Russia maintains freeze on US art shows

AFP 20 January 2011

MOSCOW - RUSSIA said on Thursday it would not send any new art exhibitions to the United States until the two sides had settled a dispute over the return of a Jewish library to New York.

A US judge ruled in August that the Russian government must return an archive that once belonged to a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi but was seized by Soviet troops in Nazi Germany. The vast library is being claimed by a Hasidic group in New York but the Russian government insists that it is a part of its state archive.

Russian Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev told Moscow Echo radio that Moscow imposed its US exhibition restriction in August and that the order remains in place. 'We stopped sending exhibitions to the United States in August (because) one American organisation made a completely illegitimate claim on this collection of books,' Mr Avdeyev told the radio station.

Russia had no intention of ceding the library 'which has never left Russian territory ... because we have our own believers who respect these books no less' than do Jews in the United States, he added.

Moscow feared that the US authorities might seize Russian exhibitions and hold them, in breach of international law, he said. The library was state property and 'the state is not subject to jurisdiction under international law,' Mr Avdeyev said.

The collection is known in Russia as the Schneersohn Library in honor of its original owner Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, who had no heirs when he left Russia a decade after the imposition of the Soviet state. -- AFP
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