Introduction
Background Conditions
Growing Anti-Semitism in Russia
Russian Jewish Community
Conclusion


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The Reemergence of Political
Anti-Semitism in Russia
Growing Anti-Semitism in Russia

Amidst these difficult circumstances there has developed an increased sense of insecurity among Russian Jews, who in recent months have confronted strident anti-Semitic rhetoric in the political arena on both the national and local levels and a number of highly public acts of anti-Semitic violence.


Political Anti-Semitism National Level

On the national level, the case of Communist Party General Albert Makashov is particularly striking. As a member of the Duma, the lower house of Parliament, General Makashov has become infamous worldwide for his anti-Semitic outbursts blaming Jews for the country's economic problems, and advocating the establishment of a quota on the
[Communist Party General Albert Makashov] angrily shouted "I will round up all the Yids and send them to the next world!"
number of Jews allowed in Russia. He has also publicly supported the reinstatement of the Pale of Settlement, territory in which Jews were restricted to live during the 19th century.

Other outrageous pronouncements by General Makashov include an editorial by him in the Russian newspaper Zavtra, printed in October 1998, which stated that a "Yid," a derogatory term used in Russia to mean Jew, is "a bloodsucker feeding on the misfortunes of other people. They drink the blood of the indigenous peoples of the state; they are destroying industry and agriculture." He caused the greatest splash later in October when he led two fiery rallies, in Moscow and Samara, commemorating the 81st anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which were repeatedly shown on Russian television. At these rallies Makashov angrily shouted "I will round up all the Yids and send them to the next world!"

The Duma has failed to explicitly censure General Makashov for his anti-Semitic remarks, and in particular for his comments calling for death to Jews. In November 1998, the Communist members blocked two different motions to censure the retired General, which had been put forward by the opposition Yabloko party. Rather, the Parliament adopted a vaguely worded resolution, condemning ethnic hatred, with no reference to Jews, anti-Semitism or General Makashov. The Communist party has also failed to condemn General Makashov or to discipline him. Instead, the General has found a number of vocal supporters within his party and among Russia's many nationalists.

In reaction to General Makashov's October comments and the Duma's failure to censure him, President Yeltsin requested a statement from Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov regarding his party's position on anti-Semitism. Mr. Zyuganov's response reiterated the accusations made by the most anti-Semitic members of his party. In the form of a letter to the Ministry of Justice and the National Security Chief, Zyuganov's response contained harsh anti-Semitic references reminiscent of the old Soviet era and served only to heighten concerns about anti-Semitism in Russia.

The letter stated open opposition to Zionists, contending that Zionism is among the "most aggressive imperialist circles striving for world domination. In this respect it is related to fascism," and further asserted that, "Communists...rightly ask how it can be that key positions in a number of economic sectors were seized by representatives of one ethnic group. They see how control over most of the electronic media -- which are waging a destructive campaign against our fatherland and its morality, language, culture and beliefs -- is concentrated in the hands of those same individuals." To many, Mr. Zyuganov's remarks came as no surprise, as he has long been known to use anti-Semitism for political gain.

In January 1999, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) dropped charges against a number of Russian extremists, including General Makashov, after determining that their incitement did not constitute criminal activity. However, in late January, Russian
...the head of the Duma's Security Committee and Communist party member, Victor Ilyukhin, asserted at a parliamentary session that Jews were committing genocide against the Russian people.
prosecutors launched a separate criminal case against General Makashov, seeking to convict him of inciting ethnic hatred, an offense under Russian criminal code.

At the same time, many believe that General Makashov's anti-Semitic activity has permitted other nationalists to feel free to unleash their own anti-Semitism. Indeed, some nationalist factions sharing the parliamentary majority have become increasingly willing to use anti-Semitism as a political strategy. In December, the head of the Duma's Security Committee and Communist party member, Victor Ilyukhin, asserted at a parliamentary session that Jews were committing genocide against the Russian people. He complained that there are too many Jews in President Yeltsin's inner circle and called for ethnic quotas in government posts to remedy the situation. In support of Ilyukhin's anti-Semitic comments, Russia's Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov stated that ethnic Russians should have a special status in Russia. "The Russian idea [anti-Semitism] is being voiced. And it should be voiced in a country where the majority of the population is Russian."

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Local Level
[Nikolai Kondratenko, Governor of the southern Russian region of Krasnodar] blames Jews for the political and economic problems plaguing Russia.

