Russian Federation 2007
Although the main targets of racist violence in Russia are non-Slavic immigrants, two assaults on Jews were recorded in 2007, as well as
numerous desecrations of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials.
The year 2007 witnessed the complete integration of antisemitism into Russian
nationalist ideology. The Jewish blood libel was a strong motif in the rhetoric
and literature of antisemites. Law enforcement agencies were active prosecuting
not only perpetrators of antisemitic incidents but also those who incited them.
The Jewish Community
According to the 2002 census,
the Jewish population in Russia was 230,000, out of a total population of about
144 million; however, the number is probably higher since some Jews conceal
their ethnicity/religion. Most Jews live in the larger cities.
umbrella organizations in Russia are the Vaad of Russia (also known as the
Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities, FEOR, founded in 1992) and
the Russian Jewish Congress (REK, founded in 1996). Communal religious
organizations follow three trends: traditional Rabbinic Orthodoxy, Reform Judaism
and Lubavitch Hasidim (Chabad). There is also the Congress of Jewish Religious
Communities and Organizations of Russia (KEROOR, founded in 1993). In 2002 the
Federation of Jewish Communities and the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress
(established by the Vaad of Russia and the Russian Jewish Congress) founded the
World Congress of Russian Speaking Jewry.
are Jewish elementary schools, Sunday schools, a small network of pre-school
education, religious high schools (yeshiva) and pedagogic colleges. Most
schools are financed by the national budget and/or community organizations, the
Jewish Agency, ORT or international religious organizations.
institutions are the Russian-US Center for Bible and Jewish Studies attached to
the Russian State Humanitarian University, the Maimonides State Classical
Academy, the S. Dubnov Higher School (formerly, Jewish University in Moscow),
the Department for
Jewish Studies and Civilization at Moscow State University, the 21st Century
University, St. Petersburg Institute of Jewish Studies, and the Center for
Bible and Jewish Studies at St. Petersburg State University. Holocaust studies
are coordinated by the Holocaust Foundation, established in 1992. The Jewish
international youth organization Hillel has branches in several cities. Some of
the communities and organizations issue newspapers and operate Internet sites.
June 2007, for the first time in Russia, about 1000 high ranking police
officers participated at a seminar in Ufa organized by the Chief Rabbinate of Russia. The officers attended lectures on topics such as the history of the Jewish people
in general and the Jews of Russia in particular. The day ended with a decision to
institute collaboration between the police and the rabbinate, including a response
to antisemitic incidents.
Nationalist Party Politics
The year 2007 witnessed the complete integration of antisemitism
into Russian nationalist ideology. There were even several attempts to harness antisemitism
to more popular kinds of racism such as islamophobia and hatred of people from
the Caucasus. For example, the
article “Kosovo and the Great Islamic Revolution in Europe,” posted in mid-December
on several Russian nationalist websites (such as www.rustrana.ru (Russian
Civilization)), by Dmitrii Savin, chairman of the Chita branch of the Union of
the Russian Nation (SRN; the Black Hundreds), included classic motifs from The
Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Savin claimed that the Chechens and the Albans in Kosovo were tools of
“Jewish-Masonic behind-the-scenes manipulations,” which were preparing to
de-Christianize the world in order to establish their own worldwide empire.
On October 26, this same movement, which is headed by M. Nazarov and A. Turik,
published a call to both Russians and non-Russians to support nationalists
against "the mutual enemy," who is "trying to make us fight with
each other in order to weaken Russia, to grind us down and turn us all into
slaves of a global electronic concentration camp.”
Even speeches of nationalist
leaders who up till then had shown more restraint in their attitude toward Jews
were tainted with antisemitism in 2007. Aleksandr Potkin (Belov), leader of the
Movement against Illegal Immigration, for instance, made several allegations of
Jewish blood ritual and the “Jewish” character of the authorities (see also General
Antisemitic slogans often appeared
during demonstrations organized by the Communist Party of the Russian
Federation (KPRF). During a demonstration in Moscow on June 28, participants held posters reading "Away with Kike-TV! Russian TV to Russia!" and "We
demand the de-zionization of TV!" Leaflets with cartoons depicting TV journalists Andrei Karaulov and Nikolai Svanidze wearing
skullcaps were scattered on the sidewalks.
Although the December 2007 parliamentary
election passed with practically no use of xenophobic or antisemitic rhetoric, the
same cannot be said about the presidential campaign (election: March 2008).
Immediately after the official announcement in December that President Vladimir
Putin supported Dmitrii Medvedev as his successor, nationalist websites (such
emphasized the supposedly Jewish origins of Medvedev and his wife. Some even alleged
that prior to the announcement, Medvedev had visited the Jewish community
center in Moscow in order to receive the blessing of the Jewish community
before becoming president.
