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Russian State Library

The first and largest public library in Russia

Moscow is rightfully considered the city of libraries. The city is enveloped by a library network of different levels and subordination. It is here we find the largest library in the country - the Russian State Library (formerly the V.I. Lenin State Library of the USSR, nicknamed the “Leninka”).

Sergei Petrovich

  • 29 710


    The Rumyantsev
    the primary library

  • 44 800 000


    Size of the
    RSL collection
    in 2013

Source: RSL, 2013

The RSL collection traces its roots to the Rumyantsev family collection. Over the years the family worked towards the creation and development of a publically accessible museum and library.

RSL today
  • x9

    The archive is equal
    to 9 football fields

  • 275 km

    The overall length
    of RSL bookshelves
    is about 275 kilometers

  • 79 years

    It would take a person 79 years
    without sleep to have a quick, one minute look at each item in storage

In the beginning of XIX century the building which was the predecessor to the St. Petersburg RSL belonged to Sergei Petrovich Rumyantsev. On January 3, 1828 he received a letter from Emperor Nicholas I containing the following:
“Count Sergei Petrovich! I was particularly pleased to learn that following the promptings of your zeal for the welfare of the public, you intend to transfer the Museum, belonging to you and famous for its precious collections, to the Government in order to make it accessible to all and thus contribute to the enlightenment of the public. To express my goodwill and appreciation for this gift, offered by you to science and the Fatherland, and wanting to preserve the memory of the founders of this beneficial institution, I have ordered it be named the Rumyantsev Museum.”

In 1861 the museum was transferred to Moscow. The museum was founded on July 1, 1862 when Emperor Alexander II approved the ‘Policy on the Moscow Public Museum and Rumyantsev Muzeum’. It was the first public museum in the country containing the first free public library in Moscow.

  • 5000 readers


    visited the reading
    hall in 1870

  • 107 058 readers


    visited the reading
    hall in 1915

The museum is located in the most beautiful architectural ensemble in Moscow, the original capital of the Russian State, in the Pashkov house. J. Richter, a German traveler of the XVII century, called this building a magical castle.

All literature published within the nation made its way to the library. Gifts and donations also became an important source in expanding the collection. Muscovites brought their valuable collections to the first public library in the capital. Within a year and a half of its creation the library collection already consisted of 100 thousand items.

Readers of the RSL
  • Lev N. Tolstoy

  • Fyodor M. Dostoevsky

  • Anton P. Chekhov

  • Vladimir G. Korolenko

  • Kliment A. Timiryazev

  • Dmitry I. Mendeleev

  • Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky

Today, the library maintains permanent relations with international professional organizations. The Library Assembly of Eurasia (BAE), which makes it possible to exchange information with the other libraries in CIS countries to promote mutual informational and cultural exchange, was created and successfully operates on initiative of the RSL. Moscow’s "Leninka" is the headquarters of the Library Assembly of Eurasia.

International contacts of the RSL:
  • Library Assembly
    of Eurasia (BAE)


  • International
    of Library
    and Institutions

  • International
    for Standardization

  • Libraries
    the world

All citizens of Russia or any other country, provided they are a student of a university or at least 18 years of age, can register with the Russian State Library.

  • 200 new readers

    About 200 new readers
    register with the RSL daily

  • 4000 people

    Almost 4,000 people
    visit the library every day

Sergey Petrovich Rumyantsev
Sergey Petrovich Rumyantsev
Founder of the Rumyantsev Museum, which later became the Russian State Library

Count Sergey Petrovich, brother of State Chancellor Nikolai Petrovich Rumyantsev, was famous among his contemporaries for his extensive knowledge and unusual erudition. Sergey Petrovich, who was friends with Nikolai M. Karamzin, was a poet, journalist, diplomat and historian. He attended Vasily A. Zhukovsky’s ‘Saturdays’ with Alexander S. Puchkin from 1817 to 1820.

Sergey Rumyantsev donated his personal collection to the state "for the benefit of the Fatherland and the good Enlightenment." He also established circles of the greatest Russian thinkers of his time, working to develop the library.

He graduated from Moscow State University with Ph.D. in Physics and Mathematics.

Alexander is one of the founders of Russian MARS format, created to transfer information from paper to electronic format.

Alexander has held in various positions in RSL since 1998. From 1999 to 2001 he served as Chief of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation MICC, while working in the Russian State Library.

By order of the Prime Minister, Alexander I. Visly was appointed general director of the Russian State Library in October 2009.

Brand personalities
Sergey Petrovich Rumyantsev

Founder of the Rumyantsev Museum, which later became the Russian State Library

Alexander Ivanovich Visly

General Director