The volume of the Russian collection can be estimated only, since the books are not marked specially in the catalogue. Overall, this collection comprises around 300,000 volumes. The collection grows by roughly 7,000 monographs annually, around 70% of them from Russia, 30% of them from the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Far East, America and Australia. In addition, there are around 2,000 historical and current periodicals. The major part of the collection still consists of printed materials, complemented by a number of manuscripts, archive materials on microfilm and, since 2000, also by extensive databases. Also with regard to new acquisitions, the proportion of less than 1% that is constituted by electronic journals and books is currently still comparatively low. While the focus of the Russian collection is predominantly on humanities, like that of the library in its entirety, it has a further focus on science and medicine in the field of periodicals.


The Russian collection is as old as the library, over 450 years. A Russian-Church-Slavonic Psalter of the early 16th century, which formed part of the library's collection at the time of foundation, gives testimony to this (Cod.slav. 6). The oldest Russian manuscript, a "Euchologion", goes back to the 2nd quarter of the 15th century (Cod.slav. 5). The around 80 further Russian and Russian-Church-Slavonic manuscripts held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek are all from the modern era and mostly have theological content. Among the secular manuscripts, there are a cosmography of the 17th century (Cod.slav. 13), a book of exercise rules and a textbook of artillery from the time of Peter the Great (Cod.slav. 9 and Cod.slav. 42), as well as a Russian version of the "Topographia Christiana" by Cosmas Indicopleustes (around 1709, Cod.slav. 40). The latest acquisition of the Russian manuscript collection is a "Skrižal'" of the 18th century (Cod.slav. 108), which contains 61 drawings painted in watercolours.

Russian-Church-Slavonic Psalter  (Cod.slav. 6)
Euchologion  (Cod.slav. 5)
Cosmography  (Cod.slav. 13)
Exercising rules  (Cod.slav. 9)
Textbook of artillery  (Cod.slav. 42)
Topographia Christiana  (Cod.slav. 40)
Skrižal'  (Cod.slav. 108)

The first printed works – the 16th century

The development of book printing started only relatively late in the Russian empire, as is generally known: Incunabula in the Church-Slavonic language in Cyrillic script were previously printed in Krakow (printing shop of Schweipolt Fiol), Venice and Cetinje (Montenegro), and, as of the start of the 16th century, in Prague and in Vilnius, but not within the Russian empire. Here, book printing developed only in connection with the conquest of Kazan in 1552 and the necessity to produce error-free church books for the proselytisation of the region.

Accordingly, book printing started in Russia not only over 100 years after its invention, but the art of printing continued playing a relatively marginal role in comparison to western Europe for a long time (even though this has been depicted differently again and again by Soviet researchers). This is evidenced by the fact alone that, while books were printed in Moscow as of 1564 at the latest, there existed no domestic paper production yet for this purpose. Moreover, book printing remained a monopolistic governmental enterprise quasi concentrated in and around Moscow up to the time of Peter the Great.

As a consequence of this development, the Russian-Ukrainian-Belorussian collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek for the 15th up to the 17th century is fairly manageable, and the most valuable pieces are not from the tsardom of the time: Thus, the library holds, for example, a specimen of the "Ostroh Bible" of the year 1581, the last and at the same time most important work of the Moscow "incunabula printer" Ivan Fedorov, who had had to leave Moscow in 1565 presumably for political reasons. The "Ostroh Bible" is the first complete, printed Bible in the Church-Slavonic language. It is named after the place where it was printed, the city of Ostroh, which at this time formed part of the Polish-Lithuanian state, today of Ukraine, and which constituted an important educational and cultural center of the region at the time, due to its Greek-Orthodox academy founded in 1579.

The Russian collection of the 16th to the 18th centuries in total consists of a larger number of German printed works than East-Slavic ones. While it is true that this field constituted an emphasis of collection, the reason for this circumstance is predominantly that only a small number of publications were produced in Russia during this period. Literature was almost exclusively theological. However, during the 16th century Western Europe became increasingly interested in the expanding Grand Duchy of Moscow, the "third Rome", particularly after the proclamation of the tsardom by Ivan IV in the year 1547. Diplomats' reports and treatises about "the country and its people" were published, which were collected intensively by the Royal Court Library. Among the diplomats' reports there are, for example, those of the Austrian imperial councillor Sigmund von Herberstein (1486 – 1566), of which there are various editions in several languages, the works of the Polish historian and Calvinist Jan Łasicki (1534 – 1602), and the report of the Jesuit Antonio Possevino (1534 – 1611), who stayed in Moscow in the 1580s as papal legate and who negotiated the ceasefire that ended the Livonian War among other things.

