Society against anti-Semitism
The Jewish community of Russia is notably active in preserving the memory of the Holocaust. It must, however, be noted that much of this activity is directed outside of Russia, as a reaction to the attempts to rehabilitate Nazi sympathizers in Ukraine and in the Baltic country. On January 26. Head Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar stressed in a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, “Nazism is bad not only because they killed, but because they killed and justified their actions. It happened this was in the Baltic countries and in Ukraine – the locals participated in the extermination of Jews.”
On January 27, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russian published an address for International Holocaust Memorial Day, which read: “On this day, the day when the Soviet army liberated Auschwitz, a day so close to the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the words of representatives of the Baltic Countries, Ukraine, and other European countries that Hitler's Nazi regime was identical to the political system of the Soviet Union during Stalin's time sound especially blasphemous. The Jewish community of Russia believes this tendency to be a serious threat to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, because equating the crimes of the Nazis with the crimes of the Stalinist regime is obviously an attempt to remove the responsibility from those countries whose population actively participated in the destruction of their own Jewish minority. We believe that such a policy is part of an attempt to create a historic and intellectual infrastructure with the aim to undercut and, in the end, cancel the existing view of the Holocaust as a unique genocide, to marginalize this unique historic event. This phenomenon is, for obvious reasons, especially noticed in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, in the countries whose citizens exceptionally strongly cooperated with the Germans during World War II. This campaign, uniting victims of the Holocaust and victims of Communism, is an obvious attempt to cast a shadow on the complex history of murders of their own Jewish populace, and is a trick to whitewash the stain of mass collaboration... It is obvious that even a partial rehabilitation of Nazism will be an acceptance of the right to exist and to realize any extremist and terrorist ideology. The fact that the authorities of a number of former USSR republics and their politicians think it admissible to openly support marches of SS veterans, the erection of memorials to the Nazis, or the restoration of openly Fascist organizations seem to us to be on par with lauding the activities of contemporary extremist and terrorist groups, whose methods are just as inhumane, and who are no less a threat to the world than Nazism was in its day.” The FJCR called for the Ukrainian and Baltic authorities to “give their own appraisal of the fact that the German-Fascist armies killed peaceful citizens of their (the authorities' – transl.) countries, and of collaborationism during the war” and for the global community to condemn the revision of World War II history by a special UN resolution against collaboration and Nazi regimes. Another similar appeal was made on the 9th of March, with a call for the leadership of the EU and UN to “give an adequate appraisal of this 'silent indifference” of such European countries as Latvia, Moldavia, Estonia, and Ukraine. The cause for the appeal was the decision of the Moldovan authorities to equate the Soviet liberator soldiers with those who sided with marshal Antonesku, and to laud them both equally.
Head Rabbit of Russia Berl Lazar, during his meeting with the President of Israel Shimon Peres at a reception in the Kremlin on May 9th, on the 65th anniversary of the Victory, expressed his concern with the partial rehabilitation of Fascist ideology in a number of countries. He stressed that even a partial rehabilitation of Nazism will be the acceptance of the right to exist and to be realized on any extremist and terrorist ideology. The Head Rabbi of Russia reminded that the authorities of a number fo former USSR republics, the leadership of Iran, and the politicians of these state “believe that it is possible to openly support marches of SS veterans, the erection of memorials to the Nazis, to restore openly Fascist organizations, or to deny the Holocaust.” All of this according to Berl Lazar, is “on par with lauding the activities of contemporary extremist and terrorist groups, whose methods are just as inhumane, and who are no less a threat to the world than Nazism was in its day.”
On the 4th of March, in a meeting in Moscow with the Minister of Regional Development of the Russian Federation Victor Basargin, Berl Lazar proposed to make Auschwitz liberation day, January 27, a state memorial day, noting that it would also be a reminder of Russia's valorous deed in defeating Nazism. Support by the Ministry of Regional Development for the Jewish community's offices of legal affairs, which monitor anti-Semitism and xenophobia, were also discussed during the meeting of the rabbi and the minister. An agreement was reached that the Jewish community of Russia would transfer their propositions for combating xenophobia to the ministry.
On September 20th, the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda sent a letter to MSU Rector Victor Sadovnichiy about the publishing of the A.S. Barsenkov and A.I. Vdovin textbook “A History of Russia. 1919-2009.” Nothing that “the Jewish community of Russia has been watching the scholarly and educational activities of MSU professors Barsenkov and Vdovin with concern for quite some time” and that it is concerned with and puzzled by the “nationalistic and prejudiced position of the aforementioned professors in the appraisal of Russia's modern history.” Boroda asked the MSU Rector to “hold an internal investigation of this fact, and, if possible, to take necessary measures to terminate anti-Semitic and other xenophobic propaganda within the walls of your university, to give an appraisal of the activities of Barsenkov and Vdovin, and evaluate their professional integrity.” “Our organization does not want to take this to court, but the heat of the public discussion around this textbook drives us to seriously consider that possibility,” Boroda summarized.