The main targets of racist violence in Russia are non-Slavic immigrants, who in most cases tend to be more recognizable than Jews.
Two attacks on Jews were recorded in 2007. On February 18, a group of 18-25-year-olds attacked three Jewish students from the Torat Chaim Yeshiva who were
standing at a suburban train station in the Moscow region. After asking the
Jews for cigarettes, questioning them about their nationality and demanding to
see their passports, they beat them up. As a result one victim, an Israeli
citizen, was hospitalized with concussion. In early August, Yakov Petruashvili
was severely beaten in Moscow and thrown into a pit by a group of skinheads,
who probably noticed the chain with a Star of David on his neck. He was rescued
by a passerby and hospitalized.
There were several attacks
on synagogues in 2007, including a petrol bomb thrown at a synagogue in Saratov on the night of May 5, causing damage to the building. Among other incidents, on
the eve of Purim, March 5, swastikas and antisemitic insults such as "Death
to the Yids" were painted on the walls of the main synagogue in Vladivostok – the second desecration of the synagogue in six months. The Russian Jewish
Congress condemned the incident and urged the Russian government to act against
xenophobia. After antisemitic slogans and swastikas were painted on a synagogue
in Voronezh on March 18, Anatolii Sherman, head of the local Jewish community,
said that this might have been a response to the arrest of suspects in the
desecration of the local Jewish cemetery a few days earlier (see below). In May
a 20-year-old, who admitted painting the graffiti, was arrested. In October a
group of youths shouted "Jews come out" and "Beat the Yids,”
broke a window and tore down the sign at the entrance to the Jewish religious
center and synagogue in Astrakhan. The synagogue was attacked again on December
28, when stones were thrown at it, breaking several windows.
Among Jewish cemeteries
desecrated in 2007, the one in Voronezh was attacked twice, once in January
when swastikas were painted on four tombs and again in March, when 20 gravestones
were destroyed. On March 15 the police arrested two youths, who admitted
desecrating the cemetery. They were convicted by a regional court on July 25.
One of them was given a two-year suspended sentence; the other, who had a
previous conviction for similar deeds, was sentenced to 25 months imprisonment.
The court recognized racism and ethnic hatred as motives behind the crime. In
mid-May, 40 tombs at the Jewish cemetery in Klintsy were broken. The police
arrested seven youths from nearby villages. In mid-June the entrance to the
Jewish cemetery in Petrozavodsk was painted with swastikas, the letters
"SS" and other antisemitic insults. On August 19 several graves at
the Jewish cemetery of Derbent were damaged. The police arrested a local
36-year-old male suspect. On October 7, 64 gravestones were broken at the
Jewish cemetery in Krasnoyarsk. On October 18, the police arrested six suspects
(16-19-year-old), who admitted breaking the gravestones. Four of them were
convicted and punished in June 2008.
Holocaust memorials were
also vandalized. For example, swastikas and other antisemitic graffiti were
discovered on a Holocaust memorial plaque at the Jewish cemetery in Kaliningrad in late March. Participants at a ceremony in Taganrog marking the 66th
anniversary of the Holocaust, on October 28, discovered that parts of the
memorial, commemorating local inhabitants and fugitives from eastern Ukraine (mostly Jews) who were tortured and shot to death during the Nazi occupation, had
In addition, there were also
many reports of antisemitic graffiti painted on Jewish community and private
facilities. In early January "Holocaust 2007" with a swastika replacing
the first letter and the phrase "Beat the kike" appeared on the
building of a Jewish charity organization in Murmansk. In June, the word
"Jew" with an arrow and the slogan "Death to the Jews" were
painted near the door of an apartment owned by a Jewish woman who works at a
local Jewish charity organization in Murmansk. A month later swastikas and a
Star of David on fire were painted on the building in Moscow housing the
offices of the Jewish Agency.
The Jewish Or Avner
elementary school in Briansk was vandalized five times between late October and
November. A group of youths shouting antisemitic insults broke the school sign as
well as eight windows. In December the police arrested four suspects who
admitted being members of a neo-Nazi group. During a search at the apartments
of two of them, the police found symbols of the far right-wing Russian National
as well as extremist propaganda on their computers and cell phones. The police
also confiscated a chain which the youths admitted having used to break windows.
In May 2008 the Briansk prosecutors dropped the hate crime charges against the
suspects, who will now only face charges of hooliganism. In December Aleksandr
Krinitsin (19) was arrested and admitted painting, on November 9, "Jude,"
"Yid," and "The Yid is infecting the nation" on the
entrance to the Jewish community building in Izhevsk. He was convicted in early
2008 of inciting ethnic hatred and given a three-year suspended sentence.
