2013-02-25 10:02:00

Schneerson Library display at Jewish center will depoliticize problem - Medinsky

Moscow, February 25, Interfax - President Vladimir Putin's idea to display the Schneerson Library at the Jewish Tolerance Center in Moscow will remove the discussion about the library's future from the confrontational context, said Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky.

"Putin's initiative aims to remove the issue from the confrontational context. The problem does not lie in relations between Russia and then United States. It lies in relations between Russia and a Jewish community registered in the United States," he told Interfax.

This library is the Russian state's asset, he said.

"Attempts to revisit the problem of returning valuables that were nationalized after the 1917 Revolution or found themselves in Russian museums after World War II would be tantamount to opening Pandora's Box," Medinsky said.

"They potentially open the door on similar lawsuits, not only in Russia," he said.

President Vladimir Putin told the Presidential Council for Ethnic Relations on Tuesday that the Schneerson Library cannot be returned to the United States but could be displayed at the Jewish Tolerance Center in Moscow.

The Schneerson Library is a collection of old Jewish books and manuscripts built by Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson in the Russian Empire at the end of the 19th century. Part of the collection was nationalized by Bolsheviks in 1918 and eventually joined the Russian State Library collection. Schneerson managed to take the other part of the collection out of the Soviet Union while emigrating in the 1930s. About 25,000 pages of manuscripts from the collection were later seized by the Nazis, then were regained by the Red Army and handed over to the Russian State Military Archive.

Chabad-Lubavitch has been seeking the Schneerson collection's handover since the end of the 1980s.

Reports posted on January 17, 2013, said a federal court in Washington had ordered a daily fine of $50,000 for Russia's failure to transfer the Schneerson Collection to the Chabad-Lubavitch religious community. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed indignation at the court order.