The Moscow office of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress has been notably active in counteracting anti-Semitism. EAJC Secretary General Michael Chlenov was the first of the prominent representatives of the Russian Jewish community to come out with a criticism on the wave of anti-Israeli publications in the media connected to the “Freedom Flotilla.” On June 1, 2010, he stressed that the participants of the “humanitarian event” were obviously aiming to discredit Israel at any price, and did not only pay no heed to the demands of the Israeli side, stated well in advance, but also prepared armed resistance to the Israeli military. “It is sad that even before an objective investigation of the even has taken place, many countries are unabashedly placing the entirety of the blame on Israel, once again showing self-righteous hypocrisy and a double-standard policy, We expect from the global community that possible anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli acts, which were intentionally provoked by the “Freedom Flotilla,” will be evaluated objectively, and will be stopped in the most decisive way possible in the future. We do not doubt that Israel, the only true democracy in the Near East, is able to hold an honest and unbiased investigation of what happened. We sympathize with the people of Israel, and hope that this incident does not make any decisive influence on the slowing process of Near East regulation,” Michael Chlenov concluded.
On June 21st, after the terroristic attack on the Tver synagogue, the EAJC Moscow office made a sharp statement on this. They stressed that the attack was “yet another certain step of the extremists which have been recently desecrating the walls of the synagogue with anti-Semitic slogans and spread Judophobic fliers in the city.” “The EAJC is certain that such crimes must not qualify as mere 'hooliganism' in multi-ethnic Russia, Such crimes must receive serious political evaluation and become the subject of responsible community debates. We truly hope that this time the authorities will take all necessary measures to catch the criminals. Terror has no human justification and must not have any political perspectives,” the document stressed, The Congress also gave 15000 rubles to the Jewish community of Tver to repair the damaged building of the synagogue.
On October 4, the EAJC published a statement in connection with the UN speech of the President of Iran M. Ahmadinedzhad, who fulminated upon Israel with an unprecedented barrage of criticism. The statement read: “Considering the constantly-declared hatred of the Iranian leader for the Jewish state, nothing new had been said. But in the conditions of growing anti-Israeli attitudes among the so-called liberal public of the West, such statements can feed the campaign for the delegitimization of Israel. The EAJC decisively condemns the speech of the Iranian President and demands that the most important international structure stop providing a pulpit for preaching hatred for the Jewish state and its delegitimization.”
On January 15, the creation of a free telephone hotline for victims of national discrimination and anti-Semitism by the Federal Jewish National Cultural Autonomy with the support of the Civic Chamber of Russia was announced in Moscow. This hotline received hundreds of calls in its less than a year of existence.
On January 27, a mourning meeting dedicated to International Holocaust Memorial day took place in Birobidhzan. Among those who took part in the meeting were: Chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of the Far East Valeriy Gurevich, a variety of officials, members of the Former Underage Ghetto Prisoners Club, the teachers and students from both schools and universities, and the congregation of the synagogue. “We must not forget this tragedy, as only memory can save us from such horrors in the future,” said Valeriy Gurevich. “We have no right to rewrite history to the demands of particular political groups, which would have liked to make the enemies of humanity into its liberators. It is blasphemy when former members of the SS are honored, when traitors of their people are made out to be national heroes.” “The Holocaust reminds us not only of the tragedy of the Jewish people,” said Director of the Oblast Institute for Teacher Improvement Tatiana Fain. “There is nothing worse than a state policy of anti-Semitism, of elevating some race, ethnicity, or nationality over all others. World War II has proven this. Not only Jews were being destroyed en masse, but also all of the Slavs, the Roma, and other people. We must not forget this for one minute, understanding well that only in an atmosphere of tolerance, openness, and respect for all cultures will we make ourselves safe from such frightening phenomena as anti-Semitism and nationalism.” In memory of those who dies in the Fascist concentration camps, each one of those present placed a memorial stone near the obelisk in the courtyard of the community center.
On February 1st, it was announced that the anti-Semitism hotline of the Jewish community of the Nizhegorod synagogue is continuing its work.
On February 11th, om Syktyvkar, the famous movie about Nazis “Russia – 88,” which did not have a general release, was shown on the premises of the Jewish Komi national cultural autonomy.
