Russian State Library

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Not to be confused with the Russian National Library, located in St Petersburg.
Russian State Library
Российская государственная библиотека
RIAN archive 169374 Moscow's Russian State Library.jpg
Whole view of Russian State Library
Established 1862[1]
Location Moscow, Russia
Branches 3
Size 44.800.000 (2012)
Access and use
Population served 93.100 (2012)
Other information
Budget RUB 1.740.000.000 (2012)
Director Alexander I. Visly (General Director), Vladimir I. Gnezdilov (Executive Director), Viktor V. Fiodorov (President) [1]
Staff 1830 (2012)
Front of library and monument of Dostoyevsky

The Russian State Library (Russian: Российская государственная библиотека) is the national library of Russia, located in Moscow. It is the largest in the country and the fourth largest in the world for its collection of books (17.5 million).[2] It was named the V. I. Lenin State Library of the USSR from 1925 until it was renamed in 1992 as the Russian State Library.

The library has over 275 km of shelves with more than 43 million items,[1] including over 17 million books and serial volumes, 13 million journals, 350 thousand music scores and sound records, 150,000 maps and others. There are items in 247 languages of the world, the foreign part representing about 29 percent of the entire collection.

Between 1922 and 1991 at least one copy of every book published in the USSR was deposited with the library, a practice which continues in a similar method today, with the library designated by law as a place to hold a "mandatory" copy of every publication issued in Russia.

Interesting facts about the Russian State Library taken from the English language version of the official library website:

Going public

  • Anyone above the age of 18 (Russian legal age), whether a resident or not, is welcome to use any of its 34 reading rooms.
  • About 200 new readers come to register with RSL every day, and there are about 4,000 daily visitors. The RSL Virtual Reading Halls are available in 80 Russian and CIS cities and are visited by about 8,000 visitors daily.
  • The library has served patrons for over 140 years.
  • Though immense, RLS stock is searchable through the elaborate system of its catalogues and card-indexes. There is also free public access to RSL’s online digital catalogue, which was launched recently[when?] and is continuously being extended.
  • To promote public interest for reading, RSL hosts regular educational and cultural events, bringing together scholars, writers, artists and actors and their audiences at book presentations, readers' conferences, public talks and concerts.

Going academic

  • RSL is a hub research institution in the system of library, bibliography and book trade studies.
  • The library consistently carries out preparatory works on cumulative Russian book catalogues and publishes fundamental researches and practical guides in bibliography.
  • RSL researchers are leaders or major contributors into the relevant nation-wide projects, such as 'The Memory of Russia', 'Identifying, cataloguing and safe-guarding book monuments of the Russian Federation', 'Co-ordinated acquisition of 'Rossica' heritage materials for Russian library stocks', 'National stock of legal and public state documents'
  • As a part of its scholarly activities RSL runs unique research and applied projects for preservation and restoration of documents.
  • Since 2007 RSL is a regular contributor into development of The President’s 'Boris Yeltsin' Library.

Going digital Strategically driven by promoting a wider public access to its stocks, RSL has been running a range of digital projects aimed at preservation of its heritage — texts, data bases, audio and video records, films and images — in digital formats. Consequently a substantial proportion of RLS stock has been recently digitalised. In 2003 RSL also acted as an initiator of the 'National E-Library Project' and set up a unique e-collection of dissertations for degrees.

Major collections[edit]

Digital library

Digital library is a collection, containing originally digital documents as well as digital copies of rarities in demand stocked by RSL or received from external sources. By 2009 the digital stock volumed up to 400 thousand documents and is continuously growing. The whole stock of the library is available in reading rooms in compliance with Part IV of The Civil Code of RF. To view open resources, please, use Acrobat Reader.

Central Main Collection

The Central Main Collection has more than 29 million units of storage: books, journals, serial editions, documents for administrative use only. It is a basic collection in the subsystem of the main document funds of RSL. There are more than 200 private book collections of special value belonging to the national figures of science, culture, education, eminent bibliophiles and collectors from Russia.

Central Reference and Bibliographical Сollection

Central Reference and Bibliographical Collection has more than 300 thousand units. It’s documents content is universal. It contains a large collection of abstracts, bibliographic and reference books in Russian language, languages of the peoples of Russia and foreign languages (except Eastern ones). The collection has a great number of retrospective bibliographical guides, dictionaries, encyclopedias, reference books, guidebooks.

Central Auxiliary Сollection (CAF)

The central auxiliary collection gives readers quick open access to the most popular editions in Russian, published by the major publishers of Moscow and St. Petersburg. This fund has a massive collection of scientific, reference and training literature. Apart from the books it includes magazines, brochures and newspapers.

Collection of Rare and Valuable Books

There are more than 300 thousand units in The Collection of Rare and Valuable Books. It consists of printed publications in Russian and other languages that meet such social and value parameters as uniqueness, prioritization, memorial and collectable value. The content of the collection documents is universal.

