International Archives and Archivists Weekly News Roundup – February 6, 2015 – part 1

Our weekly roundup of archives-related news from around the globe

Fire at the INION library in Moscow: Summary news and updates

A fire devastated the library of the Institute of Scientific Information on the Social Sciences (INION) in Moscow last weekend. The fire broke out on Friday evening and lasted for more than 25 hours. By all accounts, the damage is significant. Vladimir Fortov, the president of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, is cited to have said that the “scene reminds one of Chernobyl.” (1) Fortov initially estimated that 15% of the collection had been damaged. Later, he increased that figure and told the TV Station Rossija 24: “20% of the unique scientific works that were kept in hard copies have been lost forever.” (2) The Science Insider reported that library staff are afraid that the damage may be much more serious.(3)

The library’s collection included more than 14 million books, periodicals, and manuscripts, including some in ancient languages and rare editions dating back to as early as the 16th century. The library also held a collection of U.N. and UNESCO documents unique in Russia, and included a unique collection of newspapers and magazines from the Civil War 1917-1922, as well as stenographic transcripts of parliamentary proceedings in the U.S. and in the U.K. dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition, the collections included rare German editions, which had been brought to Moscow as war trophies by Soviet art commissioners after 1945. (4, 5)

As an institution, the library of the Academic Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences aka INION succeeds the library of the Socialist Academy of Social Sciences (later re-named the Communist Academy) established in 1918. (6)
During the Soviet Union, the institute served as a form of “think tank for party and state leadership,” said Sandra Dahlke, the vice director of the German Historical Institute in Moscow, which had its offices in the same building, in a radio interview. (4) After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the library – while not open to the general public — became more accessible to a broader range of researchers with academic credentials.

Sandra Dahlke said that the huge building that housed the institute, which extended over 30,000 square meters, had been in disrepair, and had been experiencing frequent power problems. It is still too early to determine which parts of the collections have been damaged. (4) Mark Yoffe, Librarian for Russia, Eurasia, Central and Eastern Europe, at the Global Resources Center, GWU Gelman Library, said that the unique card catalog of the library, which was located on the upper floor, appears to have been completely destroyed, a catastrophic loss considering that the catalog had been only partially automated. Only a tiny fraction of the collections had been digitized, he said. (7)

Several institutions have already offered their expertise and support for the massive salvage operation that will be ahead in Moscow, including colleagues from the Ukraine. The Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, which had suffered great losses after a devastating fire in 2004, also offered their expertise and support.(8)

If you do have any news and updates concerning the aftermath of the fire in Moscow, please do let us know, so we can continue to follow the development on Global Notes.

Thanks to Mark Yoffe, Librarian for Russia, Eurasia, Central and Eastern Europe at the Global Resources Center, Gelman Library, Washington, D.C.; Ilya Levin, Washington, D.C.; and Michael Knoche, Weimar, for helpful information and updates.

(1) Fire at Library in Moscow Destroys Millions of Volumes, New York Times Artbeat, Feb. 1, 2015,

(2) DPA, Europe Online Magazine, Feb. 3, 2015,

(3) “Fire Devastates Russian Academy Library,” AAAS Science Insider, Feb. 2, 2015,

(4) Interview with Sandra Dahlke, Vice director, GHI Moscow, MDR Kulturradio, Feb. 2, 2015,

(5) Ekaterina Vardanyan, “Verheerender Grossbrand in der Bibliothek des Institits fur Sozial-und Geisteswissenschaften in Moskau,” Informationspraxis, Feb. 2, 2015,

(6)Thanks to Ilya Levin, Washington, D.C., for this information.

(7)Telephone conversation with Mark Yoffe, Feb. 4, 2015.

(8) Email from Michael Knoche, Feb. 5, 2015. See also: Michael Knoche, “The Anna Amalia Bibliothek After the Fire,” IFLA Journal 31 (2005), no. 1, 90-92.


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