PECULIARITIES O F ANTI -SEMITISM IN THE FORMER USSR: GENERAL PRELIMINARY COMMENTARIES
Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union significantly differ from those both in the West and in the East. In order to simplify the issue we may characterize the anti-Semitism in the countries of the region as being of a traditional, somewhat archaic and rudimentary nature. persists more in the form of negative mass-consciousness stereotypes (sometimes faith-based, in other cases inherited from Soviet propaganda) at the grass-roots level, rather than in the form of ideology highly adjustable to variable realities and having a significant mobilizing potential. Unfortunately, as is known, over the recent ten years misinterpreted solidarity with the Palestinian Muslims has become, through the efforts of Islamists, the ideological basis of anti-Semitic propaganda (if not criminal activities) among a part of the population of some Muslim countries, as well as among the many people of Islamic faith in the Diaspora around the world. However, for a number of reasons anti-Israel rhetoric is not an effective means for mobilizing Muslims in the countries that emerged in the territory of the former USSR. Among these reasons are differences in mentality between post-Soviet Muslims and their Middle-East and Western brothers in faith, as well as quite a limited number of Middle-East immigrants among the post-Soviet ummah. Left and liberal-left anti-Zionism (which is often hard to distinguish from the so called “new anti-Semitism”), widely disseminated among the intellectual elite in the West, failed to become an influential ideology among the post-Soviet young people and intelligentsia. Therefore, it can be stated that, on the whole, the post-Soviet anti- Semitism has preserved its unique character. It neither fully evolved (in the Western republics of the former USSR) in the European “new anti-Semi- tism” nor did it transform into the anti-Jewish rhetoric characteristic of fun- damentalist Islamic neighbors (in new states with predominantly Muslim population). This factor is responsible for the stability of the former USSR countries against manifestations of the “new anti-Semitism” which have flooded the world beginning with the Al-Aqsa Intifada in the autumn of 2000 and up to the world reaction to the events around the Freedom Fleet in May 2010 (please, refer to a special review in the present issue of the Annual Report). Contrary to many Western countries (incidentally, to Eastern ones as well), in the post-Soviet countries, society (both the elites and the majority of the population) are more likely to sympathize with Israel and are inclined to support it in its conflict with Islamic radicals. There are reasons for such a reaction. Firstly, anti-Israel stereotypes are often perceived as a sign of outdated and discredited, in the eyes of the majority of people, Communist views. Anti-Zionism provokes rejection as a left-over of the Soviet foreign policy and propaganda. The bulk of the younger generation does not adhere to leftism, and therefore some of the phenomena found in many Western countries (such as prevalence of intellectual anti-Semitism in university campuses, anti-Israel slogans as part of the youth anti-globalist rallies, etc.) are missing. Secondly, a considerable part of over one million repatriates that arrived in Israel from the former USSR are intelligentsia and highly knowledgeable specialists maintaining contacts with their friends and colleagues in the “countries of Exodus”, which results in balancing sympathy and resentment, for instance, in mass media covering the Arab-Israeli conflict. This factor increasingly assumes greater importance with the proliferation of Internet usage and new communication technologies. Lastly, as was mentioned above, groups of immigrants from Arab countries and, notably, from Palestine proper are not as large and influential as they are in the Western countries. The Muslim population of the post-Soviet countries are not Arabs but Turkic peoples, North Caucasian ethnic groups and the Tadjiks, so mechanisms of Pan-Islamic solidarity do not work in this space (though Pan-Islamism cannot be entirely ruled out since any religious form of solidarity in the present-day secularized world has a much stronger mobilizing effect than the language- or ethnic-specific forms).
However, the situation might change in the future. In some of the post-Soviet countries, foreign policy context inspires the development of anti- Israeli trends. In quest of patterns for the realization of their foreign-policy interests, some of these countries progressively forge closer ties with Israel’s overt adversaries, notably, with Iran and some others (including Venezuela and the pseudo-state regime of Hamas in the Gaza Strip). This trend is evident both in some of the European countries of the former USSR and in countries with mostly Muslim population. Coupled with internal processes – the creeping Soviet restoration in Russia and the gradual integration of the countries with the Muslim population into the world of the Muslim information and the Muslim cultural space – that trend may have highly significant consequences. It should also be noted that in many of the post-Soviet countries there is a rise of authoritarian tendencies in the domestic policy leading to the sup- pression of any opposition activities, including right-wing ones (ultra-right and religious fundamentalist). This results in the decrease in the anti-Semitic propaganda and in the number of recorded anti-Semitic incidents. However, when the situation in a country destabilizes, the activity of anti-Semites may rise again. The events of this year in Moldova and, notably, in Kyrgyzstan, indicate that, at least partly, there is a danger of such tendencies.
