Anti-Semitism in Ukraine, 2009–2010
According to preliminary data, 2010 was the first year of many in which Ukraine has not had any violence with a confirmed anti-Semitic motive. Even though there were certain crimes, including two murders, that were ascribed such motives in the press, the investigations did not confirm these assumptions.
A year without anti-Semitic violence became the logical conclusion to the tendency of recent years towards a reducing number of ideologically-motivated attacks on Jews. 2009 saw one case of anti-Semitic violence, in 2008 there were anti-Semitic attacks on five people, in 2007 – 8 people became victims, in 2006 – nine, and in 2005 – 8.
The more widespread form of criminal anti-Semitism in Ukraine, as in all of post-Soviet space, is anti-Semitic vandalism. This is anti-Semitic graffiti on buildings belonging to Jewish organizations, sometimes broken windows in those same buildings, cemetery vandalism, and desecration of memorials to Holocaust victims. According to preliminary data, 9 acts of anti-Semitic vandalism were recorded in 2010 in Ukraine. This is much less than in previous years, but often information about acts of vandalism becomes widely known after a certain lag time, and there are grounds to make assumptions that the final data will have a larger number of incidents on record.
Before, the number of anti-Semitic vandalism remained more-or-less at one level. In 2009, according to our monitoring, there were 19 incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism, including arson (2 cases in 2009), 13 incidents in 2008, 20 incidents in 2007, 21 incidents in 2006. It seems that the decline of anti-Semitic activity in 2008 was the result of several strict sentences for anti-Semitic vandals (some involving several years of imprisonment) that were carried out in early 2008. Before this (and, unfortunately, in the last few years) criminals usually remained either completely unpunished or their punishment was purely symbolic.
2009 saw the first in many years anti-Semitic terroristic act – a homemade bomb in the Volyn Jewish Community Center in Lutsk. Luckily, there were no such incidents recorded in 2010.
The decline of anti-Semitic propaganda in publications that began over three years ago, in the fall of 2007 (after an increase from 2002-2006), continues.
According to the data of Vladimir Mindlin, who monitors anti-Semitic propaganda in central print media of Ukraine for VAAD Ukraine, the central press published 46 anti-Semitic articles, which is less than in 2008. The main voicers of anti-Semitic views in Ukraine are the following newspapers: “For Free Ukraine Plus” (“Za Vilnu Ukrainu Plus,” Lviv), “Freedom Cell” (“Sota Svobody,” Lviv), “Informational Bulletin” (Kremenchug). According to preliminary data, the tendency to a diminishing of anti-Semitic publications in the press remains.
Naturally, not all titles are monitored, because it is impossible to take into account the entire mass of Ukrainian newspapers, including regional, affiliated with a political party, religious, and agitational editions published during elections. So the results of the poll should not be interpreted as the exact number of anti-Semitic news items published in Ukrainian media during the review period. But this data still has certain value, because it allows us to compare the situation with similar factors throughout previous years, also as monitored by Mindlin.
Thus, according to Mindlin, there were 54 anti-Semitic publications in 2008, while 2007 saw 542 published news items. 2006 saw 676 anti-Semitic publications, 2005 - 66Итак, в тече1, in 2004 – 379. In 2003 there were 258, in 2002 – 179, and, finally, 2001 saw a little over a hundred anti-Semitic publications.
The dynamic of the amount of anti-Semitic materials in Ukrainian media for the last ten years can be explained in the following manner: in the very beginning of the 2000s, anti-Semitic materails were published mostly in marginal periodicals, mostly in monthly ultra-nationalist newspapers with print runs of a thousand or so. In 2002, a new stage begins, with a sharp growth in anti-Semitic propaganda, induced by the activity of the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP, or IAPM).
The MAUP publications accounted for 90% of anti-Semitic publications in the print media. From 2002 to 2005, the amount of anti-Semitic materials nearly doubled in size each year, and the most important role was played by titles with a press run of tens, or even hundreds of thousands. In 2006 there was a very small increase compared to 2005. 2007 saw a decrease in the volumes of anti-Semitic propaganda. A more detailed analysis of 2007 shows that there had been a steady decrease throughout the year, and an especially sharp cutoff in the autumn (183 titles with anti-Semitic material published in the first quarter of the year, 137 in the second, 147 in the third, during the parliamentary elections, and 75 in the fourth).
