevertheless, Moscow University remained the centre of science and culture, uniting by the early XX century such outstanding thinkers and philosophers as V.S.Soloviev, V.V.Rozanov, the Trubetskoi brothers, S.N.Bulgakov, P.A.Florensky. Both the professors and the students discussed current issues; many well-known political figures of the time were among the academics and the students.
The democratic spirit of Moscow University manifested itself during the first Russian revolution, in 1905 - 1907. The students were against the monarchy, the resolution of their meeting on 9 September 1905 demanded a republican system of government; many of them joined the fighters.
Not only students, but also professors of Moscow University kept up its deeply rooted democratic traditions. In 1911 the government unfairly dismissed a number of University professors and instructors, thus flouting the Charter; over 130 professors protested against that by resigning their positions at the University, among them world-known scientists, such as K.A.Timiriazev, P.N.Lebedev, N.D.Zelinsky, N.A.Umov, C.A.Chaplygin, V.I.Vernadsky. As the conflict between the government and the University continued, over a thousand students were expelled, some of them arrested. World war I that started soon led to a further decrease in the number of students.
During the first 150 years of its history Moscow University played the leading role in the development of science and humanities in Russia, being the centre of learning and research. In the late XIX century and early XX century quite a number of Russian scientists and scholars worked there, among them mathematicians N.D.Brashman, N.Ye.Zhukovsky, N.V.Bugaev, C.A.Chaplygin; physicists and astronomers A.G.Stoletov, F.A.Bredikhin, A.A.Belopolsky, N.A.Umov, P.N.Lebedev, P.K.Sternberg; chemists V.V.Markovnikov, V.F.Luginin, I.A.Kablukov, N.D.Zelinsky, biologists and soil scientists K.F.Rulie, A.I.Filomafitsky, I.M.Setchenov, K.A.Timiriazev, A.N.Severtsov, M.A.Menzbir, A.N.Sabanin, D.N.Prianishnikov; medical doctors M.Ya.Mudrov, F.I.Inozemtsev, N.V.Sklifosovsky, G.A.Zakharin, A.A.Ostroumov, N.V.Filatov, F.F.Erisman, V.F.Snegirev; georgapher and anthropologist D.N.Anutchin; geologists G.Ye.Schurovsky, V.O.Kovalevsky, A.P.Pavlov; geochemist V.I.Vernadsky; historians T.G.Granovsky, N.I.Nadezhdin, M.T.Kachenovsky, M.P.Pogodin, I.D.Belyev, S.M.Soloviev, V.O.Klyuchevsky, V.I.Gerie, N.A.Rozhkov, M.N.Pokrovsky, Yu.V.Gotie; philologists N.S.Tikhonravov, F.I.Buslaev, N.I.Storozhenko, F.F.Fortunatov, F.Ye.Korsh, V.F.Miller, S.K.Shambinago, M.N.Speransky, M.M.Pokrovsky, V.N.Schepkin; lawyers B.N.Chicherin, K.D.Kavelin, M.M.Kovalevsky, P.I.Novgorodtsev; economists I.K.Babst, A.I.Chuprov, I.I.Yanzhul; philosophers Ye.N. and C.N. Trubetskoi and many others.
The Russian revolution of 1917 changed the whole system of higher education. On the one hand, it became more democratic, in the sense that institutions of higher education started to receive all its funding form the government and students did not have to pay tuition fees, moreover, all of them received grants. From 1919 to 1936 a preparatory department for young people from the working class and peasant families was opened at Moscow University. Since 1919 the University was fully financed by the state. Quite a number of well-known scientists went on working at the University, D.N.Anutchin, N.Ye.Zhukovsky, N.D.Zelinsky, A.N. Severtsov, K.A. Timiryazev, S.A. Chaplygin among them.
At the same time, as the Revolution caused a split in the society in general, there was no unity within the University as well. Many students and professors, well-known scientists and scholars among them, found it difficult to accept the new situation and left. A destructive effect was produced in 1920s by the attempts to reorganize the University, making some faculties or departments into separate educational institutions in an attempt to train more students. Thus, the faculties of medicine, law, chemistry, geology, mineralogy and geography became separate institutes, independent of the University; similarly, in 1931 all the Humanities were joined in the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History, which was reunited with the University only 10 years later.
In the 1920s there were some attempts to introduce innovations in tuition as well. There were no lectures delivered by professors, instead, students were to study in teams, 3 to 5 people each, then taking their examinations in teams too. Studying in teams did not prove a success, and it has never been used again. In 1932 the University curriculum was changed again, as well as the system of higher education as a whole. In 1934 doctoral dissertations were defended at Moscow University for the first time after 1917.
The political repressions of the 1930s and 1950s produced an extremely negative effect on the development of scientific ideas, as Soviet scientists had virtually no contacts with their colleagues abroad. A number of scientists and scholars were being hounded or even sentenced for life imprisonment. Some branches of science and humanities were condemned on ideological grounds as alien to Communist ideas and virtually disappeared.
Despite all the problems, in the 1920s-30s the University did have a number of achievements both in the sphere of education and in research. By 1941 the total number of full-time students at Moscow University had grown to 5000 and over 30 University professors became full members of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. New secondary school textbooks and manuals for university students were compiled at Moscow University. In 1940, while celebrating its 185th anniversary, Moscow University was named after its founder M.V.Lomonosov.
The Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany was one of the most difficult periods in the history of Russia. The first group of University students and staff joined the army on the third day of fighting, mainly to serve as Army commanders and political staff officers. The division formed out of the University volunteers fought heroically defending Moscow.
Moscow University professors, students and staff were evacuated in 1941 to Ashkhabad, Turkmenia, then in 1942 to Sverdlovsk, returning to Moscow in 1943, after the German troops were defeated near the capital. Nevertheless those students who stayed in Moscow resumed their studies as early as February 1942. During the war over 3000 specialists were trained at the University; the University scientists continued their research; their contributions to applied science allowed improvements in aircraft development and navigation, in the accuracy of artillery fire etc. New explosives were invented, a study of uranium was carried out, a preparation causing blood coagulation was introduced into practice; University geologists discovered a tungsten deposit in Central Asia and new oil fields, University geographers supplied the Red Army with maps and charts. University scholars popularized the ideas of patriotism, and University lawyers made their contribution during the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials.
Over 5000 University students, instructors, professors and staff fought in the war, over 1000 were decorated, seven became Heroes of the Soviet Union. To honor over 3000 people Moscow University lost during the war a memorial was erected on campus in 1975.