Summarizing the preliminary data on anti-Semitism in the departing year 2011, it seems prudent to me, as before, to withhold any evaluative judgment on the “growth” or “decline” of the level of anti-Semitism in Ukrainian society (my position is that any conclusions about the abstract “level of anti-Semitism” are fairly meaningless). Instead, I believe it to be best to the consecutively look at the data, including the quantitative data, on different particular forms of anti-Semitic acts, collected through my monitoring of xenophobic acts throughout the country. To form an adequate picture of a dynamic, of course, it is also necessary to remember the data collected throughout previous years.
Attacks on Anti-Semitic Grounds
We should naturally begin with the most dangerous manifestations of anti-Semitism, which pose a direct threat to the life and health of Ukrainian Jews and the Jewish organizations in the country.
In 2011, excepting confrontations between Hasidim pilgrims and the citizens of Uman' (which had taken place in a very specific context – see below), there had not been any instances of anti-Semitic violence in Ukraine. There had been one instance of attempted violence, which had been curbed by the police, that did not result in physical damage.
In 2010, one case of anti-Semitism violence can be recorded, if with certain reserve. In December 2010, the security guard of the Chernigiv synagogue (a non-Jew) was hurt by a piece of ice thrown by a one of several teenage hooligans, whom he attempted to stop from breaking the windows of the synagogue by throwing ice. It is notable that the press reported several other incidents as having an anti-Semitic basis, including one murder, but the results of my investigation have shown that such an evaluation cannot be confirmed.
According to my monitoring, 2009 also features one incident of indisputably anti-Semitic violence. This is the March incident in the synagogue of Simferopol. In 2008, if we consider the maximum possible number incidents, there were five victims of anti-Semitic violence. In 2007, there were five attacks by anti-Semites, in which eight people were hurt. If we consider the maximum possible number of incidents and include one more that had not been definitely confirmed, then there had been six attacks and nine victims respectively. In 2006, I was able to monitor five incidents in which eight Jews and one non-Jewish passerby, who attempted to help the victims, were hurt. In one of the incidents, an armed attack in Dniepropetrovsk on Hitler's birthday, almost had a lethal outcome for the victim. There were also two incident that I had not been able to receive reliable information on. In 2005, over eight people were hurt in six incidents. It is hard to be more precise, because one of the incidents was an attack on a group of school children in Simferopol. One of the victims, a student of the Kyiv yeshiva, was heavily beaten by skinheads using improvised weaponry, and received life-threatening wounds. Notably, there were no incidents of comparable seriousness from 2007 through 2011.
Thus we can note a visible decline in anti-Semitic violence, likely to be a tendency rather than a fluke, as the data has been recorded over several years.
To provide a better understanding of the context, I present the following data on the general number of victims of racist violence, also collected during my monitoring. According to the information available to me in late November, the preliminary results of the monitoring show 41 attacks on the grounds of interracial hatred, most of which were made against natives of African and Asian countries. If we examine the dynamic, we can see a fairly sharp rise in such crimes starting from the last months of 2010, after a period of decline ranging from early spring 2008 to late autumn 2010. The numbers for this dynamic run as follows: in 2010, 18 people were victims of hate crime (one lethal outcome), in 2009 – 37 people, in 2008 – 84 people (four dead), in 2007 – 88 people (six dead), in 2006 – 14 people (2 dead). Thus, we can see a non-linear dynamic of hate crime victims, where there was a rise in hate crime from 2006 to 2008, a decline in 2008-2010, and a new rise in the last year. In any case, the amount of anti-Semitic violence seems to be negligible in the context of general hate crime in Ukraine.
A more common form of criminal anti-Semitism in Ukraine, as in all of post-Soviet territory, is anti-Semitic vandalism. This includes anti-Semitic graffiti on and broken windows of the buildings of Jewish organizations, cemetery vandalism, and the defilement of memorials to Holocaust victims. I also place arson and attempted arson of Jewish places of worship in the “vandalism” category.
I have recorded nine such incidents from January to October 2011.
In February, unknown vandals smeared a memorial to the writer Sholom-Aleichem, located in Kyiv on Rognydenskaya street, with paint.
