The University of Latvia, initially named as the Higher School of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Augstskola) was founded on September 28, 1919 on the basis of the former Riga Polytechnic (founded in 1862). The first rector of the university was chemist Paul Walden. In 1923, the school received its current name with the approval of its constitution, the University of Latvia (Universitas Latviensis).
In the period between 1919 and 1940, the University of Latvia was the main center of higher education, science and culture in the Republic of Latvia. The former building of the Riga Polytechnic on Raiņa bulvāris 19 serves as the university's main building. In the pre-WWII years, it was possible to gain higher academic education not only at the University of Latvia, but also at the Latvian State Conservatory and Academy of Arts.