Posted: April 04, 2003
The face of current anti-Semitism in Russia has been changing: On the one hand, state officials no longer dare to come forth with anti-Semitic statements. On the other hand, there appeared an officially registered political party whose platform is openly anti-Semitic. State-sponsored anti-Semitism is not relevant for contemporary Russia, but grass-roots anti-Semitism still remains a very significant problem and has become an integral part of life in Russian society. The following is an overview prepared by ADL's Moscow Office.
There were approximately the same number of serious anti-Semitic incidents in Russia in 2002 as reported in 2001. However, incidents in 2002 were more violent than in the previous year, in some cases mimicking the methods used by terrorist organizations. The most frightening example of this phenomenon was the spate of "booby-trapped" anti-Semitic signs.
In 2002, at least nine cases of vandalism of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries; more than seventeen attacks against Jews and premises owned or rented by Jews, including those of Jewish organizations, cultural centers, etc. were reported. In each of these cases, police recorded the incidents and opened investigations, but only in two cases were perpetrators found. However, as is typical in Russia, the perpetrators of these acts were charged with hooliganism, with the anti-Semitic component of the attacks ignored by police and prosecutors, despite the fact that Russia has strong hate crimes laws in effect.
In the cases of the booby-trapped signs, anti-Semitic posters appeared along Russian highways or streets. In a number of cases, when motorists stopped to remove the offensive signs, an explosive device attached to the sign exploded. In other cases, harmless wires were attached to signs, to give the appearance of an explosive device. In the summer of 2000, at least three people were injured in such incidents. There were 15 such incidents in total.
The first such explosion occurred on May, 27th on the Kiev highway near Moscow. Twenty-eight year-old Tatiana Sapunova, driving back to Moscow from her dacha, noticed a sign with the inscription "Death to the Kikes" posted along the highway. She stopped her car and tried to remove the sign, setting off an explosion and inflicting serious injuries and burns on her face. In June and July, seven such signs were discovered on the roads and streets throughout Russia. One more fake device was found on October 28, on highway near Sergiyev-Possad, outside Moscow.
Politics and Government
On September 2002, the Justice Ministry registered a new political party - the National Great Power Party of Russia (NDPR), whose leaders have inveighed against "the common enemy, the Yid." The Justice Ministry scrutinized the NDPR and found no legal reason to deny its registration. At the same time, the NDPR and its official registration have been under attack in the news media, as statements by NDPR leaders are blatantly anti-Semitic and xenophobic (NDPR's co-chairman, Boris Mironov, was ousted from his government post of press minister in 1994 after making statements such as, "If Russian nationalism is fascism, then I am a fascist."; the party's senior executive Viktor Korchagin - who is also director of the Vityaz publishing house, which has produced several editions of Hitler's Mein Kampf - has been repeatedly prosecuted for "kindling nationalist discord"). Some experts argue the ministry had no choice but to register the party, saying that the "the law should be the same for everyone".
With its registration by the Russian Justice Ministry, the NDPR, became the first openly extremist party to be granted state registration, which allows for participation in regional and national elections, under the new law on political parties adopted last year.
The registration caused an uproar in the Russian media, especially after the broadcast of an excerpt from a video of the NDPR's inaugural congress held in February this year, in which one leader called for the fight against "the common enemy - the Yid." The party's official Web site includes the epigraph, "It must become the law of life in Russia - not an ounce of power to Yids."
The Ministry of Justice responded to queries by the media saying the registration documents were in accordance with the current law. Now that the party has been registered, the ministry promised to check its activities and close it down should it violate any laws or regulations. However, in an interview published in Moskovskie Novosti on December 10, Boris Mironov felt free to acknowledge that he dislikes Jews, a feeling he justified with a rhetorical question: "What Russian person can like them after what they did to Russia?" He rejected the slogan "Russia for ethnic Russians," because it sets Russians and other "native peoples" such as Tatars and Buryats against each other. He defined "non-native peoples" as groups represented by foreign states, such as Israel, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Mironov advocated stripping "non-native peoples" of the right to vote, even if they were born in Russia and their ancestors lived in Russia for centuries, on the grounds that they are "genetically disloyal."
Some fear that the NDPR might run for parliamentary elections this year or try to merge with other parties. So far, the nationalist vote has been absorbed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party and, to some extent, by the Communists (the leader of Communist, Gennady Zyuganov recently told one of radical-nationalists newspapers about the "unsolved Jewish question"). Both parties are now represented in the Duma.
Anti-Semitic themes - often unchallenged by local authorities - have figured in most of the high-profile local election campaigns in the last few months. Last summer in Dzerzhinsk (Nigniy Novgorod region) Vladimir Brikker faced a tide of anti-Semitic propaganda in the final week of a tight race for mayor. This example is not an isolated case.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 2003 and there is a strong probability that the nationalistic and anti-Semitic propaganda will be used in the electoral campaigns of some candidates.