On the whole, the position of the Jewish community in the country is sound and safe. Criminal manifestations of anti-Semitism are more of an exception considering the fact that the incidents that involve the use of anti-Semitic rhetoric in mass media and public life had not been too widespread before, and there were even far fewer of them in the recent years. Partly, due to the Turkey-Iran rapprochement in foreign policy taking place in the last few years, notably, in relation to the Palestine-Israel conflict, there is growing public sentiment in Armenia in favor of Israel (although, due to the peculiarities of Armenia-Iran geopolitical and economic relations, a certain Iranian influence on the situation in the country is felt).
The only recent outrageous manifestation of anti-Semitism that shocked the Jewish community of the country was the desecration, on October 19, 2010, of the Yerevan memorial to victims of the genocide of Armenians and the Holocaust. Some unknown anti-Semites painted a swastika and an inscription in Armenian calling for the extermination of Jews. It must be noted that the inscription and swastika were promptly removed by the communal services. A criminal case on vandalism was initiated but the offenders were not found.
The memorial symbolizing the suffering of Jewish and Armenian peoples subjected to genocide was erected in Ring Boulevard on October 27, 2006. The pedestal in memory of the Holocaust victims, that had been there before the Memorial was erected, has been targeted by vandals at least five times. In neither of the cases have the offenders been caught.
In recent years, manifestations of anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan were mainly caused by the activities of hardline Islamists sympathetic with the Palestinian brothers-in-faith (notably, with those in the Gaza Strip). These Islamists are propped up, on the one hand, by the evolution of domestic and foreign policies followed by moderate Islamists in power in Turkey (which, to a large extent, influences the position of the Azerbaijan’s leadership), and on the other hand, by the attempts on the part of the Iranian ruling regime to swing the population using religious affinity (the majority of Persians, as well as Muslim Azerbaijani, are Shiites) and ethnic ties (there are more Azerbaijani in Iran than in Azerbaijan itself).
Manifestations of anti-Israeli sentiments in Azerbaijan and in other Muslim countries were heated up by the events around the Freedom Fleet which culminated in tragic circumstances when the flagship Mavi Marmara under the flag of Turkey had been stopped by the Israeli military in the early morning hours of May 31, 2010. Anti-Israeli rallies with blatantly anti-Semitic slogans took place in Baku and in some other cities. In a number of cases, the administration had not given permission for staging such rallies. An attempt to hold a picket in front of the embassy of Israel in Baku was suppressed by the police.
It will be remembered that earlier, in 2008, four Azerbaijanis and two Lebanon citizens were arrested in Azerbaijan on the suspicion of preparing an attack against the Israeli embassy. In October of 2009, the court found them guilty of preparing a terrorist act, espionage and treason. The offenders were sentenced to12 to 15 years of imprisonment.
While the trend towards the liberalization of the public life in Belarus that started in 2008–2009 continued to exist in 2010, the country is still the only place in the post-Soviet space where all the attributes of the Soviet order are almost completely preserved. In the nationalities-policy sphere, the most important point is that the authorities render little support to small ethnic groups in their efforts to maintain national identity and to develop their tradi- tions and culture. With a centralized social and economic life, such a lack of support has serious implications.
The overall biased attitude towards Jews is still evident in public life. In a number of cases, the history of the Jews in Belarus and the Holocaust tragedy are hushed up in scientific, encyclopedic, reference and educational literature. In a number of cities (in Minsk, Mogilev, Brest and Borisov) the problem of restitution to Jewish communities of property built long ago using the Jewish funds and belonging to the Jews has not been resolved. Today, the Jewish public and religious organizations have no other alternative but to rent their premises.
