Confronting the Resurgence of Anti-Semitism FORMER SOVIET UNION: RIGHT-WING NATIONALISM

By Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, April 1, 1992 | Go to article overview

Confronting the Resurgence of Anti-Semitism FORMER SOVIET UNION: RIGHT-WING NATIONALISM


Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


`DOWN with Judaic Fascism!" "Yeltsin is a friend of the Jews!"

Such slogans, hand-lettered on signboards and painted on banners, are common fare these days at Moscow demonstrations by communist and Russian nationalist opponents of the Russian government.

The placards are one of a multitude of public expressions of anti-Semitism which have become so common in Russia as to barely draw comment. Yuri Semenovsky, a member of the board of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, gestures to a pile of newspapers which regularly carry attacks on Jews.

"Anti-Semitism here has become the language of the right-wing nationalist movement," says Mr. Semenovsky. Researchers monitoring this movement say almost 100 publications - from the tiny sheets of extremist groups to mass circulation journals such as the monthly Molodaya Gvardia - carry articles assailing Jews.

Anti-Jewish jokes are a constant in a political humor column of the weekly Dyen (Day), flagship of the so-called Russian patriotic movement. In an interview in Dyen's March 15 issue, Dmitri Vasiliyev, leader of the neo-fascist Pamyat organization, articulated the view that "communism and Nazism ... stem from Judaism, the only religion in the world which utilizes such notions as the 'chosen people' and 'racial preeminence.' "

Nor are such sentiments confined to the printed word. Early March 20, the door of the Kiev apartment of Ukrainian-Jewish poet Abram Katsnelson was splashed with gasoline and set on fire, reports Kiev Radio Liberty reporter Davi Arkadyev. On the wall a sign was painted: "Kikes! Israel waits for you." Other incidents, he says, include a bomb planted at the Kiev synagogue last December.

The reemergence of anti-Semitism some 50 years after the Holocaust is one consequence of the collapse of communism. Resulting social and economic chaos has encouraged old traditions of blaming Jews for troubled times.

And the shattering of communist beliefs has left an ideological vacuum into which extremist views are rushing. Anti-Semitism has resurfaced even in countries such as Poland, where a tiny Jewish community of about 4,000 remains of what was once the largest Jewish population in Europe (3.3 million in 1939).

But anti-Semitism appears to reach its greatest public expression in the former Soviet Union, where the Jewish community is the third largest in the world after the United States and Israel. Mr. Semenovsky says it now numbers 1.5 million, plus several million more of partial Jewish ancestry or who have hidden their identity. Some two-thirds of Soviet Jews live in Russia and 20 percent in Ukraine, he estimates.

After Mikhail Gorbachev lifted controls on Jewish emigration, a huge outflow headed to Israel, the US, and elsewhere. The rate has slowed because of economic difficulties in Israel, but activists here say the desire to leave is undiminished.

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