The institute opened its doors in 1878. It was named after Konstantin Bestuzhev-Ryumin, the first director. Other professors included Baudouin de Courtenay, Alexander Borodin, Faddei Zielinski, Dmitry Mendeleyev, Ivan Sechenov, and Sergey Platonov. An assistant professor there was Vera Bogdanovskaya, the first female chemist to die as a result of her own research. Nadezhda Krupskaya and Maria Piłsudska were among the graduates. The courses occupied a purpose-built edifice on Vasilievsky Island.
- Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild. Equality and Revolution: Women's Rights in the Russian Empire, 1905-1917. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-8229-6066-9. Page 56.
- Elder et al, Eleanor S (April 1979). "The Deadly Outcome of Chance-Vera Estaf'evna Bogdanovskaia". Journal of Chemical Education 56 (4): 251–2. doi:10.1021/ed056p251.
- The encyclopaedia of St. Petersburg
- "Women’s higher education institution (Bestuzhev Courses) opened in St. Petersburg 135 years ago" - Yeltzin Presidential Library
- Media related to Bestuzhev courses at Wikimedia Commons
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