At times, what we see is openly disrespectful attitude of local authorities towards the efforts of Jews to preserve monuments of national heritage. Former synagogues are taken down without even notifying the Jewish communities about it. For example, in 2009 the demolition of the former Lyuban synagogue where Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the leading rabbinical authorities of the 20th century, worked in the 1920s through the1930s, took place. The same tendency is witnessed regarding Jewish cemeteries. Years ago, many sport facilities were built on sites of destroyed Jewish cemeteries (the “Dynamo” stadium in Minsk, city stadiums in Brest, Grodno, Gomel, a swimming pool in Pinsk among others, etc.). However, today, these facilities require reconstruction and enlargement. In the process, a lot of human remains are exhumed and then taken to waste grounds. In spite of numerous requests from the Jewish organizations, the reinterment of the remains is not carried out in conformity with the Jewish law. The same thing happens when construction works are going on at the sites of former cemeteries or places of mass executions.
The criminal anti-Semitism in Belarus is suppressed from the top, and therefore, there are no such events as Jew-bashing, murdering of Jews or setting fire to synagogues. The only manifestations of the criminal anti-Semitism are acts of vandalism at the Jewish cemeteries and memorials to the victims of the Nazist genocide. Law-enforcement authorities are reluctant to consider those attacks as having been motivated by anti-Semitism (which would fall under article 130 of the Criminal Code) and qualify them as vandalism or just hooliganism. For instance, in 2009, a swastika and threats against Jews were drawn on the building where the Slutsk Jewish community had its office. A criminal case was initiated on the charges of hooliganism. Anti-Semitic graffiti and acts of vandalism against memori- als to the victims of the Holocaust were evidenced in Vitebsk and Minsk as well. On a wall of a derelict cottage of Lavrentiy Tsanava in the Stepyanka woods (on the outskirts of Minsk) there was an inscription “Kill Mikhoels”, a swastika and a crossed-out Magen David drawn. The inscription shows that its authors are familiar with the story according to which the murder of Solomon Mikhoels on January 13, 1948, took place right there.
For the fairness’ sake we must note that during the last three years, the policy of the bodies of government supported by the leadership of the Orthodox Church Diocese and the power-yielding authorities (KGB, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the judiciary) resulted in the dismissal from their offices of quite a number of parliamentary deputies, media personnel, cultural figures, businessmen and others caught, time and again, in the advocacy of anti-Semitism, spreading anti-Jewish myths and stirring up ethnic strife. Among the chauvinists of the Russian Great Power kind that had left the public arena were Nina Chaika, the editor-in-chief of the “Neman” magazine, Edward Skobelev, the editor of the bulletin of the President of Belarus, Sergey Kostyan, a former parliamentarian, Vyacheslav Rostikov, a journalist of the “Republic” newspaper, and others. However, Edward Skobelev continues to publish his anti-Semitic writings in the Russian chauvinist newspaper Russkii Vestnik (Russian Messenger).
Lawsuits filed in 2008–2009, resulted in publishing and trade licenses being revoked from the closed corporation “Christian Initiative” and in the close-up of bookstores of the “Orthodox Initiative” which had been publishing and disseminating the anti-Semitic literature.
During the same period, lawsuits were taking place against the activists of the Russian National Unity (RNU) and skinhead neo-Nazi groups on the charges of committing the acts of the criminal anti-Semitism (including vandalism at the Jewish cemeteries, threats against Jewish activists, etc.). During the last year-and-a-half of monitoring, in the Belarus mass media, no incidents of stirring up hate against Jews have been detected.
The Jewish community in Kazakhstan feels safe: manifestations of anti-Semitism are quite rare in the republic. However, in March of 2010, there was documented an act of vandalism against a number of Jewish headstones in the Almaty central cemetery. The headstones were restored at the state’s expense and the security of the cemetery was improved.
The previous incident of that kind happened way back in 2008 when unknown perpetrators partly demolished the mausoleum of Levi-Izhak, got inside it and desecrated the tomb.
Anti-Semitism in Kyrgyzstan has gathered momentum against the background of the destabilization of the political and social life during the last year. Perhaps, despite the small number of the Jews living there, it is in this county that the anti-Semitism issue is more acute as compared with the situation in the other post-Soviet states.
