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History

The National Library of Belarus (NLB) was founded by the Decree by the Council of People’s Commissars of the Belarusian Soviet Socialistic Republic (the BSSR) on September 15th, 1922. Originally it was Belarusian State University Library and, at the same time, the main library of the Republic of Belarus. Josef Simanovsky became the first director of the Library. He was at the head of the Library during 40 years.

Josef Simanovsky, the first Director of the Library (1926)

At the opening of the Library its collection comprised only 60,000 items. The number of the Library’s users was 1,1 thousand persons. In 1926 the Library already served 5,5 thousand persons. The Library collection grew to 300,000 items. There was a universal library collection covering all fields of knowledge including materials concerning Belarusian literature, history, sciences, etc.The Library became an active participant of national, cultural, and state development.

As the State and University Library had extended its activities, its collections and the number of users had considerably grown, the Library status should have been changed. On May 14th, 1926 the BSSR Council of People’s Commissars issued a Decree according which the Library was reorganized into Belarusian State Library. Thereafter the Library opened its branched in other Belarusian cities: Vitebsk, Mogilev, Gomel, and in the House of Government in Minsk. These Library branches formed the system of central public libraries of the Republic of Belarus. Later they were reorganized into Governmental Library (today named as Presidential Library) and regional libraries.

The first building of the National Library – the Jubilee House

In 1932 the Library celebrated its 10th anniversary. On this occasion the Library was named after V.I. Lenin. In the same year the Library moved into specially built premises which were the Library’s “visiting card” during the next 70 years. The eminent Belarusian architect G. Lavrov developed an original constructivist project of the Library building. The Library included the BSSR Bibliographic Institute.

At the beginning of 1941 the Library collections totaled over 2, 000, 000 items; over 15, 000 users visited the Library. The further Library’s development was interrupted by the World War II. During the war and three years of occupation the Library was harried and destroyed. When Minsk was liberated from Nazi invaders, only 320, 000 items remained in the Library collections. During the war the Library’s special facilities were totally destroyed. The Library’s building remained seriously damaged.

During the war in 1943, in the BSSR Academy of Sciences (evacuated in Moscow) was organized a working group for the book collection development. The restoration of the Library collection was accomplished with the assistance of libraries of other Soviet republics. In July 1944, after the liberation of Minsk, the Government issued a Decree on the resumption of the Library work. In October 1944, the Library opened its doors to users again.

The Library building. Architect G. Lavrov.

Since spring 1945, a search for removed book collections has been started. Books from the Library’s collections were found in Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. By 1948, the collection of the Library had been restored (in quantitative ratio) though many gaps still remain unfilled.

The 1950s -1980s are remarkable by the growth of the Library collections, increase of the number of the Library users, development of international relations and reorganizing of the Library activities. In 1962 the Library received an additional building in Kirova Street as the Library needed space for user work and storage of materials. In 1972, the State Library of Belarus celebrated its 50th anniversary. On this occasion the Library was awarded with the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, the highest prize of the Soviet State.

After the declaration of independence of the Republic of Belarus the Library headed Belarusian library system. On May 19th, 1992, according to the Decree of the Government the Republic of Belarus, the State Library of Belarus was renamed into the National Library of Belarus.

By this time the Library required a new building. In 1989 took place an international contest of the best architectural project of the Library new building. The project by architects M.K. Vinogrdov and V.V. Kramarenko won the contest. The architects developed an original combination of functionality and showiness of “Belarusian Diamond”. The project was fulfilled only 13 years after.

New building of the National Library of Belarus: the Diamond

On March 7th, 2002, the President of the Republic of Belarus signed the Decree "On the building of the state institution "National Library of Belarus". On November 1st, 2002, the foundation of the new building was laid.

Here you can find more information concerning the Library building.