MainAbout the LibraryHistoryWar: loss and restoration (1941-1947)

War: Loss and Restoration (1941–1947)

During the war and three years of occupation the Library was harried and destroyed. 83% of the Library collections were destroyed or removed. When Minsk was liberated from Nazi invaders, only 320000 items remained in the Library collections. Before the war the Library collection of Belarusian national document comprised 800000 items: collection of old printed and rare books, collection of manuscripts (including the manuscripts by the eminent Belarusian writers and poets Yanka Kupala, Yakub Kolas, Maxim Bogdanovich, Aloisa Pashkevich, Zmitrok Byadulya, and others); collections of the Belarusian department; periodicals, music sheets, foreign literature published before the October Revolution (1917). After the war, only 34000 items remained. The Library’s reference and bibliographic department, which had been creating year by year, were totally destroyed; the whole card indexes on Belarusian studies (which comprised more than 300000 records in 1941), the alphabetical, classified, and subject catalogues were lost. The State Library needed to be completely restored for the second time in a quarter of a century.

Burning houses in Krasnoarmeyskaya Street

Restoration of the Library collections started during the war. In the BSSR Academy of Sciences (evacuated in Tashkent and further in Moscow) was organized a working group headed by J. Simanovsky. The task of the group was the BSSR State Library collections restoration and activities arrangement. Since the end of 1942 the Library had been receiving again a free legal deposit copy of publications issued in the BSSR, and a free legal deposit copy of publications issued in the USSR since March 1943.

The restoration of the Library collection was accomplished with the assistance of libraries of other Soviet republics which handed to the Library about 900000 books and periodicals concerning Belarus and Belarusian history and culture. Besides the Library signed treaties on duplicates of publications exchange with the USSR State Library, the USSR Academy of Sciences Fundamental Library, the USSR Library of Foreign Literature, and the BSSR State Publishing House.

Post-war Minsk (1944)

J. Simanovsky suggested the government to restore the destroyed collections by means of Wroclaw, Gdansk, and Konigsberg libraries book collections, but this suggestion wasn’t realized. Nevertheless, many books removed from the Library were found by Soviet army in Prague and Konigsberg. Major part of removed books was discovered in a small town and railway station Raciborz (western Poland). More than 600000 books, including publications by Francysk Skaryna from the L. Komarnitsky’s book collections which were ready to be sent to a German library. Legend has it that the books arrived in Minsk railway station were sent in the Library by a "living chain" of hundreds persons stretched from Privokzalnaya Square to Krasnoarmeyskaya Street.

Librarians who worked in extreme conditions in the destroyed city accomplished a real feat: in 1947 the Library collections reached the pre-war level of 2 million items. The bibliographic work and issuing of "Chronicles of Belarusian Press", the main bibliographic edition of the republic were recommenced. The Library opened its doors to users in November 1944, when the World War II was not yet over.

The Library returned to the peaceful life.