In April 2010, in the course of disorders that led to the overthrow of Kurmanbek Bakiev, the President of Kyrgyzstan, anti-Semitic slogans proved to be one of the effective means of mobilizing supporters of the opposition (Maxim Bakiev, son of the former president, was accused of having ties with an allegedly light-fingered businessmen of Jewish origin). Anti-president demonstrations were accompanied by anti-Semitic posters and anti-Semitic statements by activists. On April 7, at the height of bloody clashes in Bishkek, somebody threw three Molotov cocktail bottles in the yard and on the roof of the only synagogue in the country. The fire was promptly extinguished with the help of the people living in the houses around the synagogue.
On the evening of September 9, 2010, on the eve of the second day of Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), the synagogue was attacked more severely: unknown perpetrators threw an explosive device over the fence. Under a shed in the yard there were festive tables with food. The explosion happened a half-an-hour before the feast was supposed to begin. A shell-less improvised bomb thrown into the yard by the criminals was stuffed with various pieces of metal to maximize the damage. By sheer luck nobody was present at the moment, and, therefore, no one was hurt. Also luckily, the bomb fell into a small pool dug-out for household needs. Otherwise, the consequences of the terrorist act wouldn’t have been minimal: the synagogue building was only slightly damaged and the windows of the rabbi’s house were smashed.
The tense situation around the country’s Jewish community persists. The intensity of the political and inter-ethnic violence in the country is high. The April demonstrations of the opposition were accompanied by clashes with the law-enforcement officers, and many people on both sides were killed and injured. And before that, the authorities were accused of attacks against journalists and opposition activists. Finally, in July 2010, the inter-ethnic Kyrgyz-Uzbek clashes in the south of the county resulted in the hundreds of people getting killed.
M O L D O VA
In 2009–2010, anti-Semitic incidents in Moldova, notably, acts of vandalism, became more frequent against the background of the political and social destabilization. The change of power was accompanied by disturbances and the strengthening of national-democratic forces. On September 12, 2009, the memorial to the Holocaust victims in Bendery was desecrated. On September 18, 2009, the walls of several buildings in the Chekani area of the Moldova capital were covered with posters dedicated to the 110th anniversary of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu’s birth, leader of the Romanian Iron Guard fascist organization that was active in the 1920s through the 1930s.
On December 13, 2009, in the very center of Chishinau, a group of Orthodox fundamentalists siding with the Society of Blessed Matrona of Moscow guided by the most reactionary marginal wing of the Russian Orthodox Church “dissidents” (specifically, by Diomede, the defrocked ex-Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church), turned over and disassembled the Hanukkia that had been installed there in honor of the Hanukkah holiday. Then they organized an anti-Semitic rally accompanied by offensive outcries and Jew-hating slogans. The incident drew a huge public response.
On February 10, 2010, in Chishinau, on the downtown Pushkin Street, next to the Holocaust victims’ memorial, somebody covered the walls of houses with anti-Semitic proclamations. On February 21, an act of vandalism was committed in the Jewish cemetery: gravestones were desecrated and broken, and a swastika was painted on the graveyard wall.
In March of 2010, the Orthodox Society of Blessed Matrona of Moscow posted on their official website anti-Semitic publications (later , the website was radically edited and all topical materials were removed). About the same time, in March of 2010, a group of aggressive young people gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate protesting against the Dor le Dor charitable Jewish foundation.
On March 15, 2010, during an attempt of a hostile takeover of the Hotel Chishinau belonging to the First Hotel company operated by the Jewish businessmen, a group of people shouted abusive anti-Semitic slogans demanding Jews to be driven out of Moldova, and also such slogans as “Jews go away from the Gaza Strip!”.
In the summer of 2010, in fulfillment of the Edict of acting President Mikhail Gimpu declaring June 28 the day of the Soviet occupation of Moldova, Dorin Chirtoaca, the mayor of Chishinau came forward with an initiative to found the Museum of the Holocaust and the Museum of Soviet Occupation in the same building. The Jewish Congress of Moldova made an official statement in this regard to the effect that “a parallel could not be drawn between the fascist inhumane regime and the social system which is baselessly accused of equal responsibility for repressions against its own people”.
