Lenin State Library of the USSR

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lenin State Library of the USSR


(Gbl), Order of Lenin National Library of the USSR. Located in Moscow. Largest library in Europe and one of the greatest libraries in the world. Scholarly research institution in library science, bibliography, and book history, as well as a methodological and consultation center for all library systems of the USSR (except scientific and technical libraries). Center for recommended bibliography.

The library was founded on July 1, 1862, on the basis of the holdings of the Rumiantsev Public Museum in Moscow. From the time of its founding it has received mandatory deposit copies of domestic publications. (Until 1922 it received one copy of each publication; between 1922 and 1944, two copies; and since 1945, three copies of each publication.) Founded 50 years after the Public Library in St. Petersburg, the Rumiantsev Library found itself in extremely difficult circumstances. It did not receive grants to purchase domestic and foreign publications, had an extremely small staff, and suffered from a critical lack of space for books and for serving readers. (Only in 1914–15 did it succeed in opening a book depository for 500,000 volumes and increasing the seating capacity of the reading room to 300.) But even under these conditions, the Rumiantsev Library played a significant role in the development of Russian culture. Readers at the Rumiantsev Library included L. N. Tolstoy, F. M. Dostoevsky, D. I. Mendeleev, K. E. Tsiolkovskii, K. A. Timiriazev, A. P. Chekhov, V. Ia. Briusov, V. O. Kliuchevskii, and A. F. Pisemskii. In 1893 and 1897, V. I. Lenin studied in its reading room. From 1919 to 1921, Lenin was a personal subscriber to the Rumiantsev Library, and he often received books from its collections.

After the Great October Socialist Revolution more than 1.5 million volumes from nationalized book collections were transferred to the Rumiantsev Library. Since 1918 the lirary has served central Party and governmental organs, as well as scholarly and other institutions and organizations, with books and bibliographical information.

Lenin paid special attention to the urgent needs and comprehensive development of the library’s work. The decree on increasing the library’s staff, signed by Lenin in May 1919, made it possible to proceed with the organization of a general classified catalog and other projects of primary importance. In 1921 the library began to receive grants to purchase foreign publications and carry on an extensive international book exchange program.

On Jan. 24, 1924, the Rumiantsev Library was renamed the Lenin Russian Library, and on Feb. 6, 1925, by a resolution of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, it was renamed the Lenin State Library of the USSR (GBL). A radical reorganization of the library’s work was carried out under the direct supervision of N. K. Krupskaia, A. V. Lunacharskii, and V. I. Nevskii. In 1945 the GBL was awarded the Order of Lenin.

As of Jan. 1, 1970, the GBL’s collections included 11.7 million books; 10.1 million issues of journals; 397,000 annual sets of newspapers in 200 languages of the peoples of the world (including newspapers in 89 languages of the peoples of the USSR); 330,000 manuscript items; 1.3 million maps, publications of graphic works, and musical scores; 616,000 special types of technical publications; and 459,000 reels of microfilm.

The GBL has the most complete collection of Russian newspapers and periodicals in the world and the largest collection of foreign books and journals in the USSR. Its manuscript collections contain manuscripts from the sixth through 20th centuries, including an exceptionally rich collection of old Russian manuscript books, beginning with the Arkhangel’skii Gospel (1092), as well as manuscripts of writers, scholars, and public figures. (Catalogs of the manuscripts of A. I. Herzen, N. V. Gogol, N. A. Nekrasov, F. M. Dostoevsky, V. G. Korolenko, A. P. Chekhov, and others have been published.) The department of rare books has collected 15th- to 18th-century books printed in the old style of type, first editions of the works of K. Marx, F. Engels, and V. I. Lenin as well as editions published during their lifetimes, and Russian and foreign classics of science and literature. The rare books department has an exhibit on the history of Russian books that is open to everyone. A great deal of research is done on the history of domestic and foreign book publishing.

In 1970 the GBL had 22 reading rooms with 2,500 seats, including a room for academicians, professors, and doctors of science; three large reading rooms assigned to various scholarly subjects; reading rooms specialized according to the types of collections (the departments of rare books, manuscripts, current periodicals, and newspapers, as well as rooms for reading microfilms, and so forth); and general and young people’s reading rooms. Books from the GBL and microfilms prepared by the GBL are used by libraries in Moscow and libraries in other Soviet and foreign cities that are its subscribers. The information and bibliographical department, the services department, and other departments answer bibliographical inquiries for readers and institutions, as well as provide consultation in the fields of book history, library work, and other topics.

