Political Anti-Semitism in Post-Soviet Russia: Actors and Ideas in 1991-2003

Article excerpt

Political Anti-Semitism in Post-Soviet Russia: Actors and Ideas in 1991-2003, Vyacheslav Likhachev. Ed. and trans. from Russian by Eugene Veklerov. Stuttgart, Germany: ibidem-Verlag, 2006. Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society Series. Andreas Umland, ed. 230 pp. [euro]24.90 paper.

"It is a tragedy that a nation that fought so valiantly to defeat Nazi fascism now sees the emergence of neo-fascist groups among its own citizens," said former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow in a speech he delivered in Moscow in March 2004. According to recent polls, 72 percent of Russia's population of approximately 143 million people believe that nothing prevents its Jews from living in Russia in peace and harmony. (There are about 500,000 Jews in Russia, few of whom observe religious laws, belong to a temple, or give their children a Jewish upbringing.) However, a recent opinion poll in Moscow indicated that 21 percent of respondents thought that the activities of Nazi groups should not be curtailed. Anti-Semitism, which has plagued the world for centuries, has deep roots in the history of Russia and its people. Indeed, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic, tsarist book, which was established as a hoax in 1921 and is still widely circulated in Muslim countries as evidence supporting the Jews' desire for world domination through secret control of the media and manipulation of the money supply, was written by a Russian from Orel, Sergey Nilus, in 1902. And the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), unlike the Roman Catholic Church and most Protestant churches, has never accepted responsibility for its anti-Semitism during the Holocaust nor repudiated its main traditional charge that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ.

Political Anti-Semitism in Post-Soviet Russia shows that anti-Semitism is alive and well in contemporary Russia, in general, and in its political life, in particular. The book is based on research conducted by the author between 2000 and 2002. Because of the rapidly changing political life in post-Soviet Russia, the book is topical now, but could become dated over time.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part is devoted to an analysis of anti-Semitism in the context of the political parties in the contemporary Russian Federation. Two elements of this issue are discussed: first, moderate anti-Semitism found in the parties of the political mainstream, and second, the anti-Semitism found in marginal groups in the extreme Right, including the ultra-nationalist and religious fundamentalist groups, along with the attitude of the state toward both. For purposes of understanding this portion of the book, the Abbreviations summary and the Glossary of Organizations' Russian Names added to the front of the book by its editor, Dr. Eugene Veklerov, along with his informative footnotes, are invaluable. The author makes the important point that Russia's predicted slide into a fascist state fortunately did not occur.

The second part of the book is devoted to anti-Semitic propaganda. The anti-Semitic press and its financial resources are discussed in detail. For example, publications may be deliberately overpriced, resulting in a profit after selling the first issue, and the profits are then used to increase the circulation and size of the publication. Or, volunteers may perform the technical production jobs in cheap basements or private apartments and then distribute the publications. The author also analyzes the structure and content of anti-Semitic propaganda in periodicals and newspapers and the authorities' successful efforts to shut down many of the publications.

In the third part of the book, the author provides a description of the social, conspiratorial, religious, and racial aspects of anti-Semitism. He then analyzes the function of anti-Semitism in the ROC and in Islam in contemporary Russia, including an examination of the Russian extreme right-wing movement as a "religious" movement. …