Concurrent with these events, Mikhail Gimpu, the acting President addressed Oleg Reidman, a member of the Parliament saying that Reidman “disgraced Jewish people” since he (Gimpu) “had known smarter Jews”. On September 29, 2010, the local council of the suburb town of Kodru (part of the Chishinau municipality) decided to give a street the name of Ion Antonescu, the fascist dictator and Hitler’s companion-in-arms. We must note that such an action is impossible in neighboring Rumania where the dictator’s involvement in the Holocaust was officially reasserted. On September 12, 2010, fascist symbols and such slogans as “Bessarabia is Rumanian Land!” were drawn on the front of the synagogue building in Chishinau.
As we approach the 2010 Hanukkah at the end of the year, the leadership of the community, in cooperation with the state authorities, provide utmost security measures in order to prevent incidents like those which happened a year ago. The Orthodox radicals have already declared their intention not to let Hanukkia be installed in the center of Chishinau.
Given the enormous number of offences of xenophobic nature in Russia, the number of attacks against Jews remains insignificant. While in 2009 eight such attacks were documented, over the first eight months of 2010 there were two such incidents.
To a great extent, it is accounted for to the fact that it is very hard to distinguish a Jew (unlike, say, a Caucasian) from a street crowd. Also, the number of attacks on the premises of the Jewish organizations remains relatively small. There were 9 such attacks in 2009 and 5 such attacks over the first eight months of 2010. Still, among those five incidents was the blow-up of the synagogue in Tver on June 22, 2010.
On the other hand, the number of documented acts of anti-Semitic vandalism (such as the desecration of cemeteries and, notably, anti-Semitic graffiti) is, as usual, high (57 incidents in 2009 and 38 over the first eight months of 2010) which is indicative of the fact that there is still a substantial element of anti-Semitism in the mindset of nationalists. There is also an increasingly active migration of anti-Semitic propaganda to the Internet, including social networking websites with dozens, if not hundreds, of pages promulgating anti-Semitism function. In the latter half of the year 2009, nationalists attempted to launch the “Old Testament Extreme” campaign in which complaints about the allegedly extremist content of the Old Testament have been submitted to the public prosecutor’s offices no less than 19 times. However, virtually all of the complaints were dismissed and the campaign gradually died out. Regrettably, we witness the penetration of anti-Semitic stereotypes into the leading media outlets. At least twice, the main TV-channels broadcast a film entitled “Lev Trotsky: The Secret of World Revolution” full of anti-Semitic fabrications.
On December 21, 2009, on the website of the news agency “New Region” there was a defamatory statement published, referring to A. Tibi, the Arab Member of the Knesset that stated that the Israeli used bodies of perished Palestinian fighters to use their organs for wounded Israeli soldiers. Anti-Semitic phobias find their way into the educational literature. At the end of 2009, a two-volume “History of Russia. 20th Century” under the editorship of A. Zubov, a professor at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations was published. The study actually justified the pogroms committed by the White Guard men during the Civil War and praised the collaborationists acting together with Nazis under the command of A. Vlasov, the Red Army General who defected to the Nazis during the WWII.
In early July 2010, a scandal broke out around the textbook History ofRussia 1917–2009 coauthored by A. Barsenkov and A. Vdovin containing a number of anti-Semitic cliches about the “Jewish dominance” in the USSR and about the deportation of Crimean Tartars in 1944 allegedly carried out in order to clear the place for the future Jewish republic in Crimea, etc. Anti-Zionist phobias are aggressively used by Muslim activists. For example, in December 2009, it was reported that, in Dagestan, adherents of Sufism claim, using old Soviet-era “anti-Zionist” cliches attributing any troublesome event to Zionism, that the Salafites (more known as the “Wahhabites”, followers of radical Islam) are the British-Israeli spies and the enemies of Islam. The Salafites, for their part, also very often use images of Jews and Israel as the enemies of Islam, deny the Holocaust, etc. In June 2010, after the “Freedom Fleet” had been stopped by the Israeli special forces, several public rallies were organized by the Islamists and the leftists.