In the autumn of 2007, MAUP stopped its anti-Semitic campaign as abruptly as it had begun it. Accordingly, 2007 saw a sharp decline in the amount of anti-Semitic publications. By 2008, there were ten times less anti-Semitic publications in Ukrainian periodicals. This decline continues to this very day.
In the context of anti-Semitic propaganda, it should be noted than the National Expert Commission on Protection of Public Morality forbid the dissemination of certain anti-Semitic and Nazi books, when earlier it had not been active in this sphere, and the Security Service of Ukraine has, for the first time in its history, as far as it is known, transferred materials for the opening of a criminal case over anti-Semitic propaganda in the Internet; however, there has been no trial as of yet,
Unfortunately, in 2009-2010, anti-Semitism became a noticeable part of the public and political life of the country, because it had received active usage in elections (both the presidential elections in January 2010 and local elections in October 2010), where it played a part in certain political schemes aimed at discrediting candidates or political groups.
The presidential elections campaign had two candidates, famous for their anti-Semitic views – the mayor of Uzhgorod Sergei Ratushnyak and the leader of the Pan-Ukrainian Union Svoboda, Oleg Tyagnybok. It should be noted that while Tyagnybok has left radical rhetoric behind in recent years, and has been attempting to hold up a more respectable facade, Ratushnyak has made anti-Semitism the leitmotif of his campaign. In the first round of the elections, which took place on January 17, 2010, Tyagnybok received 1,43% of the votes, and Ratushnyak received 0,12% of the votes. It is also notable that there was a criminal case opened against Ratushnyak over his anti-Semitic statements, by article 163 of the Criminal Code (“incitement to ethnic and racial hatred”), but the case was promptly closed after the elections ended, the formal reason being “absence of corpus delicti.”
But the large-scale use of anti-Semitism was not due to the participation of known anti-Semites in the campaign, but due to attempts to use anti-Semitic rhetoric to discredit other candidates by an alleged Jewish origin. Before the first round, such “black PR” technologies were actively used against Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and before the second round – against Yuliya Timoshenko.
On October 31, 2010, all of Ukraine held elections to local (oblast, regional, city, and town) councils, as well as the mayoral elections. The elections were held in the conditions of severe administrative pressure, unequal access of candidates to the mass media, and could in general be described as not conforming to international standards.
The ultra-nationalist All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda has received significant success at the elections. In Western Ukraine, first of all in Lvivska, Ternopilska, Ivano-Frankivska regions, Svoboda earned up to 30% of votes. Analysts note that the mean result that Svoboda received in the entire country allow it to count on passing the vote threshold to the next parliamentary elections. In the last (pre-term) parliamentary elections, in 2007, Svoboda had earned only 0,76% of votes, and in 2006 it had earned only 0,36% of votes.
Anti-Semitic rhetoric in October, 2010, was recorded in a number of cities during the mayoral elections. In particular, anti-Semitic statements were recorded in Odessa, made by the victorious candidate Alexei Kostusev (Party of Regions) and members of his campaign headquarters towards former mayor Edward Gurwitz (“Front of Changes” party), as well as in Kharkiv, addressed towards Party of Regions representative Gennadiy Keres, though it did not stop Keres from winning the elections.
It should be noted that nothing of the sort had been recorded in 2010 in many cities where Jews entered the mayoral elections, including those where anti-Semitic rhetoric had been used previously. Vinnitsa is a prime example of this, where the mayoral elections were once again won by a representative of the “Consciousness of Ukraine” party Vadim Groisman, having collected almost 77% percent of the votes. In Kherson, the representative of the Party of Regions, Vladimir Saldo, an ethnic Jew, also won the vote, even though anti-Semitic rhetoric had been actively used against him previously.
It should also be noted that S. Ratushnyak, famous for his anti-Semitism, lost the election to keep the post of Uzhgorod mayor, but earned the votes of almost 30% of the voters' voices.
Thus, the situation in Ukraine in 2009-2010 has both positive and negative tendencies. On the positive side, monitoring shows a decrease in anti-Semitic crimes (attacks and vandalism), while on the negative side, anti-Semitism has been far more prevalent in political struggles, which legitimizes its presence in the public discourse.