On April 21, Head of the Ryzazan Jewish community Lyudmila Zakharova was invited to participate in in the “Fostering Tolerance in Elementary School Students” training event for elementary school teachers by the city library named after Yesenin. Zacharova told the gathering about the work of national communities, including the Jewish community, with schools and teachers, about the successes of the Association's initiatives, about a recent event “Ghetto Prisoner Memorial Day” and of showing the movie “The Kiselev List” to children from grades 7-8, about international concerts and soccer, and about many other things. In particular, she said, “The future of our country, the life of our children and grandchildren depends on you and your work. National communities are ready to work together with you to foster good and a respect towards representatives of other nationalities together with you.”
On April 23, the Manezh exhibition hall of the Kazan Kremlin hosted the opening ceremony for the republican pedagogical seminar “Lessons of the Holocaust – Path to Tolerance.” Seminars of this kind are held all over Russia as part of the target-oriented program of the Holocaust fund, with the support of a grant of the RF President Dmitry Medvedev. The aim of the forum is to acquaint the school teachers with methods to teach the topic of the Holocaust, as well as with the necessity to teach about this topic while learning about World War II.
On June 23rd, a “Day of Memory and Grief” of the Jewish community of Stavropol took place in a forest where Jews were shot in August 1942.
However, there were also some extremes. For instance, the Jewish community of Kalinigrad Oblast expressed its displeasure with the NTV company, which showed Steven Spielberd's “Schindler's List,” a movie about the tragedy of the Jewish people in World War II, on December 6. The community was offended that this movie was shown during the Chanukah celebration, and its representatives even tried to accuse the television company of anti-Semitism.
Participation of representatives of youth movements that support the United Russia political party oin counteracting anti-Semitism has been noted.
Over 300 activists of the “Nashi” and “Mestnye” youth movements picketed the Latvia Embassy in Moscow on March 16, rallying against the march of the Waffen-SS veterans in Riga, and calling for the Neo-Nazis to deport the Russian-speaking population of the republic. Participants of the picket, dressed in the army uniforms of Soviet soldiers, brought photographs of those who died in World War II at the hands of the Nazis to the embassy. After the meeting, the activists of the “Nashi” movement went to the EU Representation Office in Moscow, and gave its workers a letter with the request to turn attention to manifestations of Fascism in Latvia.
On March 24, representatives of the “Young Guard” of United Russia painted over swastikas on bus stops in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk city.
The ”Nashi” youth movement organized anti-Fascist patrols on Hitler's birthday, April 20th. The Jewish Center on Savelovska, and the central synagogue of Moscow Beith Menahem were both patrolled.
On June 22nd, adherents of the United Russia party held an “AntiFa” event in Ulyanovsk, painting over depictions of Nazi symbols. St. George ribbons were painted in their place.
Also notable was the first real step for combating anti-Semitism of the Civic Chamber, which practically initiated the process of placing a ban on the Vdovin-Barsenkov texbook. On September 6, the Civic Chamber of Russia hosted a meeting of the Committee on International Relationships and Freedom of Conscience, chaired by Nikolai Svanidze, dedicated to this book, three editions of which were approved of by the Ministry of Education Academic Council on Classical University Education, and received the “recommended” label.
On September 17th, a number of human rights activists and cultural workers wrote an appeal in support of N. Svanidze. The statement, titled “Textbooks must not breed violence,” noted that in recent years “a real harassment campaign has been deployed” against Nikolai Svanidze under the pretense of the critical evaluation of the Barsenkov-Vdovin textbook that has taken place in the Civic Chamber, and especially his desire to turn to the prosecutor's office with the evidence of instigating inter-ethnic hatred in the textbook. “In truth, the campaign is backed by humongous aggravation at the consecutive anti-totalitarian and antichauvinist position of Svanidze, a historian and journalist,” the appeal read.
“Even a cursory glance at the quotes from this 'textbook' shows that in certain moments it is tendentious, extremely subjective, and from this point of view already utterly unsuitable to being a textbook. But it would have been exceptionally dubious and dangerous even if it was a general historiosophic work of a certain kind,” the authors of the statement wrote,
“No textbook can openly approve of the policy which led to crimes against humanity, to repressions, to national, religious or social discrimination. But these exact attacks at certain ethnicities, an almost open validation of national discrimination and political repressions are contained by the scandalous textbook by Barsenkov and Vdovin “A History of Russia. 1917-2009” (3rd ed., Moscow, Aspect Press, 2010). This is why this textbook is not to be the subject of scholarly discourse, but rather of study as an object containing propagation of hatred,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, xenophobic pseudo-scholarly works have been widely published in Russia for over 20 years, and this has played a certain role in the wide dissemination of Fascist attitudes, in the commitment of a large number of murders and other crimes based on national and ideological hatred. We are certain that textbooks must not contain a defense of man-hating policy. We also believe that it is a very important task of civil society to stop this kind of tract that violates the RF Constitution from being published.” The appeal was signed by writer Boris Strugatsky, the widow of A. Sakharov – E. Bonner, human rights activists L. Alekseeva, S. Gannushkina, L. Ponomaryov, S. Kovalyov, V. Borschev, writers and journalists L. Grafova, N. Katerli, and others.