On the night of March 13, vandals broke and desecrated a memorial sign to Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the city of Velikiye Mosty, located in the Sokalsky region of Lviv oblast. A swastika and a Celtic cross, as well as anti-Semitic and radical right-wing slogans were painted over the memorial in green paint.
In March, in the city of Eupatoria (Crimea), unknown vandals drew a swastika and wrote anti-Semitic slogans on the fence of the “Yegiyah-Kapay” synagogue, such as “Hitler is a prophet, he is eternal!” and “Death to the Jews!”
On the night of April 4. a synagogue was desecrated in Sumy. Unknown vandals broke two lightbulbs filled with black paint on the front of the building. The suspects in this crime were later apprehended, and are also being accused of more serious hate crimes, not against Jews.
On April 17, it became known that the bas-relief to Golda Meir in Kyiv, on Basseinaya street, building 5a, was smeared with white paint.
On the night of May 16, a memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust was desecrated in Dniepropetrovsk, in Yuri Gagarin park. The unknown vandals used white paint to draw a swastika and an anti-Semitic insult on the memorial.
In May, an obelisk to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust was desecrated in Konotop (Sumskaya oblast).
On June 19, a memorial to Holocaust victims was desecrated in Feodosiya. A plastic bottle was burned over the memorial, and the memorial stone was covered in melted gray plastic. Signs of an insulting character were found near the object.
On September 27, it became known that unknown vandals painted an anti-Semitic insult with black paint on the fence of the Kremenchug (Poltavskaya oblast) synagogue (“Death to the Jews! Your place is in Babiy Yar!”). After a police statement was made, a criminal case was initiated on Article 296 Part 1 of the Criminal Code (“hooliganism”).
In 2010, there were 16 recorded instances of anti-Semitic vandalism, in 2009 – 19 cases, in 2008 – 13, in 2007 – 20, and in 2006 – 21. It can be said that the level of anti-Semitic vandalism has remained fairly stable. If we consider the dynamic over the last five years, we can make a tentative observation of the declination of the number of similar incidents.
Propaganda of Anti-Semitism
A declining trend continues in anti-Semitic propaganda. The decline began over four years ago, after an increase in the number of anti-Semitic publications from 2002 to 2006.
According to the data of the anti-Semitic propaganda monitoring project, carried out by Vladimir Mindlin for VAAD Ukraine (Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine), in the third quarter of 2001 (from July to September) there were 5 articles in national publication media that the expert rated as anti-Semitic.
According to this same monitoring, the second quarter of 2011 (April - June) also saw 5 anti-Semitic article, and the first quarter (January - March) saw 3 anti-Semitic articles. All in all, there were 13 anti-Semitic articles over the first 9 months of 2011. The main voicers of anti-Semitic propaganda among Ukrainian publication media are the following newspapers: “For Free Ukraine Plus” (“Za Vil'nu Ukrainu Plyus,” published in Lviv), “Freedom Cell” (“Sota Svobody,” Lviv), “Informational Bulletin” (“Informacionniy Byulleten,” Kremenchug).
To put these data in perspective, in the first quarter of 2010 (also according to Mindlin) Ukraine saw 7 anti-Semitic articles, 9 in the second quarter, and 7 again in the third. There were 25 anti-Semitic articles in 2010 in general.
Naturally, the monitoring does not cover all Ukrainian publication media, as it is simply impossible to survey all Ukrainian newspapers (regional, political-party-specific, religious, pre-election agitational, and so on.) Thus its results should not be interpreted as the exact number of anti-Semitic articles in published in Ukrainian media during the review period. It is also necessary to note that anti-Semitic and, in general, xenophobic and neo-Nazi propaganda has been migrating more and more from print media to the Internet, where its volume is simple impossible to survey with the existing resources of monitoring structures. But these data hold positive value, because they allow comparison with measurements of the same parameter from previous years (also collected by Mindlin).
Thus, in 2009, there were 46 anti-Semitic articles published, in 2008 – 54 anti-Semitic articles, and in 2007 there were 542 anti-Semitic articles. In 2006 – 676 anti-Semitic articles were recorded, in 2005 – 661, and in 2004 – 379. In 2003, 258 anti-Semitic articles were recorded by the monitoring, and 179 in 2002. In 2001, a little over a hundred anti-Semitic publications were recorded.
