Accessing NK materials in the Lenin Library

0. Before getting started

The Russian State Library (Rossiskaya gosudarstvennaya biblioteka), or the Lenin Library, is one of the key institutions where quality North Korean materials are held. Together with South Korean archives/libraries (National Library of Korea, National Institute of Korean History, National Archives of Korea, University of North Korean Studies, Seoul National University Library, etc.) and their US equivalents (NARA II, Asian Division, Library of Congress, University libraries, etc.), the Lenin Library would surely serve NK researchers as well as those interested in NK studies with primary and secondary sources.

So far NIKH has partially acquired NK materials from the Lenin Library and uploaded an online catalogue of the collected sources. This catalouge is recommendable to Korea-based NK researchers. Yet there is no doubt that the NK materials, especially serials, obtained by NIKH are either missing or incomplete. Therefore, it is imperative for scholars to visit the Lenin Library in order to use the complete set of sources.

Now I turn to how to access NK materials in the Lenin Library.
(I have not requested or used micro films in the library. If you have any experience with these sources, please share with me your knowledge on using them.)


1. Some fundamental info

The Lenin Library Web Page Russian/English

If you are uncomfortable with Russian, use Yandex Translate to assist in translating the above web page.

Other than micro films, all sorts of NK materials are stored in the Center for Eastern Literature (Tsentr vostochnoi literatury). This center is truly valuable for researchers in that it has not only both South and North Korean materials but also Asian and African language sources (see the picture below).

Address: Moskva, ul. Mokhovaya, d. 6 (Москва, ул. Моховая, д. 6, 2gis map)

Reading room hours: Mon-Sat 09:00-20:00 (As of 03 Aug 2018)



2. Making a reader card

Get to Moscow and go to the Lenin Library.


Your priority here would be to make a reader card (chitatel’skii bilet). Make sure to bring your passport which contains your visa and go to the entrance no.2 (it’s located between the Dostoevsky statue and the banner with mustached man in the above picture).


You can see the plaque on the left side of the door which says ‘запись читателей.’ It means you can register yourself as a reader in this building. Go inside without fear.

You will see the check point and a guard gazing at you as you enter the door. The guard will ask you your reason for coming as well as what you intend to do at the library. It is fine to just say you came to register. The guard will explain the process to you. He will probably say something along the lines of the following three-points:

a. Go to the table (on the right side from where you entered) and fill out a registration card (Kartochka registratsii chitatelya RGBin Russian.

b. Get a waiting ticket from the standing machine and enter the section accordingly.

c. Once in the section, present your passport to the staff and write your surname in Russian.


The staff in the section will probably have a good command of English, so may the force be with you.

Once you present the documents, the staff will take your photo. This photo will be printed on your reader card, which will be effective for next five years. After retrieving your reader card, say thanks to the staffs (including guards) and get out.


Your Russified name would look charming, hopefully.


3. The Center for Eastern Literature (CEL)

CEL is waiting for you. Refer to the following address again.

Address: Moskva, ul. Mokhovaya, d. 6 (Москва, ул. Моховая, д. 6, 2gis map)


You can go along the street (left side on the picture) and the door appears in just a few minutes. You can also refer to the Google picture taken in 2016.

Again, you will encounter another check point as well as guards. Now is the time to present your invincible reader card. Sometimes you are supposed to store your personal belongings in the gallery. Do it and take only your necessary equipment (cell phone, charger, battery, iPad and what not) with you. Go to the general office (kafedra) on the right side of where you entered.


There are innumerable drawers. They are catalogues. Go in to the first door.


The plaque says that the office deals with orders, issuances, returns and publishing. For the sake of convenience, I call it the general office.


A friendly staff will be waiting for you. Most of them can speak English to a varying degree. If you can speak Russian, they will help you accordingly as you explain, including the purpose of your visit and materials you are looking for. Remember: A charming first impression and warm greeting are very important. No one spits on a smiling face.


In the general office, you will fill in the above paper and present it as well as your reader card to the staff. Now you are free to go doing archival works in CEL.


4. Requesting materials

Requesting materials is the next step. In order to make requests, you need to know the bibliographic data of the material you are looking for. Then write down that data on a request form (listok chitatel’skogo trebovaniya). It is noted that you can make as many as ten requests (or different materials) at a time.


The information you need to write down on the request form is as follows:

Чит.билет No: Reader card number. Put the number on your reader card. You could use a dash (-) instead of zeros (e.g. 1—123456 instead of 100000123456)

Дата: Date.

Шифры: Call number. You need to provide this number in order to be issued materials. There are some ways to get to know call number: from your colleagues (maybe, me?) or from a web search. Generally, you can get the call number from the cards in catalogue drawers.

Заглавие: Title of the material. Put it in Russian.

Место изд: Place of Publication. In most cases, you will put Пхеньян (Pyongyang), or Москва (Moscow) in this column.

Год изд: Year of Publication. Here is a trick. Let us suppose you are looking for a journal and all of that journals, published in 1945-47, are archived here. Then you could put like 1945-47 to get a whole set of stored journals. Sweeter than honey.


If you do not know the call number, you can search for it from catalouge drawers.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The combination (upper left on the above cards) of number and Russian characters is the call number. Ж means J of journal and Г means G of gazette (newspaper).

Once you submit your request form, it takes ten to fifteen minutes for the staff to get you the materials you want to look at. There is one reading room in front of the general office and that is where you should wait. It is totally fine if your try different reading rooms. Or you can bring your materials to the unmanned reading room after receiving your materials.



Every table has one 220V socket. Free to use. (Vladimir Ilyich once said, “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.”)


5. Works

Ta-da! NK materials are here.


I am currently working on 1940s-50s journals of science and technology.

There you can find the Korean reading room. The Korean librarian is Ms. Natalia and she speaks Korean very well.



Having tea time in the Russian archive could be mesmerizing.



As you can see, the Chinese reading room is huge and well air-conditioned. You can also work here.


6. Et cetera

Photocopying is conducted by the staff and costs you some rubles depending on the publishing date, size and overall condition of the material.

1831-1900: 25 RUB per sheet

1901-41: 15 RUB per sheet

1942-present: 7 RUB per sheet

There is a buffet in the basement of the main building. As you enter entrance no.1, go straight and tap your reader card to the reader machine. You will be issued with a slip (this is important because you will need to present it with your reader number as well as surname on it in order to get out of the library) as you repeat the process before the main stairs. Then turn left and follow the mark (столовая/буфет) to the basement level. Personally, I prefer the Lenin Library canteen to the food court in NARA II.


Also, to our surprise, readers can use free wifi in the main buildings. Unfortunately, I did not check out the wifi availability in CEL.


You can put a hold on your working materials. Return the materials to the general office and say you want to hold them. The general office will hold your materials for as long as two weeks unless you show up (the materials are to be returned after fourteen days) and store the materials indefinitely as you put a hold onward.

If you have any concerns, comments, issues and questions, please email me to: dhwoo1234[at]gmail[dot]com

Author: Donghyun Woo

В Лос-Анжелес

One thought on “Accessing NK materials in the Lenin Library”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s