Ah the end of October, the website of the Civic Chamber published official Proposals, written subsequent to the results of the Committee on International Relationships and Freedom of Conscience meeting dedicated to the Barsenkov-Vdovin textbook. The recommendation read as follows: “Our familiarization with this textbook has led us to the conclusion that it holds tendentious views on the interpretation of history in the spirit of radical nationalism, and that a great part of it contradicts historic facts, ignores the conclusion of modern scholarly studies, contradicts the articles of the Constitution of the Russian Federation... After evaluating the “History of Russia. 1917-2009” textbook, the participants of the hearing recommend the following:
1) for the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, and the Russian Union of Rectors to increase the effectiveness and responsibility of scholarly-methological structures active in the higher humanities education system – such as department meetings, faculty Board of Academicss, Scholarly-Methodological Councils and the Academic Union on Classical University Education.
2) to turn to the Russian Federation Ministry of Education and Science with a proposition to hold hearings with thee assistance of both scholars and the public on the problems of carrying out expert examinations of textbooks to diagnose them for the presence of xenophobic and nationalistic elements.”
On September 15, the Board of Academics of the MSU History Department published their decision on the situation around the Barsenkov-Vdovin textbook. “This authors' textbook... does not reflect the position of the Board of Academics of the History Department on a number of judgments and evaluations contained in this textbook. The text contains facts that raise concerns as to their authenticity,” the document stresses. At the same time, the Board of Academics “expressed concern” that “the discussion of an authors' textbook by professors Barsenkov and Vdovin has gone far beyond a scholarly discussion, and is taking place in the environment of politically charged, agenda-driven evaluations, and that in a number of cases has become an instrument for PR campaigns” (meaning the Civic Chamber meeting of September 6). By the decision of the Board, an expert committee headed by professor Y. S. Kukishkin was created. Later he was replaced by the head of the RGGU History and Archives Institute A. Bezborodov.
The committee published its conclusion in the middle of November. It took the form of a compromist. On one hand, the conclusion sympathized with the “concern” of the MSU History Department Board of Academics about the fact that “the discussion of the authors' textbook of professors A.S. Barsenkov and A.I. Vdovin went beyond the boundaries of scholarly discussion.” On the other hand, it was noted that “the book uses unverified data taken from opinion journalism, from different unreliable sources. There are disputable assumptions, some of which belong to the authors themselves, and some which have been uncritically borrowed from other works.” It was noted that the book had many practical errors, which is a testament to the authors' carelessness in professional work. False statistical data are present, as well as citations taken out of context. “The authors make an absolute out of the ethnic principle in public and political life. They make the ethnicity of politicians be the criteria by which their actions are measured... The illumination of Jewish problematics with a largely negative subtext, the repeated thesis about the “disproportional representation” of Jews in the political and cultural elite of the country, and so on, creates an impression of an anti-Semitic subcurrent of these arguments,” the conclusion reads. However, these points remained in the text mostly at the insistence of certain members of the commission, who threatened to leave it if the document would be bereft of criticism towards Vdovin and Barsenkov. On November 22, the MSU History Department Board of Academic agreed with the decision of the expert committee, and decreed that the use of this textbook in “the academic process while its errors have not been corrected” to be unfeasible.
On January 26, the regional library of Priargunsk hosted the opening of the exposition “The Great Patriotic Was through the eyes of children – prisoners of Fascist camps.” The workers of the library present materials about six people who had been in Nazi captivity. A big map shows these people's entire life, with brown marks signifying Fascist camps. One of the elements of the exposition are children's drawings. School children drew in black and white their understanding of the Nazi camps and the horrors of Fascism. The exposition is to work throughout the entire year, and on Victory day it will be presented to all citizens of Priargunsk at ne of the Victory Day mass events.
Activist of the Chita forum drom.ru, having read on April 2 a post on the kactus.chita.ru with a photo of a monument stationed at the entrance to Chita, with a swastika drawn on it and the “Shulds” and “88” slogans painted onto it, organized a meeting and cleaned up the monument.