Israel's president has joined Russia's foreign minister in Moscow to dedicate a new museum that explores the history of Jewish culture. The occasion marks a step forward in Israeli-Russian relations.
A formal inauguration ceremony took place in the new Jewish Museum for Tolerance in the Russian capital on Thursday, a day before its doors are to open to the public.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Israel's president, Shimon Peres, were among the first to tour the museum, which spans over 8,500 square meters. The many interactive exhibitions detailing Jewish culture and history in Russia evoked many memories, Peres said.
"This is a very moving moment for me, as my parents were born in Russia," said Peres. "There were many happy moments in our shared history despite the shadow of pogroms."
Putin sends greeting
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a written greeting by way of a spokesperson to the ceremony, in which he emphasized the importance of the Jewish Museum in intercultural understanding in Russia and in the battle against xenophobia.
"The museum shouldn't just portray Jewish culture, but also the history of Russia through the prism of its people," said Putin spokeswoman Olga Shurawlyova.
Russia's Jewish history was marred by centuries of social and political persecution by its majority Orthodox Christian population and pogroms against Jewish communities. In the 20th century, many of the Jewish community perished as a result of anti-semitic-driven violence and the systematic murder of Jews during both WWII and the Stalin era.
Roughly 0,5 percent of Russia's current population is Jewish.
The Jewish Museum of Tolerance is housed in a 1920's-era bus depot designed by the late Moscow architect Konstantin Melnikov. The Federation of Russian Jewish communities acquired the historic building in 2001.
The Jewish Museum of Tolerance is scheduled to open to the public on Friday.
kms/ipj (dpa, AP, AFP, epd)
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