Russia Moves to Return Rare Books to Austria

MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) – The upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, on Wednesday ratified an intergovernmental agreement with Austria to return a collection of rare books that was brought to the Soviet Union by the Red Army in 1945.

Russia is home to a thousand printed books that date from the 15th to the 18th century and are part of a book collection assembled by the influential Esterhazy family of Austrian nobility. The collection includes books on theology, astronomy, history, philosophy, medicine, natural sciences, arts, law, linguistics in Latin, Ancient Greek, Aramaic, Biblical Hebrew and other languages.

The Esterhazy book collection also includes 11 incunabula – a term denoting books printed before the year 1501 but after the printing press was invented in 1450. Only 500,000 incunabula are known to exist in the world.

In 2011 the Russian government allocated 13 million rubles (about $419,000) to make digital copies of 309 most precious editions from the Esterhazy collection.

Russian Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Ivliyev said the agreement with Austria, signed in September 2012, was based on reciprocity. A number of cultural valuables have already been returned to Russia under the deal.

“Austria is ready to further assist Russia in the search for stolen cultural valuables and their return to Russia,” the deputy minister said.

The agreement is yet to be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.


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