Russia National Library: The History, Collections, and Services

Russia National Library is one of the largest libraries in the world and a cultural and historical landmark of Russia. Founded in 1795, it contains over 47 million items, including books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, and other materials that span the centuries and reflect the richness and diversity of Russia’s intellectual and artistic heritage. In this article, we will explore the history, collections, and services of the Russia National Library and provide you with a comprehensive guide to this remarkable institution.

History of Russia National Library

The history of the Russia National Library dates back to the 18th century, when Catherine the Great established the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg in 1795. Over the years, the library grew in size and importance, becoming a center of intellectual and cultural life in Russia and a repository of rare and valuable materials. In 1925, the library was renamed the State Public Library, and in 1992, it was given its present name, the National Library of Russia. Today, the library operates as a federal institution under the authority of the Ministry of Culture and continues to play a vital role in preserving and promoting Russia’s cultural heritage.

Collections of Russia National Library

The collections of the Russia National Library are vast and diverse, encompassing a wide range of subjects and formats. The library’s holdings include books, manuscripts, maps, music scores, photographs, prints, postcards, coins, and other materials that document the history, culture, and science of Russia and the world. Some of the highlights of the library’s collections include:

  • Rare books and manuscripts, including the oldest surviving manuscript of the Russian Primary Chronicle, dating from the 11th century;
  • The Papyrus of Ani, one of the best-preserved copies of the Book of the Dead from ancient Egypt;
  • The personal library of Catherine the Great, which includes works of literature, philosophy, history, and science from Europe and Russia;
  • The collection of Russian avant-garde art, which features works by Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, and other artists of the early 20th century.

Services of Russia National Library

The Russia National Library provides a wide range of services to researchers, scholars, students, and the general public. Some of the services offered by the library include:

  • Access to the library’s collections, including online catalogs and databases that allow users to search for materials by author, title, subject, or keyword;
  • Reference and research assistance, including help with finding and using library materials, as well as guidance on research methods and strategies;
  • Digitization and preservation services, which enable users to digitize and preserve their own materials, as well as to access digitized copies of library materials;
  • Educational programs and cultural events, including lectures, workshops, and exhibitions that showcase the library’s collections and promote cultural exchange and dialogue.


  • How can I access the collections of the Russia National Library?

You can access the collections of the Russia National Library by visiting the library in person or by searching the library’s online catalogs and databases.

  • Can I borrow books from the Russia National Library?

No, the Russia National Library is a reference library, which means that materials cannot be borrowed and must be used on-site.

  • How can I get help with my research at the Russia National Library?

You can get help with your research at the Russia National Library by contacting the reference and research assistance service, which is available in person, by phone, or by email.

Is the Russia National Library open to the public?

Yes, the Russia National Library is open to the public, although some collections and services may require special permission or registration.

  • What are some of the unique collections held by the Russia National Library?

The Russia National Library holds a variety of unique collections, including rare manuscripts, early printed books, and materials related to Russian culture, history, and science. Some of the most noteworthy collections include the Slavonic-Baltic-Finnish Collection, which contains materials from Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, and Finland, and the Russian State Library Music Collection, which includes a vast array of music scores, recordings, and other materials related to music.


The Russia National Library is a remarkable institution that reflects the richness and diversity of Russia’s cultural and intellectual heritage. With its vast collections, wide range of services, and commitment to preservation and promotion, it plays a vital role in supporting research, education, and cultural exchange both in Russia and around the world.

If you are interested in learning more about the Russia National Library, be sure to visit its website or plan a visit to the library in person. With its world-class collections, expert staff, and vibrant cultural programs, it is sure to provide you with a rich and rewarding experience.


  • “National Library of Russia”. Britannica. Retrieved 16 April 2023, from
  • “Russia’s National Library”. Visit Petersburg. Retrieved 16 April 2023, from
  • “About the Russian National Library”. Russian National Library. Retrieved 16 April 2023, from

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