Earlier, a number of prominent Russian museums, including the Tretyakov Gallery and the Hermitage, had to give up the idea of taking part in US exhibitions.
All this began with the US court decision made in 2010 that Russia must return the Chabad collection of Jewish religious books. A year later, the US court went even further by allowing the claimants, the Chabad movement, to remove the collection from Russia.
These decisions are absolutely groundless. Russia has repeatedly stressed that the collection consisting of 12,000 books and 50,000 rare documents has never left Russia. As the books have never belonged to American Hasids, they cannot be ‘returned’ to the US, the Russian Foreign Ministry says. However, the US judicial system remains deaf to reasonable arguments and elementary judicial rules. Expert of the law firm The Dialogue of the Law Dmitry Pozorov says:
“No court in the US has the right to make decisions about Russian property. If property is located on Russian territory, plaintiffs ought to go to a Russian court and not to a court in Washington or London. No one can be guided by the US court decision about the Schneersohn library.”
Mikhail Shvidkoy, Russian president’s special representative on cultural cooperation, believes that the verdict of the US court lies outside the sphere of international law.
“The collection has never left Russia, so it is wrong to use any legal regulations in this case except Russian ones. There are no reasons to believe that the library belongs to one particular Hasidic community in the US. Russia also has Hasids and Jewish religious centres, so they should have priority in claiming the library. This conflict interferes with cultural cooperation between Russia and other countries. We should find an acceptable solution. Russia rejects the arrest of the collection as an option.”
Announcer: Blackmail and threats of property arrest are a tested expedient of economic and political pressure on Russia. Suffice it to remember the scandalous case of the Swiss Noga company which repeatedly tried to arrest Russian ships, military aircraft and works of art under far-fetched pretexts. The story with the Schneersohn library is a similar case. Nevertheless, politicians and experts believe that this ridiculous situation should be somehow sorted out. The best way to achieve a result is to come to a special inter-governmental agreement. At present, it is not clear if this is possible and when it could be done. This means that Russia will have to prepare for new claims on its property on the part of the US and other countries with which the US has agreements on supporting court decisions. Naturally, the Schneersohn library will remain with its rightful owner, Russia, but cultural links will sadly be damaged.