The GBL publishes the Informatsionnyi biulleten’ novykh inostrannykh knig, postupivshikh v biblioteku (Information Bulletin on New Foreign Books Received by the Library) and provides information concerning bibliographical projects that are being done at the country’s largest libraries in the Informatsionnyi ukazatel’ bibliograficheskikh spiskov, sostavlennykh bibliotekami (Information Index of Bibliographical Lists Compiled by Libraries). The GBL provides information on new domestic books and periodicals acquired by its collections through Knizhnaia letopis’ (Book Annals), Letopis’ zhurnal’nykh statei (Annals of Journal Articles), and other publications of the Ail-Union Book Chamber. A broad range of research, methodological, and bibliographical projects are carried on by the research department of library science and bibliographical theory, the scientific methodological department, the department for the care and restoration of books, and the departments of manuscripts, rare books, and so forth. The Trudy (Transactions) of the GBL (since 1957) and the Zapiski otdela rukopisei (Notes of the Department of Manuscripts; since 1938) are published annually. The collections Libraries of the USSR (since

Table 1. Basic indexes of the growth of the Lenin State Library of the USSR
Amount of collections by the end of the year (total number of books, journals, annual sets of newspapers, manuscript items, and so forth)1,100,00010,600,00025,700,000
Number of seats in reading rooms1906302,500
Number of visits to reading rooms120,000826,0002,500,000
Books circulated to readers400,0004,000,00013,000,000
Number of collective subscribers101,2605,230
Books circulated to subscribers4380,000400,000
Bibliographical inquiries answerednot counted45,000130,000
Books published   
 Number of titles512188
 Volume (printed sheets)60112869

1952), Library Science and Bibliography Abroad (since 1958), and topical collections on the most urgent problems are published several times a year. Between 1960 and 1968 the collective work by the country’s largest libraries Library Bibliographical Classification: Tables for Scholarly Libraries was published in 30 volumes. Specialists in the cataloging department take an active part in preparing the Standardized Rules for the Description of Published Works for Library Catalogs.

The GBL is closely connected with foreign countries through an extensive international book exchange, as well as by the mutual sharing of experiences among specialists. (In 1970 the library carried on book exchanges with 3,743 institutions in 94 countries.) The library participates in the work of the International Federation on Documentation and in special committees of the Council of Economic Assistance and other international organizations.

Buildings. The buildings of the GBL include the library’s old building, the former Pashkov House, which is a landmark of 18th-century Russian classicism. (The general and young people’s reading rooms are now located there; 1784–86, architect V. I. Bazhenov.) Six new library buildings, including the nine-story book depository, have been attached to the Pashkov House (1928–58, architects V. G. Gel’freikh, V. A. Shchuko, and others). They are joined to the Pashkov House at the main entrance side by a portico with high pylons. The facades of the buildings of the GBL are decorated with sculptures (busts of writers and scholars by sculptors N. V. Krandievskaia and S. A. Evseev; and figures of a worker, a kolkhoznik, a scholar, and others by sculptors V. I. Mukhina, M. G. Manizer, V. V. Lishev, E. A. Ianson-Manizer, and others).


Istoriia Gosudarstvennoi ordena Lenina biblioteki SSSR imeni V. I. Lenina za 100 let, 1862–1962. [Moscow, 1962.]
Trudy Gosudarstvennoi ordena Lenina biblioteki SSSR imeni V. I. Lenina, vol. 6. Moscow, 1962.
Gosudarstvennaia ordena Lenina biblioteka SSSR imeni V. I. Lenina v 1947–1967 gg. [Ezhegodnye otchety]. Moscow, 1949–69.
Ovsiannikov, Iu. Puteshestvie v Stranu Razuma. [Moscow, 1962]. Putevoditel’ po Gosudarstvennoi biblioteke SSSR imeni V. I. Lenina. Moscow, 1959.
Piatidesiatiletie Rumiantsevskogo muzeia v Moskve. [Moscow, 1913.]
“Putevoditel’. [Gosudarstvennyi Rumiantsevskii muzei].” Biblioteka, issue 1. Moscow-Petrograd, 1923.
Lichnye arkhivnye fondy v gosudarstvennykh khranilishchakh SSSR: Ukazatel’, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1962–63.
Svodnyi katalog russkoi knigi grazhdanskoi pechati XVIII v., 1725–1800, vols. 1–5. Moscow, 1962–67.

M. M. KLEVENSKII and E. N. SIL’VERSVAN (architecture section)

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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One of the most notable purges of Lenin's name came in 1992 when the Lenin State Library of the USSR changed its name to the Russian State Library.
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