Defamation and Blood Libel
Antisemitic graffiti and posters also sometimes appeared
on non-Jewish facilities. For example, in March an antisemitic poster featuring
pigs and reading "80% of Russia's wealth is in Jewish hands, 1,000,000
Russians die every year, 2,500,000 are homeless! This is Jewish fascism!
Russians, let's free our native soil from Jewish fascism!" was glued to a Moscow trolley-bus station. In mid-May graffiti reading "Death to the Yids" accompanied
by three swastikas was discovered on a fence in St. Petersburg, near a train
station. Swastikas, accompanied by the slogans "The Jews are not natives,”
"The Jews are ruling the country," and other antisemitic graffiti
appeared on several buildings and fences in Ulianovsk.
The Jewish blood libel myth
claiming that Jews use the blood of Christian children in their religious
rituals was a recurring motif in the rhetoric and literature of antisemites in
2007. Much attention was centered on the Krasnoiarsk case from 2005 when the
local Jewish community was accused by radical nationalist publicist Mikhail
Nazarov of murdering several children (see ASW 2005).
In April 2007 Duma Deputy A. Krutov, from the Rodina party, signed a document
initiated by the above mentioned SRN stating that "the famous signs of
Hassidic rituals" can be detected in the murder of the Krasnoiarsk
children and if "a bloodless body" is discovered, the investigators should
seek out the perpetrators in "synagogues, matzah bakeries and houses of
their employees." The document also mentioned the alleged hatred of the
Hassids for "Goys and especially Christians."
Nationalist groups held
several meetings in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Chita in early May and in July during
which they propagated the myth that Jews conduct ritual murders. They also
demanded that when children are killed, "first of all investigate the
Chassidic sect,” and "feel no shame in searching the synagogues, matzah
bakeries, and homes of synagogue workers."
Articles about ritual
murders allegedly committed by Jews were published regularly, some even in the
mainstream press, especially after yet another murder of a child in Krasnoiarsk
in late March 2007. Although, in contrast to the fringe and nationalist press,
articles in the mainstream press never mentioned Jews specifically in
connection with the Krasnoiarsk murder, they spoke of "ritual murder"
committed by a "sect of religious maniacs.”
Literature and the Mass Media
As part of their effort to recruit new supporters, nationalist
organizations disseminate propaganda via the mass media, the Internet and the
publication of literature. Since some of their antisemitic literature is
published by seemingly respectable publication houses, such as Algorithm and
Book World, it reaches the shelves of book stores and major book fairs in Moscow. The management of such book fairs usually claims that requests to ban the display
of antisemitic books violate the Russian Federation constitution, as well as international
norms, since they amount to censorship.
The situation did not change
after the signing in August 2007 − on the initiative of the Federal
Agency for Printing and Mass Communications − of an agreement to ban
books that disseminate fascism, xenophobia, violence and cruelty, or incite
ethnic hatred. For example, a Russian translation of Die Geschichte von
Adolf Hitler (The history of Adolf Hitler) by Annemarie Stiehler (first
published in Germany in 1940) aroused little criticism.
Although anti-Caucasian or
anti-Chinese propaganda in the mass media is greater, the year 2007 witnessed a
revival of antisemitic discussions on television and in the print media. Early
in 2007, for instance, national TV channels screened the serial Stalin.Live and the movie Lev Trotsky. The
Secret of Worldwide Revolution. Neither the former, which revives
antisemitic myths about the last years of the Stalinist era nor the latter,
which alleges cooperation between Trotsky and Jewish bankers in the United States, were accompanied by any critical analysis.
Virulently anti-Israel as
well as antisemitic articles also appeared in Moskovskie Novosti (Moscow
News). In March, May and December the newspaper published pieces by the chairman
of the Chamber of Trade and Commerce and ex-premier of the Russian Federation,
Yevgeny Primakov, who used clichés from Soviet propaganda to describe
Israel (such as "Israel is guilty of
everything,"; "its acts against the Palestinians are
disproportional"). The newspaper also
published articles by Duma member A. Fomenko, from the Rodina party, who wrote
of the leading role of the Jews in the deterioration of relations between Russia and the US, Jews financing the 1917 revolution, and the influence of the Jewish lobby on US policy in the Middle East.
Attitudes toward the Holocaust and the nazi era
In early 2007 M. Nazarov, a leading ideologist of modern
Russian antisemitism, posted an announcement on his website that World War II
was the consequence of the goal of "Judeo-Masonic rulers of this
world" to suppress "national-authoritative fascism,” using "the
useful idiot Hitler,” even though in some countries it "was at an
acceptable spiritual level.”