It is not clear yet how and to what extent anti-Semitic phobias affect the public opinion. On the one hand, the opinion poll conducted in June 2009 by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center showed that only 2% of the population have a negative opinion of the Jews (while at the head of the list are the Caucasians with 29%). On the other hand, opinion polls in which a person’s attitude is derived basing on indirect indicators give quite a different outcome: according to the results of a poll by “Bashkirova & Partners” agency released on May 13, 2010, 25% of Russian citizens do not want to live next to the Jews; according to the results of a poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center released on August 27, 2010, 46% of Russian citizens are against marriages to the Jews. These figures might show that a part of respondents do not want to reveal their attitudes and when interrogated, answer, for instance, that either they treat all people equally (without specifying whether it is equally good or bad) or they are not sure about the answer. The popularity of anti-Semitic stereotypes may be illustrated also by a story revealed in December about how the Agrarian Party members of the Duma talked, behind the scenes, about the “Jewish conspiracy” regarding the dis- cussion on the trade act in the Duma in the fall of 2009: they assumed that Lev Khasis, the CEO of Retail Group X5, being a Jew, gained support from Arkady Dvorkovich, the presidential aide when he “fell down at the feet of his kindred folks in Medvedev’s circle”.
There are also increasingly growing efforts of non-governmental organizations, in general, and of the Jewish community, in particular, to counteract anti-Semitism. However, it mostly involves rallies and public actions that are, in some cases, foreign-policy oriented, that is, they, mainly, condemn the aggrandizement of WWII collaborationists in Ukraine and in the Baltic states. Twice, on October 15, 2009, and March 4, 2010, Berl Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia came forward with an initiative to declare the day of January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a nation-wide memorable date. In March of 2010, the Federal Jewish National and Cultural Autonomy (FJNCA), with the assistance of the RF Public Chamber, opened a charge-free on-call consultations for the people who suffered from racial discrimi- nation and anti-Semitism. The synagogue in Nizhny Novgorod also has its “hotline”.
Also, in 2009 through 2010 there was evidenced a gradual increase in the number of adherents of anti-fascist sentiments. According to the results of the Levada Center opinion poll released on December 3, 2009, the number of those who believe that the slogan “Russia for Russians” is nothing less than sheer fascism went up from 25% in 2008 to 32% in 2009.
As for the fight of the law-enforcement authorities against the manifestations of anti-Semitism, there is an inspiring progress in this realm. Among the gains are the ban of newspapers which published anti-Semitic material (three newspapers in 2009 and one in 2010), ban of pro-Nazi organizations “The National-Socialist Society” and “The Slavic Union”, financial penalties for publishing anti-Semitic literature, fines imposed on the stores selling literature entered into the Federal List of Extremist Materials and the rapid expansion of the List itself. Yet, there are still some problems and, first of all, it is the practice of imposing probationary sentences (noticeably, on leading figures among nationalists caught red-handed) which doesn’t motivate the convicts to keep away from breaking the law another time. Among other serious problems is the reluctance of the law-enforcement authorities to bring before the courts cases of anti-Semitic vandalism, as well as the measures taken by the authorities that can be regarded as an unprofessional performance or a connivance with radical nationalists. On the other hand, the law-enforcement authorities are sometimes excessively zealous: they declared writings of Hitler and Mussolini to be extremist, as if they hadn’t been declared such long ago. At the end of 2009, the public prosecutor’s office of the Samara Oblast decided to declare extremist P. Bardin’s film “Russia – 88” telling about the activities of a neo-Nazi group.
In 2010, according to the preliminary data, it was for the first time in many years that there weren’t any incidents that could indisputably be regarded as motivated by anti-Semitism. Though there were such speculationsin the press regarding several crimes (including two assassinations), on closer examination, no anti-Semitic motives were found behind those crimes. A year without anti-Semitic violence was a logical extension of the trend observed during the recent years of a decrease in the number of ideologically motivated attacks against the Jews. Here is the statistics: in 2009 one incident of anti-Semitic violence; in 2008 five people suffered such violence; in 2007 –eight people; in 2006 – nine people; and in 2005 – eight people.
