Organized Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Ukraine: Structure, Influence and Ideology*

By Rudling, Anders | Canadian Slavonic Papers, March 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Organized Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Ukraine: Structure, Influence and Ideology*


Rudling, Anders, Canadian Slavonic Papers


On August 28, 2005, a Jewish student in Kyiv was beaten and left for dead after leaving his synagogue to buy food. Thirty-two-year-old Mordechai Molozhanov was long in a coma, before being flown to Tel Aviv for brain surgery. At the time of writing, it is not clear whether he will survive. ' The small Jewish community in Ukraine has been struggling to raise public awareness on the sharp rise in anti-Semitic propaganda and violence in that country.2 Repeatedly, the Jewish community has called on the leaders of Ukraine to disassociate themselves from, and crack down on anti-Semitic3 propaganda. Until now, the response from the Ukrainian leadership has often been slow and half-hearted. "Manifestations of anti-Semitism worry the authorities no more than last year's snow," according to professor Oleksandr Naiman, who has specialized in antiSemitism in Ukraine.4 Anti-Semitism has been treated as if it is not a serious problems but rather a marginal phenomenon at the fringes of society. "There is no such problem as antisemitism or other manifestations of xenophobia in Ukraine," President Yushchenko stated on September 18, 2005, but added that he would "treat the problem of antisemitism attentively and responsibly."5

The aim here is to shed light on manifestations of contemporary antiSemitism in Ukraine. Contrary to claims often voiced by diaspora groups and the Ukrainian government, this paper argues that anti-Semitism is more widespread than officially acknowledged. Moreover, I argue that this is a growing problem,6 and that aggressive anti-Semites constitute a well-organized and influential lobby with connections and influences that reaches the very top of society. My approach has been to analyze a number of writers, representative of contemporary anti-Semitism in Ukraine and to give a general idea of the arguments they promote. I will also discuss the centrality of the well-funded and powerful organization to which many of them are connected. One aspect of this anti-Semitic victimization is that it denies almost all Ukrainian agency. If the reader is to believe the selection of anti-Semitic literature offered by the book dealers on Prospekt Svobody in L'viv and Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv, Ukrainians have never been anything but passive victims of Jewish evil. Ukrainian agency would be limited to a few outbursts of anti-Semitic violence under Khmel'nyts'kyi, the Black Hundreds and Petliura. From the perspective of the anti-Semites, Jewish domination of Ukraine began in the Middle Ages and have lasted until today. The Jews have ruled through "Jewish" tsars, JudeoCommunists, Judeo-Nazis and the current, "a-national" Jewish oligarchs and criminals, bent on destroying Ukraine and the Slavic world. The anti-Semites weave together an overall picture where Ukrainian history during the past one hundred years turns into something of a Dolchstoss legend: throughout the 20th century, Ukrainians have been stabbed in the back repeatedly by Jews and/or Zionists. The conclusion from this is that there was-and is-no Ukrainian agency whatsoever.

Given the subject of this article-anti-Semitism in Ukraine-it should be emphasized that the purpose of this paper is to shed light on an under-researched topic that deserves more scholarly attention. My goal is to focus on an aspect of territorial history, not to write a national one. Rather than a study of Ukrainians, it is a study of anti-Semitism among the people who share its territory. Needless to say, it is not my purpose to disgrace a culture, community, or ethnic group. One of the central themes in the anti-Semitic literature I have analyzed is the equating of communists, oligarchs, mass murderers and sexual predators with Jews. My intention is to avoid this form of argumentation. The anti-Semites, whose ideas are presented in this paper, are from Ukraine. This is not to say that Ukrainians are anti-Semites.

What makes this prevalent public anti-Semitism so remarkable is that there are hardly no Jews left in Ukraine. …

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