Friday, January 13, 2012

Russian Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev: U.S. claims to Schneerson library provocative

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 what is now Belarus. Part of the collection amassed by Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson (Lubavitchers are adherents of one of the Hasidic movements), 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. Added to the collection were about 25,000 pages of manuscripts which had got into the hands of the Nazis. These were later seized by the Red Army and handed over to the Russian State Military Archive. Since the 1980s, the US Chabad Jewish community have sought the rendering of the part of the Schneerson collection held abroad to them. Amazingly, on August 6, 2010, a federal judge in Washington, Royce Lamberth, ruled that the Hasids had proven 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" (eh?). He ordered Russia to "return" (sic) them to the American group. The Russian Foreign Ministry [has] challenged the judgment.

Russian Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev has said that the manuscripts held in the Russian state archives are today part of the country's unalienable property and a reflection of the diverse and multicultural history of the region. "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 on Friday. He accuses the U.S. plaintiffs of aiming to spoil the bilateral relations between the two countries. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle has assured Russian officials that the 2010 U.S. court ruling will not lead to a seizure of Russian cultural property loaned to the United States for exhibition.

Interfax, 'U.S. claims to Schneerson library provocative - Avdeyev, Moscow, January 13 2012.

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