Putin Wears “Happy Smile” to Return Ancient Books to Jewish Group

Posted on June 19, 2013



This is Putin’s self-described “happy smile.”

There has been a long-running US-based legal conflict between Russian and the Jewish Chabad-Lubvitch movement, based in Brooklyn, over a collection of books. The group’s leader was permitted to leave the Soviet Union in 1927 but his books ended up in the hands of the Russian government in the process. The Jewish group filed and won a US court case which ordered Russia to return the collection, and face a daily fine of $50,000 for failure to do so.

Russian president Putin has now returned the first 500 of the 4,500 books, making the following remarks:

“You know, I thought about something just now. The decision to nationalise this library was made by the first Soviet government, whose composition was 80% to 85% Jewish… Thankfully, those ideological goggles and faulty ideological perceptions collapsed. And today, we are essentially returning these books to the Jewish community with a happy smile.”

The fight over the ownership of these books has frozen loans between American and Russian museums. The rest of the books are slated to be moved to a newly established Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow by the end of the year. Whether these governmental actions will end the conflict with the Brooklyn Chabad and the stalemate with American museums remains to be seen.

Read more at the Art Newspaper: Putin hands over contested books to Moscow’s Jewish Museum