69. The Lost Library of Moscow

30 Mar

The Lost Russian Library

Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. During the mid 15th Century the Ottoman empire is approaching from the east, flattening all in its paths, now it prepares to launch an attack on the city. The sultan rushed to save the most valuable treasures which were kept in the city.

Sophia Palaeologa, the Sultan’s niece, was hastily married to the young Ivan III (Ivan the Great) who would soon become the ruler of Russia. She and her entourage left the city and made it to Moscow via Rome. With her she carried the treasures of Byzantine, amongst the treasures were the treasures of  Constantinople’s library.

This was no ordinary library, and it may have been the greatest library outside the Vatican at that time. Records chronicled hundreds of carts, laden with the rarest and most jewel-encrusted tomes. Hailing from all corners of the globe, written in Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Latin and Egyptian.

After her safe arrival things started happening back at home; the Ottoman Empire finally broke down the walls and entered in, pillaging and ransacking some of the most beautiful sites in existence. This ‘purging’ cleansed the city of Constantinople and it was renamed Istanbul.

However more interesting things were afoot in Russia, the library was then, and is now, of incalculable value. The Vatican, and the rest of Rome offered to purchase the collection in its entirety but such was its value that Ivan III kept it, however fearing a backlash from Rome he had a secret location constructed, known as the ‘vaults of Liberia'(Liberia comes from the Greek word liber, meaning book. It has nothing to do with Liberia.)

These vaults were located beneath Moscow but the locations were kept hidden. All was good, the library was safe and secure. The Ivan III died, and Ivan IV , later to become known as Ivan the Terrible, entered the scene. At first he was a great ruler, expanding Russia and the like. Then he became unbalanced. He extended the phenomenally large tunnel network beneath the Kremlin to include execution and torture chambers to punish the torture chambers. His secret police eventually killed great swathes of the upper class ‘Boyurs.’ Also killing off everyone else who knew of the library’s location.

So it was just him. He never had a chance to pass the knowledge on. During a chess game he suddenly keeled over and died of a heart attack, and with those last heart palpitations dies the last knowledge of the libraries locations.

There are an unknown number of tunnels beneath the Kremlin, the network is so vast that no-one can even produce a real estimate of the size of the network. During the many privately led and government funded initiatives to search for the library there has been no success. so to this day, billions of Dollars of artifacts and antiquities lie beneath the surface of Moscow, just waiting for someone to find them.


Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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6 responses to “69. The Lost Library of Moscow

  1. littlemuddy

    January 24, 2015 at 14:38

    Any books would have likely crumbled into dust. Even with constant care, palimpsest of Archimedes and other palimpsests are about 1,000 years old. They also greatly tended to be at least in dry Mediterranean climes, if not on Mt. Sinai (Archimedes). Point is, unless in a bog, like the , then you are out of luck even if the site of Ivan’s library is discovered intact. All you would likely find in a musty, unventilated hole beneath ground is a decayed splotch of mud and a few fragments.

    • littlemuddy

      January 24, 2015 at 14:58

      Speaking of the Archimedes Palimpsest, it was bought by a French antiquities dealer and resold to a French collector. In the damp climate, above ground mind you in storage, it still decayed to its present sorry state. Only after about a hundred years it was in really poor condition, but still fetched two million dollars in a 1998 auction.

      The original writing was a third or so recopy (and written over, which was essential to its survival). There would be books read aloud to a room of scribbling scribes in Roman times, an ancient equivalent of a printing press.

  2. Inessa

    March 1, 2014 at 21:25

    I may have some information on this topic, since I was born and spent my childhood in Moscow (at that time it was Sverchkov pereulok,8 (between Pokrovka and Maroseyka), and we were told that under the oldest (of 3) our buildings was found(?) the Ivan’s III library.

  3. cris

    January 16, 2014 at 12:34

    The ruler of Constantinople was not a Sultan (that was the honorific title of the Ottoman head of state, the conquerors) but the last Emperor (Constantine XI) of the Byzantine empire

  4. Anonymous

    March 28, 2013 at 19:56

    hhahahhahahahha ummmmm , dont help for nothin’ playeer !


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