The Lost Liberia - Ivan the Terrible Library
The Lost Liberia - Ivan the Terrible Library

Mysterious Liberation, the book depository of the Moscow sovereigns, which went down in history as the library of Ivan the Terrible, has long haunted treasure hunters and lovers of secrets. Serious articles and popular detective stories are devoted to her; she was searched for 5, 10 and 70 years ago in the Kremlin, Zamoskvorechye, Aleksandrova Sloboda, Kolomenskoye, Vologda. Does it really exist? …

Ancient manuscripts and copies of famous parchments appeared in Moscow at the very beginning of its rise as a gift from Greek hierarchs - spiritual mentors of Moscow princes. But the main part of the library, according to legend, went to Ivan III - the grandfather of Ivan the Terrible.

This story began more than 5 centuries ago, in Rome. More precisely - in the Vatican. It was from here that the future wife of Tsar Ivan III, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine, Sophia Paleologue, went to "unkind Russia". According to legend, by right of birth she inherited a unique library, one of the best in the world at that time! It was her as a dowry that she carried to Moscow on 70 carts.


Having married a noble Greek woman in 1472, the Grand Duke of Moscow received as a dowry a large part of the Constantinople library, saved from the Turks during the Eastern Roman Empire. The collection consisted of handwritten books in Hebrew, Latin and Ancient Greek, some of which were kept in the Library of Alexandria.

The close boyar of Ivan the Terrible, Prince Kurbsky, after fleeing to Lithuania, wrote accusatory letters to the tsar, in which, in particular, he reproached him for “reading Plato, Cicero and Aristotle poorly”. Let's say it's bad, but after all, I read it, it is possible that in the original source! In addition, Ivan the Terrible also collected books. He replenished the library with books of the Kazan Khan - ancient Muslim manuscripts and works of Arab scholars who in the early Middle Ages advanced on the path of knowledge further than Europeans.

The first foreigner who saw this treasure was Maxim the Greek, a learned monk from Athos. “Nowhere in Greece is there such a collection of manuscripts,” he wrote. He was instructed to translate all this literature into Russian, and he honestly worked out his bread for about 9 years, but, falling out of favor, he was accused of heresy and wandered around monasteries and dungeons until the end of his days.

Then the Baltic German Niestedt told about Libereya, in fact, who came up with this name. In his words, Pastor John Vetterman and several other Livonian captives who knew Russian and ancient languages ​​were treated kindly by Ivan the Terrible, allowed “to the body” and were instructed to translate some old books stored in the cellars of the Kremlin. Apparently, there were so many of them that scientists would have enough work with them for the rest of their lives!


The Germans, who were not attracted by the prospect of dying in a cold and "uncivilized" Moscow, citing their ignorance, refused to work. However, the cunning Wetterman immediately realized what kind of treasure was in front of him, and decided to bargain with the king. He stated that "he would willingly give all his property for just a few of these books, if only to transport them to European universities."

Taking advantage of the opportunity, Wetterman managed to escape from Russian captivity. When he was free, the first thing he did was to compile a list of the manuscripts he had seen in Moscow. This original catalog was discovered only in 1822 in the archives of the Estonian city of Pärnu. In total, the "ignorant" adherent of university education has memorized as many as 800 (!) Titles of ancient folios.These were "History" by Titus Livy, "Aeneid" by Virgil, "Comedy" by Aristophanes, the works of Cicero and now completely unknown authors - Bethias, Heliotrope, Zamolei …

Rumors about the treasures of the Kremlin reached the Vatican. Ivan the Terrible by that time was no longer alive. In 1600, the Belarusian chancellor and military leader Lev Sapega came to Moscow. In his retinue was a certain Greek Arkudy, who began to carefully question the Muscovites about the "books from Constantinople." The Muscovites did not need to chat with Belarusian Uniates, because Belarus was then part of the Polish Commonwealth, and relations between the Slavic brothers left much to be desired - the Time of Troubles began.

The library was safely hidden in the dungeons, most likely for fire safety reasons. The huge wooden capital often burned. From penny candles, not extinguished in the church by lazy ministers, entire districts, and sometimes the entire city, burned out every year. In addition, from year to year, more and more nosy foreigners appeared in Moscow, who could simply steal rare and expensive books.

