MOSCOW, February 23 (Itar-Tass) – Displaying the Schneerson Library at Moscow’s Jewish Center and the Center of Tolerance would make it a truly common asset, Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to this effect.
“The idea of making the library open to the general public at the Jewish Museum (one of the biggest in the world, if not the biggest) would be tantamount to making it a truly common asset,” Medinsky said on Friday.
“The most important thing is the president extended a hand towards resolving the problem of the Schneerson Library,” Medinsky said. “He did that although he regards as utterly unacceptable the decisions made in the United States regarding that library. It is a gesture addressed to those people who wish the problem to be settled, and not used as a pretext for fanning tensions and confrontation.”
“Putin’s idea is to remove the question of the Schneerson Library’s future from the confrontational dimension,” Medinsky said. “After all the problem of the library is not a problem of relations between Russia and the United States, but a problem of relations between Russia and the Jewish community registered in US territory.”
But, first of all, Medinsky believes, the Schneerson Library is an asset of the Russian state.
“Attempts to raise the question of getting back museum values that were nationalized after the 1917 revolution or those brought to the Russian museums after World War II may open Pandora’s Box,” Medinsky explained. “Potentially they pave the way for similar lawsuits not only against Russia, but also against British and American museum collections.”
Medinsky pointed to the fact that the Schneerson Library did not belong to one specific Jewish community.
“It belongs to Russia’s Jewish community, too, the more so since it was created and formed in Russian territory,” Medinsky said. “The library’s manuscripts are equally valuable to Chassidic Jews around the world.”
The Jewish religious organization Agudas Chasidei Chabad has dismissed the Russian president’s idea of taking the Schneerson Library to Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance. It argues that bringing the collection to the organization’s head office in Brooklyn would be the sole acceptable solution.
In August 2010 a US judge ruled that Agudas Chasidei Chabad had proved its right to own the collection of books and manuscripts, commonly known as the Schneerson Library. The judge said the books were kept at the Russian State Library and the Russian Military Archive illegally. Last January a court in Washington considered that organization’s lawsuit to declare that the Russian government should pay a daily fine of 50,000 dollars to the Chabad Lubavtich movement until the return of the Schneerson Library.
Putin on February 19 said the Schneerson Library was Russia’s asset and called for a joint solution, not a confrontation. He suggested the library be taken to the Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance.