Russia’s Culture Ministry and the Russian State Library have sued the Library of U.S. Congress hoping to return seven books from the Schneerson Collection, the ministry’s press service told Itar-Tass on Monday.
“On July 1, 2013, Russia’s Culture Ministry and the Russian State Library filed a suit to Moscow’s Court of Arbitration obliging the Library of Congress to return seven books from the collection of rare Jewish books and manuscripts (the Schneerson Library). The latter got these books from the Russian State Library’s Centre of Oriental Literature for temporary use under the international interlibrary loan system,” the Culture Ministry said in its statement faxed to Itar-Tass.
The ministry had to address to the court, as the Library of Congress did not return these books of national importance.
“There was no reaction from the Library of Congress in reply to the Russian State Library’s request to return these books,” the statement read. “As the Library of Congress handed these books over for temporary use to the U.S. non-profit organization Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the latter is also engaged in the trial.”
The library was founded in the early 20th century by Lubavitcher Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson on the basis of the collection put together since 1772. It now holds 12,000 books and 50,000 rare documents, including 381 manuscripts.
During World War I, Schneerson moved to Rostov-on-Don and sent a part of his library to Moscow for safekeeping. This part was nationalized and stored at the Russian State Library.
In 2005 the Jewish religious organization Agudas Chasidei Chabad addressed the Russian president with a request to help in returning the Schneerson Collection from the Russian State Library to it.
In August 2010, a U.S. court passed a verdict in favour of Agudas Chasidei Chabad but the Russian foreign ministry did not recognize this verdict and demanded that Chabad give back seven books from the Schneerson collection. In January 2013, Washington’s court handed down a verdict in the lawsuit filed by Agudas Chasidei Chabad, which requires the Russian government to pay a fine of 50,000 U.S. dollars daily to the Lubavitch movement until the Schneerson Collection is returned to it. Moscow refused to do so saying this verdict was unjust.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the U.S. court’s decision as “outrageous and having nothing common with justice.”