Chabad's Historic Schneerson Collection of Writings Will Stay in Russia, Putin Vows

Returning Trove of Documents Would Open 'Pandora's Box'

Putin’s Tour: Russian President Vladimir Putin gets a tour of a new Jewish museum in Moscow.
getty images
Putin’s Tour: Russian President Vladimir Putin gets a tour of a new Jewish museum in Moscow.

By Reuters

Published February 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A disputed collection of Jewish writings will remain in Russia because returning it to a New York-based group would set a precedent paving the way for more such claims dating back to Soviet times, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

Dispute over the Jewish books and documents claimed by the Chabad-Lubavitch group adds to tensions between Moscow and Washington, which have seen ties deteriorate over human rights and security issues since Putin’s return to the Kremlin in May.

“The Schneerson Collection belongs to Russia,” Putin said in a grand new Jewish museum in Moscow, in referring to texts held in Russian libraries and archives, some of them confiscated by the Soviet Union from Nazi forces during World War Two.

A Washington judge in January ordered Russia to pay $50,000 a day in fines for failure to adhere to a 2010 ruling to return the collection, triggering angry reaction from Moscow, which called the decision “absolutely unlawful and provocative”.

“If we now open a Pandora’s box and start satisfying similar requests, there will be no end to these claims. Maybe one day we will be able to do this, but now we are absolutely not ready for this. This is impossible,” Putin said.

Moscow bristles at what it sees as attempts to lecture it from abroad, especially by its Cold War-era foe Washington, and Russians are proud of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.

The collection of Jewish texts has been the subject of a legal and diplomatic tug-of-war since before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Putin, a former KGB spy, said the texts could be put on display at the Jewish museum “as a gesture towards those people who really want to solve this problem and not use it as reason for emotions and confrontation”.

Late last year Hungarian Jews asked Russia to return scrolls and valuable religious items looted by Nazis and later by the Red Army in World War Two. At that time, Moscow did not comment on the claim backed by the Hungarian government.

Washington and Moscow recently have scrapped bilateral deals after Moscow was enraged by the U.S. Magnitsky Act, named for an anti-graft lawyer who died in a Russian prison, banning visas of Russians deemed rights violators.

Moscow retaliated with its own blacklist of U.S. officials. It also banned Americans from adopting Russian orphans and outlawed U.S.-funded NGOs that it said meddled in political activities.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.