The National Library of Belarus – Minsk’s Futuristic Book Depository

The National Library of Belarus

photography by: Omri Westmark

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There is probably no other building more synonymous with Belarus than the country’s national library, located at the outskirts of Minsk. With an otherworldly design and an incalculable number of books, the diamond-shaped edifice serves not only as a source of inspiration for the residents of the Belarusian capital, but for the whole nation.

It is so often the case where a national library is imbued with sheer grandiosity, serving as a showcase for an entire country. To say that previous sentence applies to the National Library of Belarus (Национальная библиотека Беларуси) would be an understatement. Nestled in the northeastern tip of Minsk, the ostentatiously massive edifice is not only by far the largest library in Belarus, but as it turns out, it is also home to the world’s third largest number of Russian books.


Founded in 1922, the national library formerly resided in several locations across the Belarussian capital, including an eye-catching constructivist-style building. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the subsequent rise to power of Belarus’ infamous autocrat, Alexander Lukashenko, the plan to erect a brand-new national library building officially took off around the early 1990’s.


It took nearly a decade to collect enough funds for this flashy project. Perhaps one of the least expected sources of finance was a generous donation of half a million USD by the then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In 2006, four years after the construction works began, the new library was inaugurated by the Belarussian president who aptly received the reader’s card number 1.


Designed by architects Viktor Kramarenko and Mihail Vinogradov, the building features a shape of a rhombicuboctahedron, a polyhedron with 6 square, 12 rectangular and 8 triangular faces. Somewhat akin to a large-scale diamond, the 73-meter-tall library is home to a whopping 10 million printed materials, sound recordings and electronic publications. As even the most talented librarians are nowhere near capable of handling zillions of books, an automated “Telelift” system uses monorails to transport items across the depository.


With a mind-boggling size of 421,600 cubic meters, the library has enough room to accommodate more than 2,000 readers at once. Even visitors who aren’t enthusiasts of Belarussian literature can still enjoy exploring the building. In fact, the 23rd floor has an open-air viewing platform, glutted with sweeping views of Minsk as well as the nearby verdant countryside.


A short distance away from the Maskoŭskaja metro station, the monumental library sits within a series of large parks, beautifully pierced by the Slyapyanskaya waterway, a mesmerizing attraction by its own right.

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