U.S. claims to Schneerson library provocative - Avdeyev

Interfax 13 January 2012

Moscow, January 13, Interfax - Russian Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev has said that the Schneerson library, to which a U.S. religious organization has claimed title, is Russia's unalienable property.

"The library forms part of the Russian library reserve and is inalienable. The history of its claiming by U.S. plaintiffs appears to us provocative," Avdeyev told a press conference at the Interfax head office on Friday.

The request by U.S. plaintiffs "aims to spoil the bilateral relations between our countries and to undermine the political reset," the culture minister said.

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 - IF) 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 holy documents will 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.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle has assured Russian officials that the U.S. court ruling will not lead to a seizure of Russian cultural values, taken out to the United States for an exhibition.
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