It is possible that the books were hidden, guided by internal political considerations. Since the XVI century. The Orthodox Church in Russia was no longer united - one after another, more and more new sects arose, some of them showed interest in ancient literature. Here are the books and hid away from sin.


Back then it was possible to hide books anywhere. Today the belly of Moscow is literally dotted with all kinds of tunnels - metro, communications, water supply, sewerage, but even at that time there were not much less passages and bunkers. In any large medieval city there were not only powerful fortress walls, but also underground passages to them, secret wells in case of a siege, tunnels extending far beyond these walls. The first undergrounds in Moscow were dug in the 13th century, when the first water pipe in the city made of oak trunks was brought into the princes' chambers.

The Kremlin was built by cunning Italians. Connoisseurs of fortification, they dug auditory passages so that it was possible to determine where the enemy was digging a tunnel, dug holes outside the Kremlin so that Russian soldiers could raid behind enemy lines, created a complex system of underground wells and arsenals, drainage systems and collectors, storage chambers jewelry and food, underground prisons for the enemies of the sovereign. The depth of this medieval "underground" in some places was 18 meters.

In which of these branched secret passages the chamber with the books was located is unknown. Apparently, only Ivan the Terrible himself knew the detailed plan of the location of the Moscow dungeons, but he died and did not tell anyone about it.

Library search history

Konon Osipov, the sexton of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Presnya, was the first to enter the Kremlin underground in order to search for it through excavations. in 1682 by order of Princess Sophia Alekseevna to the underground Kremlin.

For what business Sophia sent there the clerk of the Big Treasury Vasily Makariev, the sexton did not know. However, he knew that he had gone through an underground passage from Taynitskaya to Sobakina (Arsenalnaya) tower through the entire Kremlin. On the way, the clerk met two chambers to the very arches, filled with chests which he could see through the latticed window of the locked door. Sofya Alekseevna asked the clerk not to go to that cache until the sovereign's decree.


Found by Konon Osipov, the entrance to the underground gallery from the Tainitskaya tower was covered with earth. Attempts to clear it from the ground with the help of dedicated soldiers caused new collapses. And the request "to let the boards under the ground (to install the support) so that the earth does not fall asleep on people" remained unsatisfied, so the hope of finding those chambers with mysterious chests had to be postponed.

In December 1724 Osipov made another attempt to get to the gallery, this time from the side of the Sobakina Tower. On the new "report" of the sexton who got from the Commission of Fiscal Affairs to the Senate, and then to the emperor, by the hand of Peter I it is inscribed

“To testify perfectly.” The Moscow vice-governor was obliged to obey and assigned a team of prisoners for this, however, assigning an architect to it, whose task was to monitor the underground work.

Due to the difficulties that arose in connection with the construction of the "Tseikhgaizny Dvor" building, the foundation of which stood in the way of excavations, the rise in the level of groundwater and the architect's fears about the collapse of the walls, the work was stopped.

Apollinary Vasnetsov

Failures could not stop the stubborn sexton. Unable to get into the gallery through the once existed entrances, Konon Osipov tried to enter it from above. The trenches laid in several places at once: at the Taynitsky Gate, in the Taynitsky Garden near Rentareya, behind the Archangel Cathedral and at the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, also did not produce results. Stone cellars were found only behind the Archangel Cathedral.

"Sexton Osipov was looking for luggage in the Kremlin, the city," secretary Semyon Molchanov reported to the Senate, "and on his instructions from the Provincial Chancellery, ditches were dug up by recruits … and there was a lot of that work, but only did not find any luggage."

In 1894, the excavation of the cache was organized by the director of the Armory, Prince NS Shcherbatov, with the support of the Moscow governor-general, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. The work carried out from May to September in the area of ​​the Nikolskaya, Troitskaya, Borovitskaya and Vodovzvodnaya towers, which lasted six months, were suspended indefinitely due to the death of Alexander III and the coronation of Nicholas II.

After a lapse of time, there was no money in the treasury to renew them. Work on the survey of underground structures proceeded extremely slowly, since all the passages were filled with earth and clay. Nevertheless, as a result of the excavations, it was possible to collect interesting information about the arrangement of the Kremlin's military caches.


In the journal "Archaeological Research and Notes" Nikolai Sergeevich published two reports on the results of these works. In 1913, Shcherbatov turned to the "Russian Military Historical Society" with a proposal to continue work on the study of the Kremlin dungeons, but this initiative did not go further than public greetings.

