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Belarusian Collections

This page provides an overview of the Belarusian Collections, illustrated by specific examples. We acquire material across the spectrum of the humanities and social sciences


In the following text, codes which appear in brackets after references ([C.51.b.5]) indicate British Library shelfmarks.

The exact size of the Belarusian holdings is not known, since, like other country/language holdings, they have no separate catalogue and are dispersed within the rest of the collections. There are approximately 2,100 titles in Belarusian acquired since 1975. However, as most books published in Belarus after 1975 are in Russian, the total number is much higher, probably at around 4,000. The collection is growing on average by about 300-400 titles annually.

Among the British Library's holdings of 16th- and 17th-century Slavonic books, there are 13 Belarusian items. These include Frantsisk Skorina's (Fran'tsishak Skaryna) Books of Samuel and Kings from his 1518 Prague Bible [C.36.f.4], Psalter from 1522 [C.51.b.5] and Liturgical Acts and Epistles (Apostol) from 1525 [C.51.b.6]. The Library also holds an copy of the Apostol (1564) [C.104.k.11] printed by Petr Timofeev Mstislavets and Ivan Fedorov, intended not for private worship, but for ceremonial use in church services. There are other rare books from Kutein, Monastery of the Epiphany, such as a 1650 Psalter [C.185.a.46] and a 1653 Slavonic dictionary [628.d.2].

A large proportion of the publishing output of the 18th, 19th and (early) 20th centuries relating to Belarus is in Russian or, to a lesser extent, in Polish, as, due to the particular historical circumstances of that period, very few books were published in Belarusian. Among these sources are: Akty, otnosiashchiesia k istorii Zapadnoi Rossii, sobrannye i izdannye Arkheograficheskoiu Kommissieiu, vols 1-5 (Sankt Peterburg, 1846-53) [Ac.5581/4]; Akty, otnosiashchiesia k istorii IUzhnoi i Zapadnoi Rossii (Sankt Peterburg, 1863-92) [Ac.5581/11]; Sobranie drevnikh gramot i aktov gorodov Minskoi gubernii, pravoslavnykh monastyrei, tserkvei i po raznym predmetam (Minsk, 1848) [10292.l.29]; and Sobranie drevnikh gramot i aktov gorodov: Vilny, Kovna, Trok, pravoslavnykh monastyrei, tserkvei i po raznym predmetam (Wilno, 1843) [1602/277].

The British Library holds first editions of fundamental works for the study of the Belarusian language and culture, such as Slovar' bielorusskago nariechiia by lexicographer Ivan Nasovich (Ivan Nosovich) (Sanktpeterburg, 1870) [12963.m.3], the monumental three-volume study Bielorussy by academician Iauchim Karski (Varshava 1903-Moskva 1916) [10292.l.29], and Historyia belaruskai (kryuskai) knihi by the prominent Belarusian historian Vatslau Lastouski (Kouna, U drukarni Sakalouskaha i Lana, 1926) [J/2705.a.16].

Notable examples of the Library's Belarusian literary holdings are: Taras na Parnase [anonymous] (Mahilou, 1902) [011586.b.7(5)], one of the first works in modern Belarusian, which was popular in manuscript form in the 19th century but only published years later; the first edition of Vincuk Dunin-Martsinkevich's Hapon (Minsk, 1855) [12591.b.30]. Twentieth century Belarusian literature is represented in the collections by authors such as Maksim Bahdanovich, Zmitrok Biadulia, Vasil Bykau, Ciotka, Maksim Haretski, Larysa Heniiush, Ianka Kupala, Iakub Kolas, Ivan Melezh, Maksim Tank and others.

More recent acquisitions include several facsimile reproductions of Nasha Niva, the first newspaper in Belarusian, published in Vilnia (now Vilnius) in 1906-1915 (British Library Newspapers holds the original issues from 1910-1914, as well as a renewed edition of Nasha Niva issued in 1996, after the independence of Belarus). Works by the new generation of Belarusian authors (such as Uladzimir Arlou, Adam Hliobus et al.) are regularly acquired, along with newly established literary periodicals.

The first three decades of the 20th century produced important works in Belarusian. These include a number of publications of the Instytut Belaruskae kul'tury held by the Library, which cover history, language, ethnography and other subjects. There is also some material published in Polish-run western Belarus between the two world wars. The post-1945 period is quite adequately covered in the fields of humanities, sociology, art, and, especially, the history of book-printing.

As a result of the interlibrary exchanges from 1960 onwards, Soviet publications, including serials from Akademiia navuk BSSR and Belaruski Dziarzhauny Universitet, are well represented in the collections. These interlibrary exchanges are still functioning, although not on such a scale as in previous years.

The above description applies mainly to material published in Belarus. This is supplemented by other items about Belarus, i.e. British books and serials which are received on Legal Deposit, and publications selectively purchased from Europe and North America. The Library has also acquired émigré works wherever possible.

Catalogues, printed guides and other resources

Belarusian material is listed in the printed volumes of the British Library General Catalogue of Printed Books to 1975 (for material acquired before 1975 only) and the Integrated Catalogue, which is accessible via the internet. Material acquired and catalogued prior to 1975 is in Cyrillic (with headings in transliteration); post-1975 material, however, is displayed in transliterated form, according to Library of Congress rules. For information on searching and transliteration, please see Searching for Cyrillic items in the catalogues of the British Library: guidelines and transliteration tables.

Catalogues and printed guides

  • Church Slavonic entries from the British Library General Catalogue, [prepared by Brad Sabin Hill] (London: The British Library, 1992) [2725.g.1675]
  • C.L. Drage, Russian and Church Slavonic books 1701-1800 in United Kingdom libraries (London, 1984) [RAR094.30947 and 2725.g.307] - lists all 18th century holdings, except for recent acquisitions
  • Cyrillic books printed before 1701 in British and Irish collections: a union catalogue. Compiled by R. Cleminson, C. Thomas, D. Radoslavova, A. Voznesenskii. (London: The British Library, 2000) [HLR011.440947]
  • Walker, Gregory. Library resources in Britain for the study of Eastern Europe and the former U.S.S.R., compiled by Gregory Walker and Jackie Johnson (Wheatley: G.Walker, 1992) [revised edition in progress] [2719.k.1162]
  • Explore the British Library

Other resources

Belarusian material available elsewhere in the British Library


Olga Kerziouk, Curator, Belarusian Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7589