Great Soviet Encyclopedia

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Great Soviet Encyclopedia


(GSE), the first Marxist-Leninist general-purpose encyclopedia; one of the world’s largest modern encyclopedias. Published in Moscow by the Soviet Encyclopedia Publishing House.

The first edition of the GSE was issued under a resolution (1925) of the Central Executive Committee of the Presidium of the USSR during the period 1926–47, in 66 volumes and a pressrun of 50,000–80,000. It contains 65,000 articles, 12,000 illustrations, and more than 1,000 maps. The edition contains 4,400 author’s sheets of text (1 author’s sheet = 40,000 characters).

The editors of the sections and authors of the major articles included highly prominent Soviet scholars and state leaders—for example, A. N. Bakh, A. S. Bubnov, N. N. Burdenko, V. G. Fesenkov, M. V. Frunze, I. M. Gubkin, I. E. Grabar’, V. V. Kuibyshev, G. M. Krzhizhanovskii, A. V. Lunacharskii, V. A. Obruchev, M. N. Pokrovskii, N. A. Semashko, V. R. Vil’iams, and K. E. Voroshilov. The editor in chief was Academician O. Iu. Shmidt (1924–41).

The second edition of GSE was published under a resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR (February 1949, published in the newspaper Kul’tura i zhizri on Feb. 20, 1949) during the period 1950–58 in 51 volumes (the 51st is a supplementary one) and a pressrun of 250,000–300,000. The edition contains 4,900 author’s sheets of text. In addition to extensive, comprehensive, long survey articles (for example, articles on the Union republics, foreign states, and the sciences), the GSE includes a large number of medium-length and short articles. This made it possible (with an average article length of 2,000 characters) to print some 100,000 articles in the second edition. More than 40 percent of the articles are accompanied by a suggested bibliography, primarily in the language of the original (in 35 languages of the peoples of the USSR and in 25 foreign languages). The second edition has 40,852 illustrations and 2,362 maps. In 1960 a subject and name alphabetical index to the GSE came out in two volumes.

Highly prominent Soviet scholars took part in producing the second edition of the GSE—N. N. Anichkov, I. P. Bar-din, A. A. Blagonravov, E. A. Chudakov, A. A. Grigor’ev, B. V. Ioganson, A. N. Kolmogorov, F. V. Konstantinov, A. A. Mikhailov, A. I. Oparin, K. V. Ostrovitianov, N. M. Strakhov, S. P. Tolstov, V. V. Vinogradov, B. M. Vul, E. M. Zhukov, and many others. The editors in chief were academicians S. I. Vavilov (1949–51) and B. A. Vvedenskii (1951–69).

The GSE Yearbook has been published since 1957.

In accordance with a resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU (Feb. 2, 1967) the third edition of the GSE in 30 volumes has been in preparation since 1967. The first volume came out in 1969 in 630,000 copies. Despite the fact that the third edition (3,500 author’s sheets of text) is smaller than the second, it will contain at least 100,000 articles. The scientific-theoretical and ideological-political program of the GSE, given in the resolution of the CC CPSU (published in the newspaper Pravda on March 18, 1967), is set forth in the Foreword to the first volume. The membership of the Chief Editorial Board and the Scholarly Editorial Council is given on the title page. Professor F. N. Petrov has been a continuous member of the Chief Editorial Board of the GSE since 1927. The editor in chief is Academician A. M. Prokhorov (since 1969).

The Soviet method of preparing encyclopedias involves recruiting scholars and the broad public to compile an article list and to write, review, discuss, and edit articles. Among the 15,820 authors of the second edition of the GSE were scholars and specialists of more than 70 nationalities. The Chief Editorial Board receives great assistance in issuing the GSE from the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, republic and specialized academies, the chief editorial offices of republic encyclopedias, universities and other higher educational institutions, numerous scientific institutions, Party, trade union, Komsomol, and Soviet organizations, and creative unions. The GSE also cooperates with foreign publishing establishments, societies with cultural ties to the USSR, and the academies of sciences of many foreign states. Business and friendly contacts have been established with encyclopedia publishers in socialist countries. Scholars and political leaders from 44 countries are taking part in the preparation of the GSE. About 3,000 organizations participated in the discussion of the projected article list of the third edition, and they submitted more than 50,000 proposals.


Petrov, F. N. “Pervye sovetskie entsiklopedii.” In the collection Kniga: Issledovaniia i materialy, book 3. Moscow, 1960.
Kaufman, I. M. Russkie entsiklopedii, issue 1. Moscow, 1960. Pages 81–93.
Novoe v nauke i problemy podgotovki slovnika 3–go izdaniia BSE. Moscow, 1965.
Metodicheskie ukazaniia dlia redaktorov BSE. Moscow, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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