A more common form of the criminal anti-Semitism in Ukraine, as well as over the entire post-Soviet space, is the anti-Semitic vandalism, which includes painting of the anti-Semitic graffiti on the buildings of Jewish organizations, occasional smashing of windows in those buildings, the vandalism in the cemeteries and the desecration of the memorials to the Holocaust victims. According to the preliminary data, nine such acts of anti-Semitic vandalism were documented in 2010. It is much less than in previous years, though quite often, the information on the acts of vandalism comes to the surface with some lag, and therefore, it can be expected that at the end of the year the final data may turn out to be worse.
Over the previous years, the number of the acts of anti-Semitic vandalism was approximately within the same range: according to our monitoring, there were 19 incidents of the anti-Semitic vandalism (including two arsons) in 2009, 13 in 2008, 20 in 2007 and 21 in 2006. It looks as if the 2008 decrease in the anti-Semitic activities was brought about by the somewhat unexpectedly strict sentences (including several years of imprisonment) imposed on anti-Semitic vandals at the very beginning of the year. Until then (as was, regrettably, the case over the last two years), the perpetrators committing such acts went unpunished or the punishment was largely symbolic.
In 2009, for the first time over many years, there took place an attempt of an anti-Semitic terrorist act: an improvised bomb had been found in the Volyn Oblast Jewish community center in the downtown of Lutsk. Fortunately, there were no such incidents in 2010. In the realm of the anti-Semitic propaganda, the decline that started over three years ago, in the autumn of 2007 (following a period of the increase in the number of anti-Semitic publications over the years of 2002–2006) is continuing. Both the increase and the decline in the amount of such publications were largely connected to the activities of the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP, since its publications contained up to 90% of the total amount of anti-Semitic materials in the print media).
In 2009, 46 anti-Semitic articles were published in the nation-wide print media, which is less than a year earlier (54 publications in 2008). The main voices of anti-Semitic propaganda in Ukraine are the newspapers “За вільну Україну Плюс” (For free Ukraine plus) and “Сота Свободи" (Honeycomb of Freedom) in Lvov and the Kremenchuk weekly Information Bulletin. According to the preliminary data, in 2010, the trend of the decline in the amount of anti-Semitic publications in the print media persists.
And of the decline in the amount of anti-Semitic publications in the print media persists.
By no means, does our monitoring cover all the publications, since it is impossible to follow all the numerous Ukrainian newspapers including regional, political, religious, election-campaign editions, etc. One can, therefore, hardly claim that these results should be interpreted as the exact number of anti-Semitic articles published in the Ukrainian media during the period under our review. Nonetheless, these numbers are of great value because they make it possible to compare them with those from the previous years.
Speaking about the anti-Semitic propaganda, it is worth mentioning that in 2009 the National Expert Commission on Morale banned the distribution of some anti-Semitic and Nazi books in Ukraine, an effort which the Commission was reluctant to undertake before. And the Ukrainian Security Service (for the first time ever, as far as known) referred, to the public pros- ecutor’s office, papers for initiation of a criminal case on the dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda via the Internet (however, so far, there has been no trail).
Regrettably, in 2009 and 2010, anti-Semitism became a noticeable element of the socio-political life of the country since it had been actively used by political advisors and analysts in 2010, during the presidential and local election campaigns, to discredit nominees or political forces. The two nominees known for their anti-Semitism took part in the presidential campaigns: Sergey Ratushnyak, the mayor of Uzhgorod and Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” (Freedom). It should be noted that while in recent years Oleh Tyahnybok has elected not to use radical rhetoric and tried to present a more respectable image, Sergey Ratushnyak made anti-Semitism a key factor of his election campaign. On September 17, 2010, during the first ballot, Oleh Tyahnybok and Sergey Ratushnyak received, accordingly, 1.43 and 0.12% of votes. It is also worthwhile noting that during the campaign, a criminal case was initiated against Sergey Ratushnyak on the charges of anti-Semitic statements under Article 161 of the Criminal Code (“Incitement of ethnic enmity”). However, straight after the elections, the case was dismissed “in the absence of the corpus delicti.” The surge of the anti-Semitic propaganda in the course of the election campaign was brought about not so much by the forthright anti-Semites taking part in it, but, rather, by the efforts to use anti-Semitism for discrediting other nominees by their alleged Jewish origin. Before the first ballot, such black PR technologies were used against Arseny Yatsenuk, before the second one they were aimed against Yuliya Timoshenko. On October 31, 2010, elections of local councils (in oblasts, districts, cities and towns), as well as elections of heads of the cities’ administrations (mayors) took place throughout Ukraine. A substantial advance was gained by the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda”. In the West Ukraine, specifically, in Lvov, Ternopol and Ivano-Frankivsk Oblasts, up to 30% of the electorate that took part in the elections gave their votes to “Svoboda”. According to political analysts, the country average of “Svoboda” gives the party a good chance to clear the vote threshold in the next election of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. In the last (pre-term) election of the Ukrainian parliament that took place in 2007, “Svoboda” gained only 0.76% votes and in 2006 still less, 0.36% votes of the electorate that took part in the elections.