Dissertation Collection

The Dissertation Collection includes domestic doctoral and master’s theses in all areas of knowledge except medicine and pharmacy. The collection contains author’s copies of dissertations from 1951 to 2010, as well as microforms of theses produced instead of the originals from the 1940—1950 period. The collection is preserved as part of the cultural heritage of Russia.

Newspaper Collection

The Newspaper Collection includes more than 670 thousand items and represents one of the largest collections in Russia and the former Soviet Union. It includes domestic and foreign newspapers dating back to the 18th century. The most valuable part of the collection are pre-revolutionary Russian newspapers and publications of the early years of Soviet power.

Military Literature Collection

Collection of the military literature has more than 614,000 units. It consists of printed and digital publications in Russian and foreign languages. There are priceless documents of wartime — newspapers from the front line, posters and flyers, texts for which had been written by the classics of Soviet literature Ilya Erenburg, Sergei Mikhalkov, Samuil Marshak, Mikhail Isakovsky.

Collection of Oriental Literature

The Collection of Literature in the languages of Asia and Africa includes domestic and foreign publications which have a great importance from a scientific and practical point of view. Written in 224 languages, they represent an exceptional diversity of topics, genres and types of design. The collection has the most full representation of such sections as social and political sciences and humanities. It consists of books, journals, ongoing publications, newspapers and voice recordings.

Collection of Current Periodicals

Thе collection is formed in order to quickly provide readers with current periodicals. Duplicates of domestic periodicals are open for public use. The collection includes domestic and foreign magazines, as well as the most asked for central and Moscow newspapers in Russian. After specified period magazines are moved into the Central main collection for permanent storage.

Collection of Visual Art Publications

The collection of visual art publications, numbering about 1.5 million copies, is the richest in Russia. This unique collection presents posters and prints, engravings and popular prints, art reproductions and postcards, photographs and graphics. The collection introduces personal collections of famous collectors which include portraits of a huge culturogical value, bookplates and works of applied graphic art.

Collection of Cartographic Publications

The collection of cartographic publications is one of the world’s largest and one of three available in Russia. This specialized collection includes atlases, maps, plans, schematic maps and globes and provides a wealth of material on topics of this kind, publications and different types of presentation of cartographic information. Its volume is about 250 thousand copies.

Collection of Music Publications and Audio Records

The collection of music publications and audio records (over 400 thousand units) — one of the largest collections representing all of the most significant pieces in the world repertoire, from the 16th century to the present. The collection has both the original documents and copies. It also includes documents in a digital media format. The collection of audio records consists of shellac and vinyl records, cassette tapes of domestic producers, CD and DVD.

Collection of Public State and Regulatory Publications

The collection of public state and regulatory publications is a specialized collection of official documents and publications of international organizations, bodies of state authority and administration of the Russian Federation and certain foreign countries, the official regulatory and production documents, publications of Rosstat. The total amount of the collection is more than 2 million items presented in the paper and digital form, as well as other micromedia.

Collection of Russian Literature Abroad

The RSL collection of Russian literature abroad (more than 700 thousand units) presents works by authors of all waves of emigration. The most valuable of its components is the collection of newspapers. Some were published in lands occupied by the White Army during the Civil war, while others — in the occupied territories of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War. A prominent part in the collection is occupied by the works of figures of the domestic human rights movement.

Collection of Digital Network Remote Resources

The collection of digital network remote resources consists of more than 100 thousand storage units. It is composed of resources from other organizations, hosted on remote servers, to which the library draws a permanent or temporary access. The content of the collection’s documents is universal.

Audiovisial and Digital Document Collection (on optical compact discs)

Audiovisial and digital document Collection (CD and DVD) — one of the newest collections of documents of the RSL. It has more than 8,000 items of various types and purposes. It includes text, audio and multimedia documents that are original editions or digital analogues of printed publications. The content of the collection is universal.

Collection of Literature on Library Science, Bibliography and Book Studies

The collection of literature on library science, bibliography and book studies is the world’s largest specialized collection of such publications. It is composed of language dictionaries, encyclopaedias, reference books of a general nature and literature on related disciplines. The collection holds 170 thousand documents which cover the period from the 18th century to the present. In a separate collection there are selected publications of the Russian State Library.

Collection of Microforms

The collection of working copies of microforms totals about 3 million units of storage. It consists of microform publications in Russian and foreign languages. There are partially represented newspapers and microforms of dissertations, as well as publications that do not have paper equivalents, but have such qualities as uniqueness, high value and high demand.

Сollection of Domestic Book Exchange

The collection of domestic book exchange, as a part of the subsystem of RSL exchange funds, has more than 60 thousand units. Those are non-core and doublet documents which are excluded from the mane funds — books, pamphlets and periodicals in Russian and foreign languages. The collection is intended for redistribution as gifts, equivalent exchange and implementation.

