MOSCOW, February 14 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said on Wednesday he strongly opposed handing over a collection of Jewish religious texts to a US religious group.
The Schneerson Library is a collection of books and religious documents assembled by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. It was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Later, about 25,000 pages of manuscripts fell into the hands of the Nazis, and were later seized by the Red Army and handed over to the Russian State Military Archive. The remaining part was taken out of the Soviet Union by Schneerson, who emigrated in the 1930s.
“You know our stance on the Schneerson Library… we should never toe the line on this issue, because the return of the Schneerson collection will open the Pandora box as far as nationalized valuables and looted art are concerned,” Medinsky said.
A US court imposed a $50,000 a day fine on Russia last week for failing to comply with an earlier order to hand over religious texts from the Schneerson collection to the Chabad-Lubavitch group, a Hasidic movement within Orthodox Judaism. The group is based in Brooklyn, New York.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hit back in kind on Wednesday and threatened legal action to return books he said Moscow had loaned the group. He also called the US court’s decision “outrageous” and said it had no basis in law.