What processes are shown in these numbers? At the very beginning of the 2000s, anti-Semitic materials were published mostly in marginal media, such as monthly ultra-nationalistic newspapers, with a circulation of about a thousand copies. In 2002 there is a sharp growth in anti-Semitic propaganda, the massive increase accounted for by the activity of the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP). MAUP published close to 90% of printed anti-Semitic material from 2002 to 2006. From 2002 to 2005, the number of anti-Semitic materials increased by a factor of 1,5 – 2 every year, and there were materials with tens or even hundreds of thousands copies printed. In 2006, however, the amount of publications grew just a little relative to 2005, and 2007 saw a decline in the volume of anti-Semitic propaganda for the first time since 2002. A more detailed analysis shows a decline in the number of publications over the whole year, and an especially sharp decline in the autumn of 2007 (183 publications in the first quarter, 137 during the second quarter, 147 in the third (during the Parliamentary elections), and 75 in the fourth).
In the fall of 2007, MAUP stopped its anti-Semitic campaign as sharply as it had been begun. A sharp decline (the amount of publications in Ukrainian printed media decreased ten times from the former numbers) in the number of anti-Semitic publications has thus been observed since September 2007. The trend gradually continues in 2011.
Anto-Semitic Campaign in Uman'
The anti-pilgirm and anti-Semitic campaign that has been taking place in Uman in 2011 deserves special attention.
The arrival of pilgrims, adherents of Orthodox Judaism, to Uman' (Cherkasskaya oblast), where one of the great Jewish tsaddiks, founder of the Bratslav branch of the Hasidic movement, Rabbi Nachman is buried, became grounds for a large-scale anti-Semitic campaign this year. The grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav is visited by Orthodox Jews from around the world over the entire year. Peak numbers of pilgrims come in the autumn, during the Rosh-ha-Shana holiday (the Jewish New Year), the first day of which in 2011 was during the eve of September 28. Each year, around 20 thousand pilgrims visit Uman' on Rosh-ha-Shana. In 2011, an unprecedented number of pilgrims was expected to come because of the cancellation of the visa regime between Ukraine and Israel. However, these expectations did not come to pass: according to our data, no more than 25 thousand pilgrims visited Uman' in September.
Due to their exotic appearance and weak understanding of Ukrainian day-to-day realities, the new arrivals were often victims of anti-Semitic abuse and, even more often, of common crime. During the last several years, the peak of the pilgrimage caused several waves of anti-Semitic comments, including some by police workers, and some from certain marginal public figures. This year, the anti-Semitic campaign around Uman' reached its peak. A movement began in the summer in Uman', which attempted to disrupt the autumn pilgrimage and held a number of anti-Semitic events.
On June 7, an anti-Semitic rally took place in the so-called “Jewish town” (Pushkinskaya street, which leads to Rabbi Nachman's grave, and where many Hasidim live). A group of 10-12 people, self-styled “community representatives” tore off signs and advertisements in Hebrew, insisting that “this is all illegal” (but not providing any court decision or statutory act on demand). They provoked the Jews to a response through threats and insults. The offenders were accompanied by representatives of the city authorities and plainclothed policemen, who watched what was happening, but did not interfere. The offenders declared that they came to “clean up this mess,” that signs in Hebrew are “illegal,” and that the Jews must “obey them.” Obviously counting on provoking the Hasidim, the offenders invited journalists along. However, the Jews behaved calmly and reservedly, and did not reach to the insults the offenders hurled at them. The Hasidim were not even provoked when the so-called “reoresentatives of the community” tore off a memorial plaque, put up by the family of the deceased, a citizen of Israel named Shmuel Menachem Tubul, who was killed in a fight on the night of September 25, 2010. Even though the plaque had been mounted with the consent of the residents of the house, the offending anti-Semites removed it and wanted to throw it away, all the while insulting the outraged Jews. The Hasidim, however, were successful in recovering the memorial plaque from the vandals.
The leader of the hooligans was Victor Dunayev, chairman of a newly-created municipal civic organization “We Are From Uman,'” which is still being officially registered. According to the articles of this organization, its purpose is to “defend the interests of the residents of Uman' from foreign pilgrims.” Earlier, speaking on the behalf of a certain Council of Uman' Civic Organization, Dunayev threatened to completely prohibit pilgrims from coming to Uman' .
