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History of the National Library of Belarus in Numbers and Facts: from the Archive of the Database "NLB in Press"

History of the National Library of Belarus in Numbers and Facts: from the Archive of the Database "NLB in Press"
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This year marks the 15th anniversary of the relocation of the country's main library to a new building and we are actively preparing for its 100th anniversary, which we will celebrate in 2022.

The work on the database "National Library of Belarus in the Press" has started recently, where selected articles from periodicals from 1922 are posted. In this special archive of periodicals, you can find facts from almost a century of history of the country's main library, learn about its staff and the development of librarianship in the country.

The foundation date of the national repository of knowledge is September 15, 1922. It was on that day that the Council of People's Commissars of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted a resolution "On the Establishment of the Byelorussian State Library and Mandatory Registration of All Printed Works Published within the Borders of the SSRB".

However, the history of the institution dates back to the University Library established in the autumn of 1921 under the Belarusian State University. It soon gained state status.

The official opening of the State and University Library in its new premises on May 1, 1922 was reported in the newspaper "Saveckaja Belarus" of October 29, 1922. The Library was located in this building until 1932.

The first building of the library is the Jubiliejny House on Zakharjeuskaja street.

The current view of the building, Niezaliezhnasci ave., 24.

You can read about the formation and enrichment of the book collection, learn that "an important area of work of the library" is the compilation of the card catalogue of books published in the Belarusian language or about Belarus In the article; it was carried out by the Belarusian Bibliographical Bureau of the Library. The total number of subscribers of the institution at that time was 1,500 people. It should be noted that the number is very different from today's data, but at the time, it was very good statistics.

In 1922, the Belarusian State and University Library established the Belarusian Book Chamber to register the current printed editions, which received two copies each of all the editions that were published in the country.

The newspaper Saveckaja Belarus of September 5, 1924 reported on the completion of the systematic catalogue. The author emphasized the drawbacks of the library – the lack of scientific editions from the pre-revolutionary times.

Belarusian State Library. Saveckaja Belarus. 1924. 5 September. Page 4

An article by Zmitrok Biadulia "Let's Go to the Exhibition!" invited visitors to the Belarusian State and University Library to a book exhibition timed to coincide with the All-Belarusian Congress of the Soviets. The author gave a detailed overview of the exhibition, highlighting all the difficulties in establishing the library and the personal contribution of its director, Iosif Simanouski. The tour of the exhibition started with the Belarusian section.

Biadulia, Z. Let's Go to the Exhibition! Saveckaja Belarus. 1922. 20 December. Page 3 / Belarusian department. 1925

"Saveckaja Belarus" for 1924 invited visitors to various library exhibitions: to an exhibition of books on regional studies in the Belarusian department, timed to coincide with the All-Belarusian Conference on Regional Studies; to an exhibition of literature on scientific organization of work. The newspaper wrote about the good prospects for expanding the library's collection following Simanouski's working trip to Moscow and Leningrad.

Back in 1921, Simanouski headed the library of the Belarusian State University, and then the State Library of the BSSR. He headed the library for nearly 40 years (1922–1937, 1941–1961), and it was thanks to his efforts that the library had amassed large book collections and created favourable conditions for the development of librarianship.

Iosif Simanouski

“Thanks to the energetic efforts of Comrade Simonouski, Head of the Belarusian State Library, the replenishment of the Library is proceeding at a rapid pace" (Replenishment of the Belarusian State Library. Soviet Belarus. 1922. October 25, p. 4).

From the first days of his work, Iosif Simonouski paid a lot of attention to the replenishment of the collection, used every opportunity to get pre-revolutionary scientific publications for the Library. He arranged the acquisition of new literature.

Private libraries also contributed to the replenishment. For example, readers could then borrow the books by the academician Ja. Karski, publications of Belarusian studies, ethnography and literature by Prof. N. A. Janchuk, studies by I. Karnilau on Belarusian history, part of the book heritage of Janka Kupala, as well as books from the Jesuit Academy in Polack, the Minsk Theological Seminary, and the Moscow Choral Synagogue.

State Library. Saveckaja Belarus. 1922. 7 October. Page 2

Simanouski, І.B. Belarusian State and University Library. Saveckaja Belarus. 1922. 29 October. Page 3

On October 7, 1922, the newspaper "Saveckaja Belarus" published an article that stated:


Julia Bibila, the first Head of the Belarusian department, in her article "Belarusian State Library" gives statistics on the collections, data on the departments and readers of the institution.

Belarusian State Library. Saveckaja Belarus. 4 December. Page 4.

On May 14, 1926, the decree "On the reorganization of the Belarusian State and University Library" of the Council of People's Commissars of BSSR legalized the separation of the institution from the BSU and it became an independent State Library of the BSSR.

Looking through the archive of periodicals of 1927, one can find information about the opening of an exhibition of books published during the 10 years of the existence of Soviet power in the library.

In the journal "Polymia" (No. 10, 1929), some substantial material was found – a review of "The Chronicle of the Belarusian Press, Part 2: Selected Editions in Belarusian Language over 1835–1916: (with the addition of proclamations and declarations of 1863 and 1905)". The article notes that the work done by the Library to compile and publish the Chronicle was of extraordinary value. Earlier, a review of some 1917–1924 editions was published, which means that the compilers counted old editions before 1925. Since 1924, the Belarusian Book Chamber began publishing "The Chronicle of the BSSR." Thus, the case for discovering the Belarusian press has borne good fruit. The author points out the lack of a systematic index of book production, which would have been very useful and would have facilitated the use of the chronicle. The small circulation of the publication, which was needed for schools, libraries and other educational institutions, surprised him.

The author of the article "Concerning the Review of the Bibliography of Periodicals in Belarusian" examines in detail some of the reviewer's criticisms of the "Chronicle of Belarusian Periodicals" and notes that the purpose of this publication was to provide an indicative register list of Belarusian periodicals. Review of “The Chronicle of the Belarusian Press. Part 4. Journals in the Belarusian language” (Mensk, 1927) can be found in the magazine “Polymia” (No. 1, 1929).

In 1929–1932, according to the architectural project of G. Lavrou, a new building for the State Library of the BSSR was under construction. A drawing of the building was found in the pages of the journal "Professional Movement in Belarus".

10_Praf-ruch Bielarusi-1929.jpg
"Professional Movement in Belarus. 1929. No. 22. Page 25

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the National Library of Belarus, the work on editing and updating the database "The National Library of Belarus in the Press" continues. From the pages of newspapers and magazines we can learn what the library was like a hundred years ago, we can learn about its long history, we can remember the names of those who worked and work in the main book repository of the country and dedicated their life to their favourite occupation.

The history of the main library in Belarus is closely intertwined with the history of the whole country, as the names of famous writers, scientists and public figures are linked to the activities of the institution. Information from the NLB in the Press Database will be useful not only for specialists but also for all those who study Belarusian culture.


  1. Бядуля, З. Ідзеце на выстаўку! / З. Бядуля // Савец. Беларусь. – 1922. – 20 снеж. – С. 3.
  2. Дзяржаўная бібліятэка // Савец. Беларусь. – 1922. – 7 кастр. – С. 2.
  3. Здабытак чужаземнай літаратуры // Савец. Беларусь. – 1922. – 7 кастр. – С. 3.
  4. Папаўненьне Беларускай Дзяржаўнай Бібліатэкі / П.Л. // Савец. Беларусь. – 1922. – 25 кастр. – С. 4.
  5. Сіманоўскі, І. Б. Беларуская Дзяржаўная і Унівэрсітэцкая  бібліатэка / І. Б. Сіманоўскі // Савец. Беларусь. – 1922. – 29 кастр. – С. 3.
  6. Белар. Дзярж. Бібліатэка // Савец. Беларусь. – 1924. – 5 верас. – С. 4.
  7. Беларуская Дзярж. Бібліатэка // Савец. Беларусь. – 1924. – 5 лістап. – С. 4.
  8. Беларуская Дзяржаўная Бібліатэка: (Даклад т. Бібілы) // Савец. Беларусь. – 1924. – 4 снеж.. – С. 4.
  9. Выстаўка кніжак па "НОТ" // Савец. Беларусь. – 1924. – 20 лістап. – С. 4.
  10. Няхай, Г. Бібліятэка – выстаўка краязнаўства / Г. Няхай // Савец. Беларусь. – 1924. – 4 снеж. – С. 4.
  11. Выстаўка кнігі // Савец. Беларусь. – 1927. – 10 лістап. – С. 2.
  12. Ю. Бібіла. Летапіс Беларускага друку [рэцэнзія] / М. Стаход // Полымя. – 1929. – № 10. – С. 150
  13. Мачульскі, В. Да выданьня бібліографіі беларускага пэрыодычнага друку / В. Мачульскі // Полымя. – 1929. – № 1. – С. 216–217.
  14. Наконт рэцэнзіі на бібліяграфію пэрыодычных выданьняў на беларускай мове / пад крыпт. Ю.Б. // Полымя. – 1929. – № 3. – С. 170–172.

Information and Analytic Activity Department.



The State Library of the BSSR named after Lenin is one of the largest cultural and educational institutions of the republic: based on the materials of the periodical press of the first half of the 1950s, the database "NBB in the press"

20 Jul 2023

In the 1950s of the last century, the State Library named after V.I. Lenin was tasked with organizing activities as a centre for interlibrary subscription, scientific, methodological and bibliographic work and the main base of library and bibliographic services for research work in the republic, as well as the central state book depository of the BSSR. Thus, the role of the library in ensuring the social and cultural development of the state and society was emphasized.

To the 100th anniversary of the National Library of Belarus