In a decision likely to prolong a Russian ban on lending art to American museums, a federal judge on Thursday ordered Russia to pay a fine of $43.7 million for refusing to return a collection of Jewish books and documents to the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch group.
The dispute, long a source of diplomatic tension between the United States and Russia, centers on a collection of 12,000 books and 50,000 religious documents known as the Schneerson Library. The material was amassed by the Chabad movement in the two centuries before World War II, and kept since then in Russia.
For years, the Chabad organization, which is now based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has been trying to regain possession of the library from Russia, arguing that Soviet authorities held it illegally after the war.
In response, the Kremlin in 2011 barred state-run museums, including the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, from lending works to American museums, saying it fears they could be seized as part of the court case. American officials have said that such art seizures are forbidden by law and Chabad has forsworn any such effort, but the prohibition on lending remains in place.