19 February 2013, 19:06

Schneerson Library cannot be handed over to the US - Putin

Schneerson Library cannot be handed over to the US - Putin

The Schneerson Library cannot be handed over to the United States, said President Vladimir Putin. But it could be displayed at the European Tolerance Center in Moscow and made accessible to all, he said.

"Unfortunately, I can only say that the discussion of this issue has reached a point of confrontation, which, in my opinion, is due to the illegal decisions made in another country," Putin said on Tuesday at a meeting of the Ethnic Relations Council.

Putin said that the library was put together in Russia in the 19th century and part of it was nationalized shortly after the October Revolution. This is an important part of the problem, he said.

"If we agree that this national asset goes to anyone, we will open Pandora's Box," the Russian president said.

Almost 100 years have passed since the library was nationalized, he said. If Russia starts granting such lawsuits, "claims will start streaming in," he said.

"No one can predict how far they may go. We are absolutely not prepared for this. It is impossible," Putin said.

Another part of the library was brought to Russia as a trophy, the president said.

Putin added that he would like to propose a solution "that would benefit people drawn to these cultural values in the first place."

"We are at the Jewish Tolerance Center now. We could give this idea a thinking. I am prepared to formulate an instruction to the government and culture ministry to display this library at the Russian Jewish Tolerance Center," Putin said.

"All who are interested could be given full access to this library," he said.

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.

Voice of Russia, Interfax

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