Fire ravages large academic library in Moscow

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Firefighters in front of the partially destroyed building.
Image: Sergey Leschina.

A fire Friday night and Saturday morning caused major damage to the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow, Russia. It is among the nation's largest academic libraries.

The fire began at 10p.m. local time on the third floor, damaging much of one wing. Russian Academy of Sciences boss Vladimir Fortov called it "a great loss to science". He said around 15% of the library's 14.2 million books and other documents are likely damaged.

Russia Today said 147 personnel battled the blaze with 38 vehicles. The emergency ministry puts the number of firefighters at over 200. The blaze left no injuries and was contained by around midnight.

A close-up of the damaged roof as firefighting work continues
Image: Sergey Leschina.

Thought to have escaped the fire are the library's collection of rare and ancient Slavic manuscripts. Other documents housed include Russia's largest repository of articles from the United Nations and UNESCO in particular, and UN precursor the League of Nations. Large numbers of other documents in old and modern languages from across Asia and Europe are on-site, as are reports from national legislatures. Parliamentary documents held include Italian documents from 1897, US documents from 1789, and UK documents from 1803.

Founded in 1918 and boasting 49,000 readers served by 330 staff, the library has lost around 2,000 square metres. The roof has partially collapsed. Arson has been ruled out with an official telling Ria Novosti an electrical fault is considered likely.