The legal wrangling is over the Schneerson Library, a group of books and manuscripts gathered by Hasidic Jews in the 19th century living in what would eventually become communist Russia. The documents eventually passed from their curators, the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic Jews who lived in what is now Belarus, to the communist government.
The Russians loaned seven books from the collection to the U.S. Library of Congress for 60 days in 1994. The books were then said to be loaned for an indeterminate amount of time and have never been returned, the Russian government said.
Now, RIA Novosti reported, the Russian government wants to put the books on display at a Jewish heritage museum being built in Moscow, and filed suit in a Russian arbitration court Monday to seek their return.
U.S. officials and the Chabad-Lubavitch movement contend the books should be returned to their original Jewish owners who now reside in the United States. A U.S. judge recently acted on an American lawsuit, fining the Russian government $50,000 a day for refusing to turn over the rest of the Schneerson Library.