About the collection


The Eastern Europe collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek is one of the world's most comprehensive and important collections of its kind. It comprises around 1.4 million volumes, around 5,000 current printed periodicals, historical and modern maps, newspapers, medieval and modern manuscripts, a large collection of archive materials on microfilm, as well as a great variety of electronic media.

Covering a large geographic area, it contains literature from and about the countries of Eastern-Central and South-Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries, Finland, the eastern part of Eastern Europe overlapping with Asia, the Caucasus and the Central Asian CIS states.

The main focus of the collection content is on history, politics, scholarship, education, information science and music, as well as on theology, philosophy, philological subjects, ethnic studies and art.

The collection amounts to around one tenth of the total holdings of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. In the area of printed publications alone, it grows by around 20,000 volumes annually. Purchases are made around the world. Accordingly, the collection takes a top position on an international scale.


Collection at the time of foundation

The history of the Eastern Europe collection goes back as far as to the time of foundation of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
The collection of the Royal Court Library in the year of its foundation 1558 already included Slavic, Hungarian, Armenian and Byzantine manuscripts.

Important works from the collection at the time of its foundation:

  • Czech prayer book (manuscript, 16th century)
  • Serbian Church-Slavonic Psalter (1546)
  • Old Czech "dictionary" by Sigismund Gelenius (1537)
  • Religious epic "Judith" by Marko Marulić (1522)


The secularisation at the beginning of the 19th century played an important role in the development of the collections. At this time the library acquired not only works in the Latin language about the geography and history of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, but also some valuable Slavic manuscripts.

  • Freisinger Denkmäler (Freising manuscripts, from the second half of the 10th century)
  • Serbian Psalter, known in South-Eastern Europe as "Munich Psalter"

Word started to spread about the importance of the Slavic collection: The founders of Slavic philology, such as Josef Dobrovský, Jernej Kopitar, Aleksandr Ch. Vostokov and Ján Kollár travelled to the library to consult writings.

19th century to the Second World War

In the time after the secularisation, the collection continued growing slowly, but steadily. However, in comparison to the large volumes of Italian or French literature, the Slavic works remained a rather modest group.

Only after the foundation of a chair for Slavic philology at the University of Munich in the year 1911 were works on Slavic philology and on the history of Eastern Europe purchased systematically and in larger numbers. For this purpose, a "Slavic division" with one full-time academic librarian was established at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in 1919.

Despite the hard times in the years between the wars, the collection was expanded continuously – also with the aid of the so-called "Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft" (Emergency Association of German Science). In contrast, acquisitions dwindled during the time of national socialism and the years of war.

The Eastern Europe collection was also strongly affected by the destructions of the Second World War. The library was almost completely destroyed in bomb raids. Numerous valuable Bibles, academy writings, travel descriptions and a large portion of the group of Turk works ("Turcica"), which included many works of the historical and geographical literature of South East Europe, were lost.

Post-war period and the years of the Cold War

The initial years after the war were marked by stagnation. On the one hand, this was of course due to a lack of funds, but on the other hand, it was also difficult to procure literature from East Europe.

The year 1950 brought a turning point: The German Research Foundation (DFG, then still the "Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft" – Emergency Association of German Science), assigned the areas of collection emphasis of the countries of Eastern, Eastern-Central and South East Europe to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

The library was thus commissioned to purchase as comprehensively as possible all academically relevant literature about the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Romania, the Baltic countries and Byzantium from the fields of history, politics, regional and ethnic studies, language and literature and the education and information systems of these areas. The funding granted for the areas of collection emphasis enabled the library to expand the collection consistently, which greatly gained in importance in the process.

In the year 1954 a new reading room was built. In the process, also the name "Slavic collection" was adapted to the collection mandate and changed to "Eastern Europe collection". In the subsequent years, the holdings of the Eastern Europe collection grew quickly due to the onset of a rapidly increasing book production in the Eastern European countries in the 1960s.

1998 up to the present

The changes in Eastern Europe after the end of the Cold War also had serious repercussions on the publishing houses and distributors: Large state-owned publishing houses were closed, a multiplicity of small private publishing houses was founded, the high printing costs caused a decrease of the book production and the state-run book trading networks disintegrated. Despite big efforts, the literature procurement for the Eastern Europe collection dropped significantly, so that gaps could not be prevented. The book acquisition covering the full geographic area could only be stabilized again around the year 2000. At the same time, an enormous and continuous growth of the book markets of almost all countries forming part of the collection area took place between 2000 and 2014, but which has slowed down again since 2015 in a number of countries, among them Russia.

