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Russian state exhibits to US on hold for next few years — culture envoy

September 16, 2015, 16:04 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The reasons are the disputed Schneerson Library collection and the YUKOS case
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© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Bobylev

MOSCOW, September 16. /TASS/. In the coming few years, American nationals may be deprived of an opportunity to see state exhibits from Russia over the disputed Schneerson Library collection and the YUKOS case, Russian president’s envoy for international cultural cooperation, Mikhail Shvydkoi, told a news conference on Wednesday.

"It is obvious that we won’t be able to organize any inter-museum state exhibitions with Americans. That is why, we are trying to find some options in which Russian art could be presented in the US by private collectors," he said.

Russian-American museum exchange stopped completely following the dispute over the so-called Schneerson Library collection. In late July 2011, the US court ordered return of about 12,000 books and 50 rare documents from the Schneerson collection, started by Rabbi Joseph Schneerson in the Russian city of Lyubavichi. Part of the collection was nationalized by Soviet Russia as there were no legal heirs in the Schneerson family.

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, an Orthodox Jewish movement headquarted in New York, seeks the handover of the Schneerson collection, as collected by the early rabbinic leaders of Chabad.

"We believed from the very beginning that the American court could not decide on the property of the Russian Federation that has never left Russia, the Schneerson Library. We see this lawsuit as insignificant," Shvydkoi said.

"Nevertheless the collision is in the judge’s passing the verdict despite a recommendation of the Department of State which said this decision would damage relations between the United States and Russia," he continued. The court disregarded it, passing the verdict that Russia was to pay a fine of about 43 million dollars, he continued.

"This does not mean that they will end the process if we pay. It is supposed that after the fine is paid, the Schneerson Library must be returned," Shvydkoi explained. He said the decision of the American court created major problems, especially for Russian assets that were not protected by legal immunity.

"As for cultural values and exchanges, we are now engaged in negotiations with our partners, and insist that when major exhibitions are held, it should be fixed apart from legal guarantees that there could be no claims on Russian cultural values," he said. He said Russia insisted on fixing the Yukos case that is not connected with cultural exhibits.

In July 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said Russia should pay almost $50 billion to companies affiliated with former shareholders of YUKOS. Russia responded with a categorical disagreement.

Several days earlier, bailiffs in Belgium and France were trying to use the Russian property for satisfying the claim from Yukos Universal Limited.

Following this, Russia’s Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky feared some Western countries could try arresting Russian cultural objects in their countries.

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