The Russian State Library: A Guide

Russian State Library - Photo by Syuqor Aizzat - Creative Commons

The Russian State Library (Российская государственная библиотека), also often known as The Lenin Library, was founded in 1925 on the basis of the book collection of the massive Rumyantsev Museum. It has served as a sort of Library of Congress, receiving a copy of everything published in the country. Today, it holds about 47 million printed items.

The Library’s archive fonds are massive and eclectic, covering everything from books (literature, rare books, book collections of famous individuals, reference books ranging from biology to law), magazines, scientific journals, posters and other art, music publications and sound recordings, theses, and more – covering not only Russian works, but also foreign works – with Oriental and Jewish works given special emphasis.

Overall Experience

Researchers report that this archive is very easy to get into and easy to work with. All information needed to work the archive is freely available and the employees are generally professional and efficient.

Prep Beforehand

The Russian State Library’s putivoditel are available online. They are also available on public computers on the first floor. To request materials, you must fill out a form at the desk located outside your assigned reading room.

Getting a Propusk

Documents needed: Passport and any official document where your name is written in Russia (e.g. your visa).
Additional documents needed if you will be accessing rare books: a formal letter in Russian stating your research topic.
Time: 20 minutes

Institution letter template (should be on official letterhead) – Only needed if accessing rare or antique book collections:


Российской государственной библиотеки
Дуда Вадиму Валерьевичу

Уважаемая Вадим Валерьевич,

Прошу Вашего разрешения на ознакомление с материалами архива (RESEARCHER’S NAME, TITLE, POSITION), в рамках темы (ее/его) исследования (RESEARCH NAME, PURPOSE (DISSERTATION, BOOK, ETC)).

С уважением,


Working the Archive

As this library is quite popular, you will be assigned a reading room which is indicated in the blue box of your library card. However, to access material on military, legal, music, and other special collections, you will need to go to the reading room for that specific collection – ask at the desk as you are applying for your propusk where material on your subject is located.

Working days between requesting delo and receipt: 0.5 (request in the morning, receive in afternoon)
Maximum delo that can be requested at one time: 3-7 (varies by department)

Microfilm Copies:
Photos from the microfilm projector may be made, with permission, for free. Paper copies will run 10 rubles per copy.

Document Copies:
Photos may be taken, with permission, for free for documents dated after 1830. Older documents must be copied or scanned. Photocopies and scans both run 7 rubles each.

Scheduling practices: Documents must be ordered in advance either via an online form or by calling +7 (499) 557-04-70 доб. 23-56. No paper requests for documents are accepted, as it was before when a researcher ordered documents after coming to the library and filled out paper request forms. One can come to the library any day without problem, after ordering the documents beforehand.

Problems: No printed material may enter the library – including dictionaries. You can bring a laptop, however, as well as pens and paper. Electrical outlets are hard to come by.

Other: Reading room number 4 is for internet access. There is a small and comfortable cafe in the basement.


Address: Vozdvizhenka street 3/5, Biblioteka imeni Lenina metro station,
Phone: +7 (800) 100-57-90,  +7 (495) 695-57-90

Working hours: 

Monday-Saturday: 9:00 – 20:00
Closed on Sundays

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