Several dozen thousand pilgrims come to this small regional center, most of which come to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman during the holiday of Rosh-ha-Shana – the Jewish religious new year. Their unusual look and behavior have provoked an anti-Semitic reaction in Ukrainian society several times.
Victor Dunayev, the organizator of this “rally,” confirmed that he understands the illegality of his groups' activity in a telephone call with the author of this article, made right after the incident.
On June 11, hooligans once again came to provoke Hasidim to Pushkin street, which is near the grave of the founder of Bratslav Hasidism, Rabbi Nachman, and is a place where many Orthodox Jews live. The offenders, headed by Dunayev, placed big loudspeakers near the synagogue, and turned on loud music to interfere with prayer. The music was sometimes interrupted by passionate speeches by Dunayev and his followers, who demanded that the Hasidim adhere to the law which they “broke,” and threatened to disrupt the traditional autumn pilgrimage to Rabbi Nachman's grave. The rally, which gathered an estimated 40 people, was protected by the police. At the end of the rally, the “communtiy representatives” erected a massive flagpole on the territory of the old Jewish cemetery, and planted a Ukrainian flag on it.
The Hasidim stress that they hold nothing against the Ukrainian flag, but believe that it is intolerable to do any work on the territory of the old cemetery. The cemetery is now within municipal boundaries and formally belongs to the city, but it is well-known that the land is the territory of a Jewish cemetery. As far as one can judge, the actions of the self-styled “community representatives” were also consciously provocative. It is also obvious that loud music through powerful loudspeakers on a Saturday, when Jews are prohibited from using electrical appliances, directly near the synagogue could not have any other aim except to provoke the Jews to a response.
According to our information, Dunayev's group is being patronized by Vladimir Kryzhanovsky, who is the chairman of the plant's Supervisory Board. It is possible that the provocative activities of the group are connected to the redistribution of the financial flows connected to the yearly reception and accommodation of the pilgrims, as well as with the financial interests in owning the plots of land directly next to Rabbi Nachman's tomb.
On June 16, Dunayev and his group practically disrupted a working meeting of the mayor, with the participation of the oblast' governor, on accommodating the autumn pilgrimage.
On June 18, a drunk local threatened a group of worshipers with a knife near the synagogue by Rabbi Nachman's grave. Several young Orthodox Jews disarmed and detained the troublemaker, and handed him over to the police. This incident took place on Saturday, when the Jews gather in the synagogue for prayer.
That same day, information was given to the heads of the Security Service of Ukraine on the provocative activities of anti-Semites from Uman' aimed at inciting inter-ethnic and interfaith conflict, disrupting a large-scale international pilgrimage (which provides the country with a yearly profit that numbers in tens of millions dollars), and forming a negative view of Ukraine abroad. After that the anti-Semitic activity of Victor Dunayev and his followers subsided somewhat, at least until the end of June.
By September, the anti-Hasific campaign was supported not only by local, but by pan-Ukrainian radical right organizations. It is notable that the Pan-Ukrainian “Svoboda” Union became the powerhouse of the campaign – a group which previously tried not to put too fine a point on the anti-Semitic component of its ideology.
On September 9th, there were clashes between the locals and the Hasidim. The activists tore down some of the fence on Pushkinskaya street, behind which there was a mess hall preparing for pilgrims coming for Rosh-ha-Shana. That same day, Daniel Daiyan's (who is one of the local leaders of the Hasidim movement in Uman') son inflicted harm to a local in another fight.
On Septmber 14, aggressive groups made up of locals began insulting Hasidim on the streets near Pushkinskaya street, shouting anti-Semitic slogans, and provoking the pilgrims. The next day, six Hasidim identified (possibly incorrectly) by the police as participants of the confrontation were arrested and later deported.
On September 19, representatives of the oppositional parties spoke at the local council with a proposal to reinter the remains of Rabbi Nachman in Israel, motivating their proposal by the purportedly existent consequences of mass pilgrimage. According to Leonid Datsenko, the coordinator of the Council of Cherkaschyna Oppositional Forces, if the number of pilgrims continues to grow, their numbers will surpass the numbers of Uman's actual residents, and Uman' might become a piece of foreign land in Ukraine, something like “the Russian fleet in the Crimea.” According to Datsenko, “lately they [pilgrims – ed.] have been crossing the line, and a dangerous situation is brewing, which might go out of control, and conflicts are possible between our citizens and the pilgrims.”