Сollection of Unpublished Documents and Deposited Scientific Studies on Art and Culture

The collection of unpublished documents and deposited scientific studies on art and culture has more than 15 thousand units of storage. It is composed of deposited scientific studies and unpublished documents — reviews, essays, references, bibliographies, methodological, methodical and bibliographical materials, scripts for mass events and festivals, conferences and meetings materials. These documents are of important industry-wide significance.

Collection of Manuscripts

Collection of Manuscripts is a versatile collection of written and graphic manuscripts in various languages, including ancient Russian, ancient Greek and Latin. It contains manuscripts, archival collections and funds, private (family, ancestral) archives. Documents, the earliest of which date to the 6th century AD, are made on paper, parchment, and other specific materials.


The library was founded on July 1, 1862, as Moscow's first free public library named The Library of the Moscow Public Museum and Rumiantsev Museum, or The Rumiantsev Library. It is nicknamed the "Leninka."[3] Rumyantsev Museum part of the complex was Moscow's first public museum, and housed the Art collection of count Nikolai Petrovich Rumyantsev, which had been given to the Russian people and transferred from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Its donation covered above all books and manuscripts as well as an extensive numismatic and an ethnographic collection. These, as well as approximately 200 paintings and more than 20,000 prints, which had been selected from the collection of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, could be seen in the so-called Pashkov House (a palace, established between 1784 and 1787, in the proximity of the Kremlin). Tsar Alexander II of Russia donated the painting The Appearance of Christ before the People by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov for the opening of the museum.

19th-century postcard of Pashkov House, old building of the Russian State Library, overlooking the Kremlin
New building of the library, view of the front entrance in 2007 (in front is the monument to Dostoevsky)

The citizens of Moscow, deeply impressed by the count's altruistic donation, named the new museum after its founder and had the inscription "from count Rumyantsev for the good Enlightenment" carved above its entrance. In the subsequent years, the collection of the museum grew by numerous further donations of objects and money, so that the museum soon housed a yet more important collection of Western European paintings, an extensive antique collection and a large collection of icons. Indeed, the collection grew so much that soon the premises of the Pashkov House became insufficient, and a second building was built beside the museum shortly after the turn of the 20th century to house the paintings in particular. After the October Revolution the contents again grew enormously, and again lack of space became an urgent problem. Acute financial problems also arose, for most of the money to finance the Museum flowed into the Pushkin Museum, which had only been finished a few years before and was assuming the Rumyantsev Museum's role. Therefore it was decided in 1925 to dissolve the Rumyantsev Museum and to spread its collections over other museums and institutions in the country. Part of the collections, in particular the Western European art and antiques, were thus transferred to the Pushkin Museum. Pashkov House (at 3 Mokhovaya Street) was renamed the Old Building of the Russian State Library. The old state archive building on the corner of Mokhovaya and Vozdvizhenka Streets was razed and replaced by the new buildings.

Construction of the first stage, designed by Vladimir Shchuko and Vladimir Gelfreikh in 1927–1929, was authorized in 1929 and commenced in 1930.[4] The first stage was largely complete in 1941. In the process, the building acquired the modernized neoclassicism exterior features of the Palace of Soviets (co-designed by Shchuko and Gelfreikh), departing from the stern modernism of the 1927 drafts.[5] The last component of Shchuko's plan, a 250-seat reading hall, was opened in 1945; further additions continued until 1960.[6] In 1968 the building reached its capacity, and the library launched construction of a new depository in Khimki, earmarked for storing newspapers, scientific works and low-demand books from the main storage areas. The first stage of Khimki library was complete in 1975.[6]

In 1925 the complex was renamed the V. I. Lenin State Library of the USSR. In 1992, it was renamed the Russian State Library by order of a decree from President Boris Yeltsin.[7]


  1. ^ a b c "Russian State Library". Official library website. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "ÍÀÑÒÎßÙÅÅ / Èíòåðåñíûå ôàêòû â öèôðàõ / Êðàòêàÿ ñòàòèñòè÷åñêàÿ ñïðàâêà (ïî ñîñòîÿíèþ íà 01.01.2012)". 
  3. ^ "Russian State Library". Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "History of the Russian State Library (in Russian). 1917–1941, p. 4". Retrieved 2008-12-10. [dead link]
  5. ^ Ikonnikov, A. V. (1984). Architecture of Moscow, 20th Century. [Arkhitektura Moskvy. XX vek] (in Russian). Moskovsky Rabochy. pp. 98–99. 
  6. ^ a b "History of the Russian State Library (in Russian). 1945–1992, p. 1". Retrieved 2008-12-10. [dead link]
  7. ^ Stuart, Mary (April 1994). "Creating a National Library for the Workers' State: The Public Library in Petrograd and the Rumiantsev Library under Bolshevik Rule". The Slavonic and East European Review 72 (2): 233–258. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Edward Kasinec, "A Soviet Research Library Remembered," Libraries & Culture, vol. 36, no. 1 (Winter 2001), pp. 16–26. In JSTOR.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°45′07″N 37°36′35″E / 55.75194°N 37.60972°E / 55.75194; 37.60972