An important turning point in the history of the Eastern Europe collection was the restructuring of the areas of collection emphasis in the wake of the reunification of Germany: The areas of collection emphasis of Slavic philology and ethnic studies, Romanian and Albanian philology and ethnic studies, modern-age Greece and the Baltic states were transferred to East German libraries in 1998 (State Library of Berlin – Prussian Cultural Heritage, Thuringian University and Regional Library of Jena, University Library Greifswald). As a consequence, acquisitions in these areas were reduced and funded purely from financial resources of the Free State of Bavaria.

At the start of the year 2009 the responsibility for the areas of collection emphasis of Romanian and Albanian philology and ethnic studies, as well as modern-age Greece was returned to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, though.

From 2013 to 2015 the German Research Foundation submitted its funding of the areas of collection emphasis to a fundamental and thorough restructuring – the "Sondersammelgebiete", whose primary objective had been the comprehensive acquisition and supraregional provision of academically relevant literature, were to become "Fachinformationsdienste" (specialised information services), whose focus was to be less on literature acquisition and more on new services.

Within the framework of the "Fachinformationsdienst Ost-, Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa" (specialised information service Eastern, Eastern-Central and South-Eastern Europe), the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has again assumed supraregional responsibility also for the Baltic states, expanding also the subject areas by the fields of society, religion and church history. One focus of the specialised information service is on drawing up concepts and methods for providing also electronic media on a supraregional level, which have of course also been collected since their emergence. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek currently makes available around 80,000 printed titles forming part of the Eastern Europe collection in digital form to everybody, worldwide, in open access. Further 20,000 e-books, numerous databases and around 700 licensed electronic journals are accessible for users via BSB DISCOVER!.


Information about the DFG support programme "Fachinformationsdienste für die Wissenschaft"


Gonschior, Hannelore: Russische Föderation: mehr Verlage, weniger Bücher. In: Ost-West-Gegeninformationen 8 (1996), p. 33-35.

Gonschior, Hannelore: Strukturwandel im Verlagswesen und Buchhandel Rußlands und seine Auswirkungen auf die Erwerbungstätigkeit der Osteuropa-Abteilung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Grosser, Cornelia (ed.): Kultur und Literatur aus Europa in Europa: die Rezeption Osteuropas vor und nach der Wende. Wien, 1996. p. 13-20.

Kratz, Gottfried: Staatsbibliothekar Dr. Emil Walker (1896-1945) an der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 3 (2009), p. 42-45.

Kratz, Gottfried: Von Katharinenfeld im Kaukasus nach Schwarzenfeld in Bayern: Staatsbibliothekar Dr. Emil Walker, Germanist, Slavist und „Kontinentaleuropäer“. Münster, 2007.

Mach, Otto: Die Osteuropabestände der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: Benutzungsführer. München, 1965.

Mach, Otto: Die Osteuropasammlung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek und ihre Entwicklung in den letzten Jahren. In: Österreichische Osthefte: Zeitschrift für Mittel-, Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung 5 (1963) 1, p. 71-73.

Pleyer, Viktoria: Die Osteuropa-Abteilung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: Grundzüge ihrer Entwicklung 1950-1990. The Eastern Europe department of the Bavarian State Library: an outline of its development 1950-1990. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 18 (1990), 1 p. 13-26.

Wirtz, Gudrun; Gonschior, Hannelore: Von Griffelglossen zum elektronischen Volltext: Bestände und Dienstleistungen der Osteuropasammlung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: ABDOS-Mitteilungen 1 (2009), p. 1-10.

Wirtz, Gudrun: Von fremden Ländern und Menschen? Die frühe Osteuropasammlung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek im Spiegel ihrer Bavarica. In: Ceynowa, Klaus; Hermann, Martin (ed.): Bibliotheken: Innovation aus Tradition: Rolf Griebel zum 65. Geburtstag. München, Berlin: De Gruyter Saur, 2014. p. 334-350.

Wirtz, Gudrun: Slawistik (Bücherkummulation und Aufbruch der Forschung). In: Lebendiges Büchererbe: Säkularisation, Mediatisierung und die Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: eine Ausstellung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek, München, 7. November 2003 - 30. Januar 2004. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2003. p. 168-174.

Complete literature list on the Eastern Europe collection  (PDF, 158 KB)