Krasnodar: On the local level the most outstanding case of political anti-Semitism is that of Nikolai Kondratenko, Governor of the southern Russian region of Krasnodar. For the past two years, residents of Krasnodar have been bombarded with his anti-Semitic rhetoric on television, at youth forums, and at mass rallies where he regularly charges Zionists with brutal oppression of ethnic Russians, and blames Jews for the political and economic problems plaguing Russia. "Today we warn that dirty cosmopolitan brotherhood: You belong in Israel or America," Kondratenko said at a Russian Victory Day rally in March 1997.

More recently, in March 1998 at a youth congress in Krasnodar he addressed his audience with a two-hour speech dedicated to the "Jewish Question." Elected on a platform of Russian patriotism, since becoming Governor, Kondratenko has transformed this position into one of ultranationalism, declaring that ethnic Russians are the only ethnic group which belongs in the region.
St. Petersburg Times reported anti-Semitic graffiti that read, "Bash Yids; Save Russia,"...
Kondratenko recently won reelection in Krasnodar which will keep him in power until the year 2000.

St. Petersburg: In November 1998, the election campaign for the local legislature in St. Petersburg was loaded with anti-Semitic undertones, from anti-Semitic newspaper and television appeals to defaced campaign posters and leaflets disparaging Jewish candidates. The St. Petersburg Times reported anti-Semitic graffiti that read, "Bash Yids; Save Russia," smeared across the wall of the campaign headquarters of a Jewish candidate, Victor Krivulin. In response, the city's residents overwhelmingly elected liberal candidates for city council in the December run-off election. But the anti-Semitic flare-ups that characterized the campaign shocked many who had viewed the city's population as generally well-educated.

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Popular Anti-Semitism

Numerous incidents of popular or "street" anti-Semitism also took place in 1998, as they have for the past several years. It is important to note that there is no evidence of an increase in physical attacks against Jews from past years. However, these attacks, in conjunction with the mood of political anti-Semitism throughout the country, have made the Jewish community feel particularly vulnerable. Among such incidents have been the May bombing of the Marina Roscha Synagogue in Moscow;
For many years, ultranationalists and anti-Semites have found a place within Russia. Neo-Nazis and skinheads have been spreading anti-Semitic propaganda and committing violence against Jews.
the beatings of two rabbis; a number of neo-Nazi marches in central Moscow, and the desecration of several Jewish cemeteries around the country.

For many years, ultranationalists and anti-Semites have found a place within Russia. Neo-Nazis and skinheads have been spreading anti-Semitic propaganda and committing violence against Jews. Currently, some 80 nationalist political parties and organizations exist in Russia, three of which have adopted neo-Nazi symbols, ideology and behavior. These parties disseminate copies of more than 150 different extremist periodicals, many including neo-Nazi literature, to the Russian-speaking population throughout the former Soviet Union.

For example, the virulently anti-Semitic extremist group, Russian National Unity, is a paramilitary group registered in 25 Russian regions. It is thought to have at least 6,000 active members and up to 50,000 non-active members and has a presence in some of Russia's ruling bodies. At the same time, the skinhead movement in Russia, which first appeared in the mid-1990s, already claimed 10,000 members by 1997. In July 1998, the Russian Government proposed a ban on Nazi symbols and literature, but the legislation is still awaiting approval from the Russian Parliament. Locally, however, the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri
...Russian Government and the Russian Orthodox Church conducted an investigation into the killing of the Czar and his family, which included a probe into whether they perished in a "ritual murder" perpetrated by a Jewish conspiracy.
Luzhkov, a contender in the 2000 presidential race, prohibited the National Unity from holding its convention in Moscow in December 1998.

A leader of Russian National Unity, Igor Semyonov, was sentenced in 1998 to two years in prison for inciting hatred toward Jews and people from the Caucasus Mountains. At the trial, a local Communist leader denied the massacre of over 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar in 1941 and a Russian Orthodox Priest testified that according to the Talmud, Jews "kill children, gather blood" and use it to make matzah. Although the judge sentenced Semyonov, no objection was made to the anti-Semitic testimonies used at the trial.

In June 1998, the Russian Government ordered the reburial of Czar Nicholas II and his family in St. Petersburg. During the preceding months, the Russian Government and the Russian Orthodox Church conducted an investigation into the killing of the Czar and his family, which included a probe into whether they perished in a "ritual murder" perpetrated by a Jewish conspiracy. The Church also published this xenophobic assertion in a final report on the death of Czar Nicholas II.

