Fire partially destroys Europe's oldest theatrical university in central Moscow

Part of the Russian University of Theatre Arts in the heart of Moscow has been devastated by fire. For several hours firefighter struggled to save the historic 18th-century building that houses the largest theatrical university in Russia.

Part of the Russian University of Theater Arts (GITIS) in the heart of Moscow has been devastated by a fire. For several hours, firefighters struggled to save the historic 18th-century building that houses the largest theater university in Russia.

The fire caused no injuries or casualties but completely devastated the third floor of the building. At one point, the building's roof was at risk of collapsing.

One former student of the university told RT he was “hoping that the library is OK.” Another GITIS graduate told RT that she felt like her "home is gone." The part of the building that suffered the most damage accommodates the acting and directing departments.

Firefighting crews spent nearly the entire night extinguishing the blaze, which was localized after spreading across more than 500 square meters. Preliminary reports suggested that the fire was caused by a short circuit.

Police officers working at the scene said that the entire third floor of the building was burned out; reports suggested that the costume room may have been torched as well.

RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev

The building was saved from much worse damage due to the fact that the fire department is right next door, and got to the scene in four minutes.

Some said the water damage from firefighters was worse than that of the actual blaze.

“The damage from the fire is not that big, but everything is flooded with water. Firemen work in accordance with their instructions and pour a lot of water,” said school provost Karina Malik-Pashaeva.

She added that the school authorities are now busy estimating the cost of the damages, which will take some time.

Russia’s former Minister of Culture, Mikhail Shvydkoy, asserted that the building could be fully restored by September.

“In principal the damage is such that everything can be fixed by September. Were there money and good contractors,” he said.

The Ministry of Culture has announced that it will aid the reconstruction effort and the students of the university.

The Russian University of Theatre Arts was originally founded in 1878 as the Shestakovsky Music School and in 1934 it became the State Institute for Theatre Arts (GITIS), the largest and oldest independent theatrical arts school in Russia.

The institution has 8 faculties and operates on the principle of "student-teacher-student". Upon graduation, the student receives a diploma of higher education from the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS) with a Magister’s qualification.

RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev

RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev

RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev

RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev