National Literatures

The National Literatures Department comprises the world's largest, most comprehensive and varied stocks of publications in the languages of the peoples living across the immense, multinational country that was the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union. They form an extremely valuable collection of items from seventeenth-century publications to modern works in all spheres of learning. One can find here books, periodicals, newspapers and other documents relating to each of the nationalities.

The items are sorted by language. Structurally, they are divided by type of publications: books, journals and serials, newspapers, microforms. The reference collection supplementing the main stocks, contains encyclopedias, materials on the history of national books, etc.

The holdings cover 98 languages: Abaza, Abkhaz, Avar, Agul, Adyghe, Azerbaijani, Aleut, Altai, Armenian, Archi, Assyrian, Akhvakh, Bashkir, Bezhta, Budukh, Buryat, Vepps, Gagauz, Georgian, Darghin, Dolgan, Izhora, Ingush, Itelmen, Kabardian, Kazakh, Kalmyk, Karaim, Karakalpak, Karata, Karachay-Balkar, Karelian, Ket, Kyrgyz, Komi (Zyryan), Komi-Permian, Koryak, Crimean Tatar, Kubachin, Kumyk, Kurdish, Lak, Latvian, Lezgin, Lithuanian, Mansi, Mari, Moldavian, Moksha Mordvin, Erzya Mordvin, Nanay, Nganasan, Nenets (Samoyed), Nakh, Nivkh, Nogai, Orok, Oroch, Ossetian, Rumeian, Rutul, Saami (Lopari), Selkup (Ostyak-Samoyed), Tabasaran, Tajik, Talysh, Tatar, Tat, Tofalar, Tuva, Turkmen, Udin, Udmurt, (Votyak), Udei (Udegei), Uzbek, Uygur, Ulchi, Khakass, Khanty (Ostyak), Khynalyk, Tsakhur, Tsez, Gypsy, Cherkess (East Circassian), Chechen, Chuvash, Chukchi, Shor, Shughni (Khughni), Even (Tungusic), Ewen (Lamut), Enets, Eskimo, Estonian, Yukagir, Yagnob, Yakut.

Our Library holds a great many rarities: the first printed books in Georgian and Armenian produced in Paris (1624), Rome (1629, 1643) and Amsterdam (1668-69), or in Chuvash and Tatar printed in St Petersburg in 1769 and 1780 respectively. The holdings include items which have not survived even at their place of publication. This stocks of the library give a complete picture of the development of book-printing in relation to the various peoples of the former USSR and presents highly interesting material for a general study of their histories, economics, languages, cultures and literatures.

Today, the Library continues to collect publications in national languages published in Russia (within the new state borders).


  • Prince Ioane of Georgia Collection (18th–19th cent.)  [37 items]
    The library of Prince Ioane Bagrationi of Georgia (1768–1830), a son of George XII, was purchased by the Imperial Public Library in 1880. It comprises books collected by members of the royal Bagrationi family, including the first printed edition of the medieval epic poem The Knight in the Panther's Skin.
    Part of the publications is stored in Asian and African Collection, handwritten materials are housed in Manuscripts Department.
    See Online Exhibition Georgian Manuscripts (in Russian).

  • Books from Private Collections of Historically Significant Persons of the 18th–20th centuries in National Llanguages  [50 items]
    The collection encompasses publications from private collections of prominent public figures, scholars, writers of Russia and other countries. Among them are books from the library of the Academician, Orientalist A. Samoylovich (1880–1938) on Uzbek, Crimean Tatar linguistics and others; publications from the library of General Jan Pieter van Suchtelen (1751 - 1836), a Dutch military engineer invited to the Russian service. His extensive collection includes rare books, manuscripts, coins, medals and maps. The publications often have marks of their owners, ex-librises. Among them, there are unique examples of binding art and miniature books which are valued for their small size (1/24 of a sheet or less). Burgan Nizamov's collection includes 39 titles of notable Tatar pre-revolutionary books compiled by the owner in 12 bindings. These are works of religious leaders of the Jadids – Muslim modernist reformers, literary works and books on teaching, published from 1880 to 1917. Among these works is the earliest Tatar printed book available in the NLR. It is The Essence of Definitions: A Grammar Guide published in Kazan in 1787.


    Rare and valuable publications not included in collections

    The Department of National Literature has the richest in Russia holdings of pre-revolutionary printed editions in the languages of the now independent Baltic states: Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. It contains more than 100 early printed books in Armenian and 97 in Georgian (17-18 centuries), a huge amount of literature in the languages of the Turkic peoples, printed in Arabic skript. In addition, there are the most valuable pre-revolutionary periodicals in various languages, published on the territory of the Russian Empire before 1917 and preserved only in the NLR.


Description of the Collection

Brief Summary