In December 1998, residents of a number of apartment buildings in the Kuban region of Krasnodar found leaflets circulated by a local fascist group in their mailboxes with the message, "Help save your dear, flourishing Kuban from the damned Jews-Yids! Smash their apartments, set their homes on fire! They have no place on Kuban territory.... Anyone hiding the damned Yids will be marked for destruction the same way. The Yids will be destroyed. Victory will be ours!" The leaflets also called on voters to support Governor Kondratenko, known for his anti-Semitism, for president. However, citizens reacted by immediately reporting the leaflets to local authorities as an incident of anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, also in December, residents of the city of Novosibirsk in Siberia found their mailboxes stuffed with anti-Semitic messages blaming Jews for the nation's economic hardships. This took place after a spurt of racial graffiti around the city and the distribution of hundreds of stickers with the slogan, "Jews are Rubbish."

At the same time, local education officials in Krasnodar recommended that an anti-Semitic book be used as a high school history textbook. "The Secret History of Russia in the 20th Century," was published with public funds, and contains anti-Semitic myths about the negative influence of Jews in Russia since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

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Russian Reaction

Whatever these troubled economic and political times suggest for Russia's future,
...in June 1998, President Yeltsin warned for the first time of an increasing threat to Russia by the active neo-Nazi movement.
during the past year the Yeltsin administration has made various efforts to work against the nationalist and extremist forces in their nation. In an historic address to the nation on the occasion of the 57th anniversary of Nazi Germany's invasion of Russia in June 1998, President Yeltsin warned for the first time of an increasing threat to Russia by the active neo-Nazi movement. In addition, throughout the year he and other senior members of his government have condemned a number of manifestations of anti-Semitism in Russia.

In July 1998 the President again spoke out against neo-Nazism by criticizing his Justice Minister for allowing extremist and ultranationalist groups to receive official certification in Russia. He said that the Russian Constitution prohibits registration of such groups. In September he attended an historic ceremony for the opening of the Holocaust Memorial and Synagogue in Moscow and called for a moment of silence for those who perished in the Holocaust, while Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov presented an 18th-century Torah scroll to the synagogue.

In November 1998, following the Duma debate on General Makashov's anti-Semitic remarks which ended in a failure to condemn the General, President Yeltsin issued a public statement against extremism and ethnic hatred. His top security and defense officials also
"The Duma is supposed to represent the nation. Instead it seems to be condoning Makashov and his open anti-Semitism."
-- Duma member Iosif Kobzon
met at that time with the President's Chief of Staff to discuss the growing threat of anti-Semitism and extremism in Russia.

Furthermore, a number of Jewish and liberal lawmakers have been outspoken in expressing their outrage at the new trend in political anti-Semitism ahead of the upcoming elections. Following the Duma's failure to censure General Makashov, Duma member Iosif Kobzon asked his legislative colleagues to shield him and other Jewish lawmakers from such nationalist supporters. He said, "The Duma is supposed to represent the nation. Instead it seems to be condoning Makashov and his open anti-Semitism." As Makashov supporters rallied outside the parliament building shouting anti-Semitic slogans, some Jewish and liberal lawmakers responded by walking out on the Duma session.

One particularly ardent advocate of human rights, who frequently spoke out against anti-Semitism in Russia was Galina Staravoitova, a member of the Duma and adviser to President Yeltsin on nationality issues. In November, Ms. Staravoitova was assassinated, startling Russia and human rights activists worldwide. She was one of the leading voices of democracy in Russia and a true friend to the Jewish community. In fact, shortly before her death, she aggressively spoke out against General Makashov's rhetoric and criticized her colleagues for their failure to censure him. While there is no evidence that her murder was an act of anti-Semitism, it indeed underscores the political chaos and rampant,
The independent poll taken in October in Moscow by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion revealed that a majority of Russians agree that anyone insulting the national dignity of the Jews should be prosecuted with all the severity of the law and that it is necessary to guarantee that Jews continue to enjoy equal rights in access to institutions of higher learning.
unchecked corruption raging through Russia today. During her funeral in St. Petersburg, the nationalist, anti-Semitic group The Black Hundreds marched in front of the Parliament in Moscow in support of General Makashov.

A recent poll sheds light on the popular Russian reaction towards the trend of political anti-Semitism. The independent poll taken in October in Moscow by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion revealed that a majority of Russians agree that anyone insulting the national dignity of the Jews should be prosecuted with all the severity of the law and that it is necessary to guarantee that Jews continue to enjoy equal rights in access to institutions of higher learning. At the same time, however, the poll demonstrated that of 1,509 respondents, 52 percent would respond negatively to Jewish social-political organizations and parties operating in Russia, while 34 percent believe records should be kept of Jews holding leading positions in Russia, and that quotas should be kept on such numbers.

Next: Russian Jewish Community


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