Further, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek preserves numerous printed works from the field of small printed matter, which address events of the European-Russian history at the time.

Title list (with links to the digital and printed editions)

Biblia: sirěč knigy vetchago i novago zavěta, po jazyku slovensku. [V Ostroze], 1581.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Rar. 2339

Herberstein, Sigmund von: Rerum Moscoviticarum commentarii. [Wien], [1549].
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Rar. 2082

Herberstein, Sigmund von: Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii Sigismundi Liberi Baronis in Herberstain, Neyperg, & Guettentag. In his Commentarijs ... habebis ... Rvssiae, & ... Moscouiae, breuissimam descriptionem. De religione quo[que] uaria inserta sunt, & quae nostra cum religione non conueniunt. Chorographiam deni[que] totius imperij Moscici ... Quis deni[que] modus excipiendi ... Oratores, disseritur. Itineraria quo[que] duo ... sunt adiuncta. Accessit ... Index. Basileae, 1551.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: 2 Russ. 7

Herberstein, Sigmund von: Moscouia der Hauptstat in Reissen durch Herrn Sigmunden Freyherrn zu Herberstain, Neyperg vnd Guetenhag ... zusamen getragen: Sambt des Moscouiter gepiet, vnd seiner anrainer beschreibung vnd anzaigung, in wen sy glaubens halb mit vns nit gleichhellig ; ... Wien, 1557.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Rar. 2083

Łasicki, Jan: De Russorum religione, ritibus ... et de Tartarorum religione ... [Speyer], 1582.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: 4 H.eccl. 667

Łasicki, Jan. De Rvssorvm Moscovitarvm Et Tartarorvm Religione, Sacrificiis, Nvptiarvm, Fvnervm Ritv: E' Diversis Scriptoribvs, Qvorvm Nomina versa pagina indicat ; His in fine quaedam sunt adiecta, de Liuonia pacisque conditionibus, & pace confecta hocanno, inter Serenissimum Regem Poloniae & Magnum Ducem Moscuiae. Spirae, 1582.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: 4 Exeg. 236#Beibd.1

Possevino, Antonio: Moscovia. Vilna, 1586.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: H.eccl. 885

Possevino, Antonio: [Moscovia, Et, Alia Opera, De Statu Huius Seculi, adversus Catholicae Ecclesiae hostes]. [Köln], 1587.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: 2 Enc. 20 n-1/2#Beibd.1

Die Schlacht von dem Kunig von Poln und mit dem Moscowiter. [Nürnberg], [1514].
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Res/4 Eur. 330,54

Warhafftiger anfa[n]g vnd vndericht der schlacht ßo der König yn Poln [et]c. ytzundt mit dem obersten Hertzoge[n] yn Moscouia am tag der yu[n]ckfraw Marie geburt ym viertzenden yar gehabt. [Leipzig], [1514].
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Res/4 Eur. 330,47

Carmina de memorabili Caede Seismatiorum Moscoviorum per Sigism. regem Polonia ... apud aras Alexandri M. peracta. S.l., 1515.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Res/4 742,38

17th century

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek holds a large amount of Russian-Church-Slavonic theological literature from Moscow, Kiev and Vilnius that goes back to the 17th century.

In addition, there are a comparatively small number of secular publications, in particular communiqués by the tsar – for example, the law book of Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich of the year 1649, or the letter missive of Tsar Aleksey to Sultan Mehmed IV.

One outstanding piece among the western publications on Russia of the 17th century is the biography of the widely known leader of the Cossacks Stenko Razin. The work is a dissertation in the Latin language, published in Wittenberg only four years after Stenko's big uprising of 1670. (The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek acquired the work in the 1970s from the personal estate of the Cossack researcher Sergej Grigor'evič Svatikov.) The dissertation about this "savage" apparently was met by the German public with as great interest as the Dracula incunabula at their time, so that even a second edition of the book was printed in 1683.

