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BosNewsLife (01/21/06) – The Hungarian Reformed Church on Saturday, January 21, anticipated the return of priceless books that Soviet troops took away from Hungary at the end of World War II.

Russia’s State Duma, the parliament’s lower house, adopted a law late Friday, January 20, authorizing the return of the rare book collection to the Reformed Church’s ‘Sarospatak Calvinist College Library’ in northeastern Hungary, about 250 kilometers (156 miles) from Budapest.

The bill, which won the support of 345 lawmakers, must now be approved by the Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament, and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. He is expected to visit Hungary next month to discuss the return of the books among other issues, and analysts say the legislation could be signed before his arrival.

If everything goes according to plan, Hungary will receive about 134 volumes, including 96 books in Latin, 33 in Hungarian and six in German. The collection also includes prayer books and volumes on medicine, law and history, the Hungarian News Agency MTI reported.

Last September an additional volume with a Sarospatak library seal was reportedly found in the Lenin Library in Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia , which has been added to the return list.

“However I fear that many books have been destroyed either on purpose, or because of the poor conditions in which they were held,” said journalist Agnes R. Bos, who reports from Budapest for the Russian services of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Radio France International (RFI) and BosNewsLife News Agency.

“Many books may also have been stolen,” added Bos, who is also an arts expert. Hungary ‘s insistence on the return of the Sarospatak Calvinist collection has long overshadowed bilateral relations with Russia following the collapse of Communism in 1989.

In November 1945, the books were taken away from the Hungarian Reformed Church by Soviet forces after they first freed and later occupied the country for decades.

Under Soviet-domination, many religious books were initially banned in Hungary , while Christian education was discouraged by the authorities.