February 13, 1925 specifically for the preparation and publication of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (GSE) in accordance with the provisions of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) and the CEC of the USSR was established Joint Stock Company "State Scientific Publishing House "The Soviet Encyclopedia" (now "The Great Russian Encyclopedia").
The very idea of publishing the Encyclopedia first appeared in the State Publishing House in 1923, on the initiative of Academician Otto Schmidt. By the beginning of 1924 the initiative group, which also included M. N. Pokrovsky, N. L. Meshcheryakov, V. Ya. Brusov, V. F. Kagan, K. S. Kuzminskii and others, had done a considerable work of defining the plan and the type of publication. According to the decision of the Politburo on the issue of Encyclopedia of April 17, 1924 O. Schmidt was appointed its editor in chief. Prominent scientific and public figures of Russia, such as A. N. Kolomogorov, P. I. Lebedev-Polyansky, I. E. Grabar, V. A. Obruchev, V. V. Kuibyshev, A. V. Lunacharskii, K. E. Voroshilov, F. A. Rothstein, G. M. Krzyzanowski, etc., were involved in writing articles, scientific management and editing from the very beginning.
All fundamental decisions relating to work on the Encyclopedia, from the definition of policies on its content to the organization of printing quality, had always been taken at the highest state and party level.
The first edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia was issued in the years 1926-1947 with circulation of 50 000 - 80 000 copies. It consisted of 65 volumes and an additional volume - the USSR. Thematic structure of the 1st edition of the Encyclopedia met the requirements of the time: in the content prevailed the articles on economics, contemporary politics and Soviet practice. Each volume of the Encyclopedia contained color maps, illustrations (partly in color) on separate sheets. In addition to loose leaves, widely used in the text were graphics and maps. Most of these illustrations were performed by famous artists.
Simultaneously with the first edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia were published two editions of the Small Soviet Encyclopedia, as well as the Technical Encyclopedia (26 volumes, 1927-1936) and The Great Medical Encyclopedia (35 volumes, 1928-1936).
The second edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia was released in 1949-1957. Its editor in chief was the president of the USSR Academy of Sciences S. I. Vavilov, and after his death in 1951 - Academician B. A. Vvedensky. The edition was published in 50 volumes. In 1958 was issued an additional 51st volume, and in 1960 a detailed alphabetical index to the edition was released. A significant number of encyclopedia articles were accompanied with recommendatory bibliography, in most cases, in the original language. The second edition of the Encyclopedia was produced for mass circulation of 270 000 - 300 000 copies.
The third edition of the Encyclopedia, edited by Academician A. M. Prokhorov, was published in 1969-1978. It consisted of 30 volumes (the 24th volume included two books, the second one entirely devoted to the USSR). Circulation of the final volumes reached 600 000 copies. In the third edition, much attention was paid to the philosophical problems of natural sciences, physical and chemical sciences, and mathematical methods in various branches of knowledge.