Title list (with links to the digital and printed editions)

Johannes <Chrysostomus>: Iže v s[vja]tych o[t]ca n[a]š[e]go Ioan[n]a Zlat[o]ustago ... Besědy na 14 poslanij s[vja]t[a]go ap[osto]la Pavla. [Kiev], 1623.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Res/2 520 k

Psaltyr s vozslědovaniem. V Moskvě, 1640.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Rar. 1765

Ustav B[o]žestvennyja Lẏturgija: iže vo S[vja]tych Otc[ov] n[a]šych, Ioan[n]a Zlatoustago, Vasílïa Velikago, i Preždes[vja]ščennaja Grigórïja Dvoeslóva. V Vi[l]ni, 1638.
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: ESlg/Liturg. 1324 r

Izdaesja kniga sija Pentikostarion, eže est' pjatdesjatnica: V c[a]r[s]tvujuščem velikom gradě Moskvě, v lěto ot sotvorenija mira 7188 ... ; Vo slavu s[vja]tyja edinosuščnyja ... Moskva, 1680.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Res/2 Liturg. 400 z

Uloženie Carja Aleksěja Michajloviča. [3. izd.]. [Moskva], [1649].
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Rar. 2334

Schreiben deß GroßFürsten von Moskovien an den Türckischen Kaiser betreffende, die gemachte neue Bündnusse, zwischen Ihr. Königliche Majestät von Pohln und Seine Czarse Majestät. [S.l.], 1672.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Res/4 Turc. 88,27

Schurzfleisch, Konrad Samuel: Stenko Razin' Do[n]ski Kozak' I[z]men[n]ik' Id est Stephanus Razin Donicus Cosacus Perduellis. Wittebergae: Schrödter, 1674.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call numbers: 4 Diss. 3528,4   |   4 Diss. 21   |   4 Diss. 910

[More to follow shortly ...]

18th century

The collection of Russica increased by leaps and bounds during the 18th century, growing by an estimated 1,000 works. On the one hand, this is a result of Western Europe's interest in Peter the Great and the resulting number of publications about the foreign empire, but on the other hand, the foundation of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the year 1724 led to an enormous rise in the production of secular books.

The court library acquired almost all biographical works about Peter the Great published at the time, who aroused curiosity and also widespread admiration as a singularity in Europe, not least due to his "incognito travels", his "crude conventions" and his preference of a soldierly lifestyle. In addition, a multiplicity of journal articles was collected. Further in addition, a number of works of the tsar himself were acquired.

Title list (with links to the digital and printed editions)

Korb, Johann Georg: Diarium itineris in Moscoviam perillustris ac magnifici domini Ignatii Christophori de Guarient et Rall, Sacri Romani Imperii, & Regni Hungariae Equitis, Sacrae Caefareae Majestatis Consiliarii Aulico-Bellici ab Augustißimo & Invictißimo Romanorum Imperatore Leopoldo I. ad Serenißimum, ac Potentißimum Tzarum et Magnum Moscoviae Ducem Petrum Alexiowicium anno MDCXCVIII ablegati extraordinarii. Viennae Austriae: Voigt, [1700].
Digital version   (Copy of the Staatliche Bibliothek Regensburg)
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Rar. 123

Lohenstein, J. H. von: Des Grossen Herrens, Czaars und Groß-Fürstens von Moscau, Petri Alexiewiz, Des gantzen grossen, kleinen und weissen Reußlandes Selbsthalters, etc. etc. etc. Leben und Thaten: aus besonderen Nachrichten beschrieben, Mit schönen Kupfern geziert, In Zwey Theilen. Franckfurt [u.a.]: Buggel.
Digital version, volume 1
Digital version, volume 2
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Russ. 85-1/2

Mauvillon, Éléazar de: Histoire de Pierre I. surnommé Le Grand, Empereur de toutes les Russies, Roi de Siberie, de Casan, d'Astracan, Grand Duc de Moscovie, &c. &c. &c.: enrichie de plans de batailles et de médailles / 3. Amsterdam, Leipzig, 1742.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Russ. 97 q-3

Voltaire: Histoire de l'empire de Russie sous Pierre le Grand / 1. Leipzig: Freder, Lankisch, (1761).
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Russ. 167 gb-1

Stählin, Jacob von: Originalanekdoten von Peter dem Großen. Leipzig: Breitkopf, 1785.
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: Russ. 154 m

Peter <I., Russland, Zar>: General-Reglement für alle Reichs-Collegien und deren Bediente, Welche auf Befehl Seiner Majestät Kaysers Peter des Großen 1720 in Rußischer Sprache durch den Druck bekannt gemacht worden: [Peter I., Zar von Rußland]. St. Petersburg, [1720].
Digital version
Printed version in BSB DISCOVER!, call number: J.rel. 1475

[More to follow shortly ...]

