Anti-Semitism in Russia, 2009–2010
The number of attacks on Jews remains low against the backdrop of a huge number of xenophobic crimes in Russia. In 2009, there were 8 specific attacks on Jews, and in the first 8 months of 2010 there were 2 attacks.
This is largely because the Jews are very difficult to single out from the crowd, unlike, for example, migrants from the Caucasus region. There are also comparatively few attacks on the buildings of Jewish organizations — 9 in 2009, and 5 in the first 8 months of 2010. However, those last five events include the Tver synagogue bombing of June 22, 2010.
On the other hand, the amount of recorded acts of anti-Semitic vandalism (cemetery desecrations and especially anti-Semitic graffiti) remains traditionally high, with 57 incidents in 2009, and 38 in the first 8 months of 2010, which is a testament that a strong anti-Semitic component remains in tn the views of nationalists.
It can also be noted that anti-Semitic propaganda continues an active expansion into the Internet, including its social networks, where there are dozens, if not hundreds of pages that propagate anti-Semitism.
In the second half of 2009, nationalists attempted a campaign titled “Old Testament Extremism,” by making numerous requests to public prosecution offices to declare the Old Testament to be extremist literature. There were no less than 19 such requests filed, but nearly all of them were declined, and the campaign came to a halt.
Unfortunately, anti-Semitic stereotypes seem to have infiltrated leading media. There were at least two screenings of the “Lev Trotsky: Secret of the World Revolution” movie on central TV channels, a movie full of anti-Semitic fabrications.
“Anti-Zionist” phobias are being actively used among Muslim activists. On December 21, 2009, the New Region news agency published a news item on its website that repeated, referencing Arabic Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, the slander that Israelis use dead Palestinian soldiers for organ transplants for their own military.
Anti-Semitic phobias have also been reported in scholarly literature. A two-volume book titled “A History of Russia. XX Century,” edited by MGIMO professor Zubov, was published at the end of 2009. The book practically justifies the pogroms committed by members of the White Guard during the Civil War, and gives high praise to the Nazi collaborators under general Vlasov.
At the end of July, 2010, there was a scandal around the textbook titled “A History of Russia 1917-2009,” by A. Barsenkov and A. Vdovin, which included a number of anti-Semitic stereotypes on the “Jewish proliferation” in the USSR, on the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 to free up space for a planned Jewish republic, and so on.
Anti-Semitic stereotypes are being actively spread among Russia Muslims. In 2009, it became known that adherents of Sufism are making statements reminiscent of old Soviet “anti-Zionist” cliches, which connected any undesirable phenomenon with Zionism. The statements include accusations towards Salafi (more often known as Wahhabi, adherents of radical Islam) of being Anglo-Israeli spies and enemies of Islam. The Salafi also actively use the stereotypes of Jews and Israel in their propaganda, showing them as enemies of Islam, deny the Holocaust, and so on. After Israeli special forces stopped the so-called “Freedom Flotilla,” there were several public rallies in Moscow, in June 2010, that were organized by the left wing and the Islamists.
The question of the extent that anti-Semitic phobias influence the populace remains disputable. On one hand, the June 2009 poll of the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) shows that only 2% of the populace view the Jews with antipathy (contrast, for instance, the group in “first place” in this poll - the Caucasians, which were viewed with antipathy by 29% of the populace). On the other side, other polls, which learn a person's position by taking into account circumstantial evidence, show a different situation. According to the research agency “Bashkirova and Partners,” who published the results of their poll on May 13, 2010, 25% of Russians refuse to live near Jews, and according to the VCIOM poll published on August 27. 2010, 46% of Russians are against marriages with Jews. This means that, in the June poll, some of the respondents hid their position, answering, for instance, that they treat all peoples equally (but not specifying whether equally well or equally badly) or preferring to note the question as “difficult.” A further confirmation to the wide spreading of anti-Semitic stereotypes is a story published in December, which involved a discussion on the “Jewish conspiracy” held in the fall of 2009 by agrarian deputies in the back rooms of the Duma. The participants of the discussion thought that the head of the X5 Retail Group, Lev Khasis was supported by Assistantto the President of the Russian Federation Arkady Dvorovich, and, as a Jew, “went bowing and scraping before his own [people] working at Medvedev's.”
There is a growing trend of activity of the public as a whole and the Jewish community in particular to counteract anti-Semitism. This is mostly in speeches and public events, some of which have significance for foreign diplomacy – this is mostly the condemnation of the attempts to exalt collaborators in Ukraine and the Baltic countries. On October 15, 2009, and March 4, 2010, Head Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar contributed a proposition to make the Auschwitz Liberation Day (January 27) a state memorial day. In March 2010, the Federal Jewish National Cultural Autonomy, supported by the Public Chamber in Moscow, opened a free telephone hotline for victims of national discrimination and anti-Semitism. There were also active hotlines at the Nizhegorod synagogue.
In 2009-2010, a steady growth trend was recorded in anti-Fascist views in Russia. According to a poll done by the Levada Center, the results of which were published on December 3, showed that the number of people who believe that the slogan “Russia for Russians” is actual Fascism has grown from 25% to 32%.
The struggle of law enforcement against anti-Semitism has had both impressive successes and significant problems. The successes include the closing of newspapers which published anti-Semitic materials (3 in 2009 and 1 in 2010), suppressing the pro-Nazi organizations “National-Socialistic Society” and “Slavic Union,” inflicting severe penalties for publishing anti-Semitic literature, introducing penalties for stores carrying anti-Semitic material that is in the Federal List of Extremist Materials, and a swift growth of the aforementioned List. The most severe failure is a mass practice of giving nominal sentences to criminals, including large-scale figures caught in the act, which removes any stimulus to stop criminal activity for the convicts.
A great problem remains because the authorities refuse to instigate proceedings over anti-Semitic vandalism, and making decisions that seem either unprofessional or biased towards radical nationalists. On the other hand, there are incidents where the law enforcement is overzealous, such as the superfluous declaration that the works of Hitler and Mussolini are extremist. At the end of 2009, the public prosecution office of Samara Oblast attempted to claim that the movie “Russia-88,” directed by Pavel Bardin as extremist. The movie tells the story of a Neo-Nazi group.