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!
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • 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.