On September 25, activists of Ukrainian Radical Right groups, first and foremost of the Pan-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” and the Cherkasy Youth Group “Sokol” (“Falcon”) tried to hold a parade titled “Uman' Without Hasidim,” as part of “event with an unlimited duration” of the same name. Their official demands were: “Define the status of the Hasidim; make the coming of criminals impossible; introduce biometric control for the arrivals; forbid Hasidim from arbitrary building; recommend that the arrivals stay in clearly defined places of worship; forbid the arrivals to disturb the locals' peace; stop the Hasidim from littering.”
Before the rally, anti-Semitic flyers were disseminated throughout the city. One poster invited to come to the rally “if you're tired of the foreigner's aggression and all the mess.” The general graphic symbol of the “Uman' Without Hasidim campaign” was the crossed out head of an “alien” with side-locks and a kippah. It is very appropriate though, as it seems, the idea of the authors of this emblem was the the silhouette of the “alien” from the well-known movie (with all of the baggage attached), but many of the Orthodox Jews saw a pig in the silhouette, and were highly insulted. Tatyana Chernomaz, Chairman of the local oblast' department of “Svoboda,” stated that “the Hasids come from countries where the plague and cholera are rampant, attack our boys with weapons, and are generally behave badly.”
The rally was to take place near the Gonta and Zaliznyak memorial stone (the leaders of the Kolyyivschyna – a peasant uprising of the 18th century, which was accompanied by the slaughter of the Polish and Jewish residents of Uman'), which is planned to be replaced with a memorial to these ambiguous characters, and the it was planned to follow it up with a parade. Three days before the rally, the Cherkasy Oblast' Administrative Court complied with the demand filed by the Uman' Civic Municipal Administration, and forbid any kind of events in Uman' from September 23 to October 10, concerned (and the editors of this bulletin believe their concerns to be correct) that radical right groups might be connected to disturbances of the peace and may provoke conflict between radical right activists, who came from other regions for the really, and religious Jews who are in the city because of the Rosh-ha-Shan festivities. Nonetheless, on September 25 the participants of the rally arrived from Cherkasy and Kyiv on buses, paid for by the central organization of “Svoboda,” and attempted to hold their even with a “shortened” program. The rally was introduced as a meeting between the electorate and deputies of local boards (and one deputy from the Uman' Municipal Council was even present – Bogdan Chernomaz), and the parade was styled as “a walk in the city.” Despite the fact that formally the rally could not have taken place, participants of the event unfurled posters, including those that hailed Gonta and Zaliznyak, and waved flags. Some of the participants hid their faces under masks. The parade was headed by Svoboda leaders, in particular, the chairman of the Kyiv department Andrei Ilyaenko and Deputy Chairman Andrei Mokhnyk. The participants of the parade were blocked by the police in the center of the city, and the most active participants were arrested, 67 people in all, 11 of which were locals. It should be noted that the police used excessive force to disband the demonstration.
When answering questions after the march, “Svoboda” leader Oleg Tyagnybok said, “This is becoming ridiculous. A guest comes to my house, breaks all of my furniture, soils the kitchen, creates an all-around mess. I ask the guest to clean up... And you accuse me of anti-Semitism.” It is notable that later in the interview he stated that the authorities must have some measures of control for foreigners who come from countries “where certain viruses are rampant now.” According to Tyagnibok, “this is practically a question of national security.”
It is notable that after the September 25 confrontation, “Svoboda” stressed in its public propaganda that there was a conflict between “the authorities and their punitive agencies” and “peaceful Ukrainian citizens.” The anti-Semitic component, which was the very reason for holding the disbanded rally, went on the back burner (though sometimes came to the forefront, but not too often). This was the spirit in which the “Svoboda” press conference of September 27 in Cherkasy took place, and the spirit of the comments of Andrei Ilyenko to the author of this bulletin during his visit to the Kyiv Goethe Institute on September 29, a veiled attempt to disrupt a political stuides event.
The situation in Uman requires steadfast attention and systematic action. It would have been quite undersirable to see a repeat of the summer and autumn of 2011 in 2012.