The anti-Semitic rhetoric was also present in the mayors’ election campaigns in a number of the cities. For example, Alexei Kostusev, (the Party of Regions) who won in Odessa, and members of his campaign office made anti-Semitic remarks against Edward Gurvits, the ex-mayor (the “Front for Change” party); anti-Semitic remarks were also made against Gennady Kernes, the representative of the Party of Regions (which did not prevent him from winning the election). It is important to note that in many of the cities where Jews ran for mayoralty, including those cities where during the previous election campaigns there were attempts to use anti-Semitic rhetoric, nothing of the kind was observed in 2010. To set an example: in Vinnitsa Vladimir Groisman, the representative of the party “Conscience of Ukraine” once again won the mayoralty receiving almost 77% of the citizens’ votes. Vladimir Caldo, the “Party of Regions” nominee an ethnic Jew, won the election in Kherson despite the fact that his opponents actively used anti-Semitic rhetoric. It should also be noted that although Sergey Ratushnyak, notorious for his anti-Semitism, lost the votes for keeping the seat of the Uzhgorod mayor, he, nevertheless, received almost 30% votes of citizens that took part in the elections.
In summary, the situation in Ukraine, in 2009–2010, is marked by both positive and negative trends. On the one hand, according to our monitoring, there is a decrease in the number of anti-Semitic crimes (attacks and vandalism). On the other hand, anti-Semitism is much more aggressively used in the political struggle than it had been before and, as a result, its presence in the public discourse seems somewhat legitimized.
Given the tight control over the mass media in Uzbekistan, it is not common for the nationalistic sentiments to be expressed openly. There is a Criminal Code article on formentation of the ethnic strife and therefore, the domestic situation regarding Jews seems to be calm. However, no Jews hold high positions and they are not represented in the country’s Parliament. Islam Karimov, the President of Uzbekistan does everything to preserve the secular nature of the state: he tries not to let external Islamic fundamentalism influence the country and combats extremism and terrorism. Some of the laws indirectly restrict the rights of ethnic minorities and their cultural communities. In particular, laws aimed at curbing the excessive influence of Islam also have an adverse effect on the execution of religious, educational and charitable programs inside the Jewish community.
It is hard to make a definitive judgment about the level of anti-Semitism in the country in the absence of any official or independent data on ethnicity-related crimes. The activities of radical Islamic groups in the country come to light only after severe terrorist attacks (such as the 2004 bomb explosions in front of the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Tashkent) or events such as the 2005 Andizhan tragedy. Members of Hizb ut-Tahrir are tried behind closed doors. In Tashkent, Islamists were distributing leaflets with the false information claiming Islam Karimor was a Jew and that the activities of the Jewish Agency (Sohnut) were harmful.
In recent years, there have been tensions in diplomatic relations between Uzbekistan and the U.S. and Israel. This adversely affects the image of the Jewish community in the eyes of the local authorities since they think that the community is under the guidance of the Americans. In recent years, several Jews were killed. Two of the assassinations, that of Avraam Yagudav, the Tashkent synagogue’s chairman and of Ilkhom Mark Weil, the theatre director in the Tashkent troupe were widely covered by the media.
• Review was prepared by Vyacheslav Likhachev. Information for the review was provided by Ya. Basin, A. Gurvits, M. Fazylov, and S. Charny. Also used in the review were materials of the Jewish Congress of Moldova and of Executive Directorate of the Jewish Community of Moldova.