Praise of Nazis and Nazi-era
leaders was often heard at public events of nationalists. On April 21, a day after Hitler’s birthday, a meeting dedicated to his memory was held in central Moscow, during which Hitler and Himmler were publicly extolled. Similar demonstrations, in
which participants waved flags with swastikas and shouted Heil Hitler, took
place on May 1 in Blagoveshchensk, on May 9 in Murmansk and Moscow, and on September 14 in Barnaul. Those in Blagoveshchensk and Murmansk were quickly halted by the police.
In April the website
www.regions.ru published the findings of a survey among some members of the
upper and lower chambers of the Russian Parliament. The majority believed it
was unnecessary to introduce a law against Holocaust denial. They argued that
the question of denial or recognition of the Holocaust was an ethnical one, and
that all nations experienced tragedies. One respondent, V. Iliukhin, State Duma
deputy from KPRF, even announced that the notion of prohibiting Holocaust
denial "smells slightly of obscurantism.”
In August it was discovered
that clothing with Nazi symbols, such as pants with an eagle holding a
swastika, were on sale at a market in Vologda, even though the public display and
distribution of Nazi symbols is illegal in Russia. A month later disks containing
essays by Nazi ideologists, Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and Nazi films
were on sale in Kursk. Some had swastikas and portraits of Hitler on the cover.
In October the website of the Russian Jewish Congress reported that bookshops
in Tambov were selling Mein Kampf, essays by the Italian fascist leader
Benito Mussolini, books on Nazi ideology, and CDs with films of Third Reich
On the positive side, in
September formerly secret files containing documents about Raul Wallenberg, the
Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust,
were handed over to Russia's Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar, for preservation at the Museum of Tolerance to be built in Moscow. Until 1991 the Soviets refused to admit officially that
the files existed.
Responses to Antisemitism
As in previous years, top government officials
condemned antisemitism and racism and stressed the necessity to combat them. As
part of this effort, President Vladimir Putin granted a medal of honor to Itzhak
Kogan, rabbi of the synagogue on Bolshaya Bronnaya Street in Moscow, and to Machon
Ram Yeshiva student Chaim Josef Eliyahu, who in January 2006 stopped Aleksandr
Koptsev after he attacked worshippers in the synagogue (see ASW 2006).
On December 5, during a
meeting with representatives from FEOR in Moscow, then Deputy Prime Minister
Dmitrii Medvedev said, "We must not turn a blind eye" in the face of Nazi,
antisemitic and nationalist propaganda, which the authorities must fight ruthlessly.
Law enforcement agencies
were active in 2007 in prosecuting not only perpetrators of antisemitic incidents
but also those who incited them. Three publishers were convicted of printing
antisemitic articles in their newspapers; two received prison terms. One, Igor
Kolodezenko, editor and publisher of the local Rodnaia Sibir, was
convicted in June by the Novosibirsk District Court of inciting ethnic hatred through
the publication of antisemitic articles. He was sentenced to two years
imprisonment after he had already received suspended sentences in the past for similar
offenses (see ASW
2004). Kolodezenko’s appeal was rejected on August 22.
All in all, 30 people were
convicted of antisemitic crimes in 2007: eleven received provisional sentences;
five were fined; 5 received prison sentences of 5-10 years and four, of 1-5
years; two were sentenced to community service and three, to 1-2 years in a “settlement
colony.” At least 30 others were on trial or under investigation, including K.
Dushenov, editor of Rus' Pravoslavnaia, who published a letter in 2005 demanding
a ban on all Jewish organizations in the country (see ASW 2005).
Federal Service for Supervision of Compliance with Legislation on the
Protection of Cultural Heritage (Gosokhrankultura) also played a part in combating racism and antisemitism
by issuing warnings against the publication and
distribution of such materials. (Gosokhrankultura can issue warnings to
publishers, newspapers, TV and any other registered mass media against inciting
ethnic hatred or insulting ethnic groups. Two such warnings within a year can
cause closure by a court order.)
In 2007 the Russian Criminal
Code and Code of Administrative Crimes
underwent significant changes. In May and July amendments were introduced
increasing the punishment for vandalism motivated by ideological, political,
ethnic or religious hatred; for the possession of Nazi paraphernalia and
symbols, and the manufacture and sale or purchase of such items for
distribution; and for the production and distribution of materials specified in
the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The list contains many antisemitic materials
(including books, newspapers and movies).
The increased activity of
law enforcement agencies and the changes in relevant laws, undoubtedly ordered from
above, may indicate that the authorities are finally starting to understand the
threat posed to the country by the growing popularity of extremism and racism.
Another reason may be public, including Jewish, pressure. The 16-year
imprisonment sentence imposed on Aleksandr Koptsev in 2006 may be considered a
turning point in this direction.