01 July 2013, 11:28
Russian Culture Ministry files lawsuit against U.S. Congress Library over non-return of Schneerson library books (updated)
Moscow, July 1, Interfax - The Russian Ministry of Culture together with the Russian State Library are determined to have seven books from the Schneerson Library retuned by the Library of the U.S. Congress through arbitration.
"On July 1 the Ministry of Culture and the Russian State Library filed a motion at the Moscow Arbitration Court to bind the Library of the U.S. Congress to return seven books from the Schneerson library of the collection of the RSL center of Oriental literature received in 1994 for temporary use under the international library exchange system," a statement of the ministry press service says.
Agudas Chasidei Chabad nonprofit organization to which the Library of Congress lent the books is also party to the litigation.
The statement says that the ministry and RSL were forced to take the matter to court given the absence of any reaction from the Library of Congress to the RSL demand to return the books "having national significance."
The Schneerson Library is a collection of old Jewish books and manuscripts, put together by rabbis of the Chabad Jewish community in the late 18th century in Belarus IT is one of the Jewish religious relics.
Part of the collection amassed by Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, was nationalized by Bolsheviks in 1918 and ended up at the Russian State Library. The other part was taken out of the Soviet Union by Schneerson, who emigrated in the 1930s.
About 25,000 pages of manuscripts got into the hands of the Nazis, and were later seized by the Red Army and handed over to the Russian State Military Archive.
Lubavitchers (adherents of one of the Hasidic movements) have sought the restitution of the Schneerson collection since the late 1980s. According to some reports, at the time Russia's first president Boris Yeltsin promised to James Baker, Secretary of State in the George Bush Sr. administration, that the sacred documents would be returned to the Hasids.
On August 6, 2010, a federal judge in Washington, Royce Lamberth, ruled that the Hasids proved the legitimacy of their claims to the ancient Jewish books and manuscripts, which, in his definition, are kept at the Russian State Library and the Russian Military Archive illegally.
The Russian Foreign Ministry challenged the judgment.