Later, when the dispute about the existence of the mysterious library of Moscow sovereigns from the scientific sphere moved to wide circles of the public, a variety of versions were expressed both in favor of its existence and against it.

Among the most active skeptics who prove that there was no library in Moscow and could not be S.A. Belokurov. In his book "On the Library of Moscow Tsars in the 16th Century," the author tried to prove that the assumption of the library's existence is a myth.

Russia at that time, according to Belokurov, had not yet matured to understand the value of ancient Greek and Latin books. If some books plundered by the Poles during the Time of Troubles were kept in the tsar's "treasury", then among them there could not be works of secular classical writers.

Such scientists as N.P. Likhachev, A.I. Sobolevsky and I.E. Zabelin. I must say that I.E. Zabelin, who believed in the existence of a library in the Kremlin dungeons, resolutely spoke out in the sense that the liberey died in the 16th century and most likely burned down in a fire in 1571. As for the testimony of clerk Makariev, then, according to Zabelin's assumption, we are talking about the so-called "royal archive".

Archeologist and speleologist Ignatiy Yakovlevich Stelletsky became one of the most passionate researchers who devoted most of his life to searching for the legendary library located in the Kremlin's cache and arranged by Aristotle Fioravanti.


Long years of excavations carried out during the difficult time of the Stalinist terror allowed the scientist to explore many underground passages on the territory of the Kremlin, Kitay-gorod, Novodevichy Convent, Sukharev Tower, etc. Stelletsky's reports read at the Archaeological Congress, meetings of the "Old Moscow" commission, numerous articles of the scientist constantly drew public attention to underground antiquities.

Despite the obstacles of the Kremlin commandant's office and constant glance at the NKVD officers who closely followed his activities, he still managed to find and explore a part of the underground gallery which was used by the clerk Vasily Makariev. In 1945, Ignatiy Yakovlevich began work on the documentary history of the library of Ivan the Terrible, dreaming of writing a book about underground Moscow. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

A new surge of public interest in the problems of finding a library occurred in 1962 during the Khrushchev Thaw, when, with the support of Izvestia editor-in-chief AI Adzhubei, individual chapters from Stelletsky's unpublished book were published in the Nedelya newspaper.

The publications that caused a stream of readers' letters contributed to the creation of a public commission for the search for the library, chaired by Academician M.N. Tikhomirov. According to the results of the commission's work, archival research, the study of the topography of the Kremlin, and archaeological excavations were envisaged. However, after L.I. Brezhnev and the death in 1965 of M.N. Tikhomirov, the country's leadership refused to support the work of the commission and the Kremlin again became out of reach.

M.I. Slukhovsky, who published in his monographs a number of curious sketches giving, in some cases, a slightly different interpretation of this problem. Articles by V.N. Osokin, who revived interest in the problem of finding a library.


In practice, the situation was more prosaic. Representatives of the authorities and other "competent" bodies treated the problem in a completely different way.”.

Builders and tunnellers who stumbled upon unknown galleries laid in the thickness of the earth were also in no hurry to report such finds, fearing that archaeological research would stop urgent work and "disrupt the plan."

During the times that followed Gorbachev's "perestroika", the situation in our country, again, did little to contribute to scientific research. Therefore, the maximum length of the Moscow undergrounds, as well as their possible isolation in a single chain due to the scarcity of written references, as well as the episodic nature and brevity of archaeological research today still remains unknown.

German Sterligov is one of those who tried to find a library in the 90s.

German Sterligov, businessman, public figure:


German Sterligov:


Sergey Devyatov, Doctor of Historical Sciences, official representative of the FSO:

The experience of researching most of the underground structures of the 15th-17th centuries shows that penetration into them is extremely difficult. Unfortunately, the lack of funds for the development of science and culture does not currently imply the resumption of serious searches for the library associated with large financial costs. For the same reason, apparently there is no possibility to use the latest technical advances, such as geophysical exploration.

Perhaps in the future, when archaeological research in the capital and in other cities, with which the search for the library is associated, finally becomes real, this problem will be solved. As for the other "hiding places", they also require a more attentive attitude towards themselves.After all, the study of the nature of these buildings allows you to obtain more complete information about the history of the medieval city, since the dungeons are the same monuments of history and architecture as well as ground buildings. Their construction and use reflects a certain stage in the development of our city.

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