There also appeared to be a new boldness among extremist leaders. While speeches by these figures about the number of Jews in different government structures or Jewish conspiracy theories are nothing new in Russia, in 2002 some extremists began calling for action such as exiling Jews from Russia, or stripping them of the right to vote.
As in past years, there are a large number of radical-nationalist newspapers distributed throughout Russia. There are at least 90 outlets where strong xenophobic or national-radical messages were published in 2002. But in comparison with previous years, there is some positive action being taken by law enforcement in countering anti-Semitic propaganda. In 2002, some radical outlets, such as Russkiy Hosyain, were closed by the Ministry of the Press, and some were charged with violating Article 282 of Criminal Code (inciting ethnic hatred). There were seventy -one Article 282 cases passed to the courts and 32 people were sentenced. These numbers include all types of ethnic hatred, not only anti-Semitism. In contrast, in 1999 the number of cases passed to the courts was 4.
While there have been positive improvements in the prosecution of those propagating hate material, there are many cases in which law enforcement and the courts fail to act. The most famous such example, "Pensioner Boris Stambler vs editor Korchagin" has been going on for more than a year. Boris Stambler - a Jewish, World War II veteran - has for several years tried to have charges brought against Mr. Korchagin, whose Rusich publishing house has distributed volume after volume of illegal anti-Semitic literature with titles like "The Jewish Occupation of Russia" being a typical example. However, time after time, Moscow prosecutors refused to bring charges against Mr. Korchagin, arguing that "experts" had determined that his writings did not incite hatred against Jews.
On April 5, 2002, the Moscow City Prosecutor's Office opened a criminal case against Korchagin. However, the case was dropped six months later due to lack of evidence. In July 2002, the Ministry of the Press ordered that his newspaper Russkie Vedomosti be closed for inciting ethnic hatred. However, the Zamoskvoretsky district court, seemingly not taking the Ministry's action seriously, ruled that the Moscow city Prosecutor's Office was correct to close the case. On November 10, 2002, the Zamoskvoretsky Court declined the war veteran's appeal, in which he asked that another criminal case be opened against Korchagin. Mr. Stambler appealed again.
In December the Moscow City Court upheld the appeal filed by Mr. Stambler. As a result, the Moscow City Court has cancelled the ruling of the Zamoskvoretsky Court and has ordered a new trial of the case. "I am very happy about this ruling and see it as a personal victory," Stambler said.
Another such case is being led by the Ulyanovsk Jewish Community, against an editor of a local extremist newspaper. On April 24, 2002, Seryubin Sergey, the editor of the provincial state newspaper Provoslavny Simbirsk (Christian orthodox Simbirsk), ran a number of articles, which reveal the "human-hatred, racist and anti-Russian essence of Judaism". To commemorate the anniversary of the glorification of the holy martyr Gabriel Belostokskiy, who they allege was "killed by kikes", the editor published excerpts from "Monk Neofit's" book about the practice of ritual murders of Christian babies by the Jews. Excerpts from the book of Snetkov, The Last Hero, with a description of the scene of "ritual murder of a Christian boy by the Jews" was also published. While similar articles had appeared in previous issues of Provoslavny Simbirsk the Jewish community and local authorities only took action this year.
The local prosecutor's office opened the criminal case under Article 282 (inciting ethnic hatred) in the middle of June, 2002 and the case was passed to the court. In the months leading up to the court hearing, the investigator received letters from across Russia expressing sympathy with Serubin, and appealing to the investigators' conscience, warning that the "kike`s yoke" is everywhere. On January 4 and 8, 2003 the preliminary hearings were held in District Leninskiy Court. The court has ordered a new investigation of the case.
Another trend among extremist groups is the move to organized mass actions. In most cases, local authorities have not intervened in the convening of these demonstrations.
On January 26, about 70 activists of the National Great Power Party of Russia (NDPR) picketed the Moscow building of World Congress of Russian Jewry. This action was directed against the WCRJ's plans to protest the party's official registration. "We don't like non-Russians to teach us how to live and what to do," declared the co-leader of NDPR, Stanislav Terehov.
On February 8, the party held another protest in the center of Moscow in support of the people of Iraq and against "USA aggression and international Zionism." The well-known co-leaders of the NDPR, Mironov and Terehov, and Korchagin, the director of a fascist publishing house led the demonstration. They held placards reading: "Russia for Russians", "Death to the Zionism", "Kikes get out!" Mironov called on Russians not to vote "for Kikes" in the coming elections.
ADL Moscow Office