Russian collection – Special holdings

Russian scouts in post-war Germany

Description of the collection

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek houses a small collection on the history of the scout movement of Russian expatriates in West Germany after the Second World War. It includes both printed and handwritten materials documenting the endeavours for the establishment and the ideological orientation of the scout organisation "Organizaciya rossijskich junych razvedčikov" (ORJuR) during the initial years following its foundation in the year 1945.

There are various periodicals, circulars, forms and flyers for scout leaders, etc., which were printed predominantly in the displaced persons' camps in the Munich region and the camp of Mönchehof near Kassel. In addition, the collection includes various handwritten notes and records and correspondence of Irina Vasil’evna Brunst and her later husband Andrei Korolenko with other activists of the organisation.

Use of the materials

The very rare or even unique materials of the years 1945 to 1951 are preserved by the Division of Personal Papers of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books, bearing the call number "Fasc.germ. 307".
All journal articles from the collection have been catalogued and entered in the Zeitschriftendatenbank (Periodicals Database, ZDB). They can be retrieved in BSB DISCOVER! as well, by inputting the call number "Fasc.germ. 307".

► BSB DISCOVER!  (journal titles)

Further information in the blog OstBib
Description of the overall collection  (PDF)

Satirical journals and postcards 1905 – 1907

Description of the collection

A particularly valuable source documenting the beginning of the 20th century in Russia is constituted by a collection of around 90 satirical journals of the years 1905 to 1907.

Put under pressure by the events of the first Russian revolution, Tsar Nicholas II had decreed a manifesto which granted basic civil rights and held out the prospect of a parliamentary constitution. In the course of this development, censorship was abolished or relaxed for a short period, leading to an enormous rise in political publishing, which also included satirical journals. The person of the tsar, high-ranking officials, the civil service and their arbitrariness became the target of satire in texts and pictures. The Munich journal Simplicissimus played an important role in the graphic design.

However, most of these journals were short-lived, were confiscated frequently and their editors arrested. The poor paper quality has not facilitated long-term conservation either.

A collection of around 700 Russian postcards and 24 posters likewise goes back to this period.

Use of the materials

List of periodicals in BSB DISCOVER!  [in process]


Gonschior, Hannelore: Satire als Seismograph der Geschichte: seltene Sammlung russischer Blätter. In: Forschung: das Magazin der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (1988) 2, p. 8-10.

Gonschior, Hannelore: Satire as seismograph of contemporary times: rare collection of Russian periodicals. In: Reports of the DFG: German research (1989) 2, p. 18-20.

Materials on the Russian military and civil-war history 1894 – 1923

Description of the collection

Under the call number Cod.slav. 59, six albums of photographs are pooled on the Russian military and civil-war history from 1894 to 1923, containing a total of 360 photographs and a number of typescripts and newspaper clippings.

The albums one to three are from the years 1894 to 1918 and contain respectively seven to eleven photographs of important Russian regiments on special occasions. Tsar Alexander III or Tsar Nicholas II can be seen on several of them. The albums five and six (possibly all, though) are from the property of the famous General of the White Army Pyotr Nikolayevich Baron von Wrangel, who, in turn, had given them to the Russian-British journalist couple Harold Williams and Ariadna Tyrkova-Williams as a present. Both were activists campaigning for Great Britain’s involvement in the Russian civil war. The fifth album documents the life of the White Army (139 photographs) evacuated to Gallipoli in 1920, the sixth album shows the next station of a part of this army in Serbia (119 images). The fourth album is of particular interest, constituting a documentation of the "red terror" in the Russian civil war between 1918 and 1920 in 103 images. The photographs presumably originate from the "Task force for the prosecution of the crimes of the Bolsheviks" ("Osobaja Kommissija po rassledovaniju zlodejanij bol’sevikov") founded in 1919 under General Denikin and continued by von Wrangel as of 1920. They are marked by stamps of the “Russian Liberation Committee” of London.

Use of the materials

All albums have been digitized and are freely accessible in BSB DISCOVER!, by the exception of the album number four, which can be consulted only following prior proof of scholarly interest.

In addition, all images are contained and catalogued individually in the Image Archive of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
Overview in the Image Archive