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Another Library Lost!

Another Library Lost!

Another Library Lost!

It is being named the cultural “Chernobyl” by the Russian media, in reference to the 1986 nuclear disaster, as a fire blazed through one of Russia’s largest university libraries on Friday 30th January and continued into the following evening. The fire broke out on the library’s second floor and continued burning all day on Saturday despite the huge effort of 200 firefighters’ to put out the blaze.

The blaze ripped through 2,000 square metres of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) in Moscow, which was established in 1918 and hold around 10 million documents from all over the world, with some dating back to the 16th century.  

Vladimir Fortov, the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has said that “it’s a major loss for science. This is the largest collection of its kind in the world, probably equivalent to the [United States] Library of Congress. One can find documents there that are impossible to find elsewhere, all the social sciences use this library. What happened here is reminiscent of Chernobyl.”

It is believed that about 15 per cent of the collection has been damaged at the library, which includes one of the world’s richest collections of Slavic language works. However, it is thought that much of the damage has been caused by water from the firefighting and rescue operations.

Library authorities had initially said that the documents were not in danger, but once the fire caused 1,000 square meters of the roof to collapse they were less certain about the risk to the collection.

A source from the rescue operations told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that is was impossible to remove the books because of the intense heat in the building. According to Russian media, investigators are looking into the cause of the fire, which at present, they believe was due to an electrical short-circuit.

Luckily no one was injured in the fire.

This is not the first fire within the last year to destroy a building of learning. On the 24th May 2014 firemen in Glasgow, Scotland fought a huge blaze at the Glasgow School of Art. A “human wall” was formed in an attempt to save the building but despite their best efforts the building was lost to the fire.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s “iconic and unique” Arts and Crafts Library was lost; however, both the UK and Scottish Governments pledged “millions” of pounds to support the reconstruction following the “international tragedy.”  

“The Mac”, as it was affectionately called by students, attracts around 20,000 visitors every year. It was designed by Mackintosh, who remains one of the country’s most significant architects and painters. It was named the best British building of the last 175 years in a nationwide poll in 2009.

Hopefully these two building and all knowledge that has been lost within them are the last places of learning to be lost to unlucky fires.  

It still remains to be seen what the true extent of the damage in Moscow is.


Nina is in her Honours year at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow studying History. She loves keeping fit and healthy at the gym and singing to her hearts content. Because of Nina's love of all things history related, she has a passion for reading, writing and researching. Nina is the Editor-in-Chief for an online magazine for female students at Strathclyde called Her Campus Strath and wants to continue her passion for writing after graduation. 


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