About state anti-Semitism... Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“For us, it is important that the revised history textbooks, which glorify Russian imperialism, both tsarist and soviet, with anti-Semitic features, but also the expansionist Putinist one, reached schools in Transnistria. Respectively, while on the right bank of the Nistru citizens hope that the Republic of Moldova can be reunited, on the left bank of the Nistru the younger generations are instructed to wait for an eventual restoration of the Russian empire – “the only liberating empire, unlike all other invading ones”...

Ordinary Antisemitism

On January 13, it was the 76th anniversary of the planned killing by agents of the USSR Ministry of State Security (called KGB until March 1954) of the people’s artist, actor, director, artistic director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater, and chairman of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAFC), Solomon Mikhoels. The murder was sanctioned by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin himself. So as not to arouse suspicion, the murder was committed at the villa of the security chief of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR), where Mikhoels and a colleague of his, who maintained relations with the Soviet intelligence services, had been invited. The latter was liquidated together with Mikhoels to avoid possible leaks of information about the planning of the special operation. The bodies of the two, crushed under the wheels of a truck, were dumped on the outskirts of Minsk, thus staging a road accident that allegedly resulted in the death of two inebriated persons. Details of the planning of the murder of people who were inconvenient to the Soviet regime, including of Solomon Mikhoels, can be found in the memoir book Espionage and the Kremlin. The memoirs of an unwanted witness by Soviet diversionist Pavel Sudoplatov, who coordinated, by Stalin’s order, the murder of Leon Trotsky in August 1940.

Solomon Mikhoels was murdered after he had become very popular in the USSR, daring to periodically remind Stalin of the promise to form a Soviet republic for citizens of Jewish ethnic origin. The Soviet tyrant made such a promise after the Nazi invasion of the USSR, when he needed the support of highly influential Jewish communities in various states, especially in the U.S., to provide military, technical and other aid to the USSR. To this end, in August 1941, a forum of representatives of the Jewish people was convened and this was attended by a number of highly influential people in the fields of culture and science, including Solomon Mikhoels. The forum called on the Jewish brothers around the world to come to the aid of the USSR and had great resonance in Western countries, especially in the U.S. where the Jewish Council for Support of Russia was created and was led by Nobel laureate Albert Einstein himself.

Accordingly, in the USSR the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee was created on April 7, 1942, supervised by the NKVD, like any other public organization. Control over the work of the JAFC became a problem in the competition of various Soviet bodies, such as, for example, the international department (Sovinformbiuro) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and other bodies interested in collecting information from diverse sources. However, the JAFC’s work was a real success as the Committee managed to collect huge amounts of money in support of the USSR, but especially to convince the governments of democratic states to support the USSR. Thus, in 1943, at the invitation of Albert Einstein, Mikhoels made a triumphant trip to the UK, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, where committees were set up to help the USSR. And after Mikhoels’ speech at a huge rally in New York, the mayor of the megalopolis urged the U.S. president to speed up the opening of the second front in Europe. Therefore, immediately after the end of the war, the prestige of the JAFC proved to be a big problem for the Soviet authorities and personally for Joseph Stalin, who had to honor his promises.

The outbreak of the Cold War in 1946 turned the JAFC into an extremely inconvenient body which, due to its international prestige, could not simply be transformed into an obedient organization, but neither could it be liquidated after it had become useless and even dangerous for the Soviet system. Under such circumstances, the senior leadership of the USSR initially decided to behead the JAFC by killing its chairman, Solomon Mikhoels and then launched a smear campaign against the organization, accusing it of spying for foreign states, and finally accusing members of the JAFC leadership of links with Jewish nationalist organizations in America. For this fact in 1949, all the leaders of the organization were arrested. The tragic end of the JAFC occurred in 1952, when all members of the leadership – 15 notable persons in the field of science and culture - were convicted and executed, except for Lina Stern, the first female tenured member of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union.

Samples of anti-Semitism elevated to rank of state ideology

The JAFC case was not a single manifestation of anti-Semitism, which had long since become a systemic phenomenon in the USSR. The vast collective scientific research, materialized in the work State Antisemitism in the USSR: 1938 - 1953 served as a proof of this. It is noteworthy that among the authors of this study that was published in 2005 are, for example, academicians Yevgeny Primakov and Aleksandr Chubaryan, who enjoy great popularity among Russian nationalists. Based on official documents from Soviet archives, a number of accusations were identified, which were gradually transformed into ideological clichés for their use for propaganda purposes against ethnic Jews. The given research notes the following concrete, well-documented methods of attributing negative characteristics to Jews and accusing them of:

  1. Elimination of representatives of other nationalities, primarily Russians, from certain spheres of activity:  the time is already coming when a Russian professor can be exhibited only for public viewing, while Russian leaders in health institutions can still be found at the museum. Pharmaceutical jobs are 100% in Jewish hands;
  2. exaggeration of the role of Jews in the life and activities of the USSR, in the Great Patriotic War: In many materials prepared or sent abroad, the role of Jews in the Patriotic War, in industry, science and culture is particularly emphasized, and in a number of cases the impression is created that the USSR owes its victory mainly to Jews;
  3. Undermining of the Soviet ideal: the Jews influence the psychology of the Soviet people, distancing them from the communist ideal. They introduce into all areas of our lives the spirit of mercantilism, personal gain, lack of principle, hypocrisy, etc.

Soviet state anti-Semitism did not appear groundlessly. It is an extension of Russian anti-Semitism of imperialist origin. In this sense, it is enough to remember the fate of Jews in the Tsarist empire –  the prison of peoples: discrimination against them through the so-called zone of settlement; the series  of pogroms against Jewish communities, inspired by the so-called black hundreds,  the case of the communist anarchist Dmitry Bogrov – the assassin of Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin, who was used to trigger a real anti-Semitic hysteria, as if Russian history did not know the phenomenon of terrorism practiced by the People’s Will, etc.

Justification of Russian imperialism and revision of history

The aforementioned is important to highlight an extremely curious phenomenon. The point is one of the authors of the study State Antisemitism in the USSR: 1938 – 1953, Aleksandr Chubaryan is currently a great supporter of Vladimir Putin and of the policies to revise history inspired by this. As president of the Russian State Academic University for the Humanities, Chubaryan is also one of the authors of the revised history textbooks for V-XI grades, in which the concept of “empire” is explained. The subject is very important in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

So, today students in Russia are taught that all empires that ever existed had negative roles, exploiting and suppressing other peoples, except for the Russian empire. According to the textbook edited by Chubaryan, this is because “all the empires in the world were overseas territories. In the case of the Russian empire, there was a common space. Therefore, when the modern CIS countries were part of Russia, they were objectively included in this common economic space and became a single unit with Russia.” It can be seen that academician Chubaryan forgot that the Tsarist empire was the prison of peoples, but even more curious is that he forgot what happened, for example, to the leaders of the JAFC about whom he wrote a study, who had the misfortune to remind Stalin of the made promises regarding the creation of a Jewish republic in the USSR. In fact, as early as in 1934, a supposedly Jewish region was created in the Far East, in which  Jews now make up less than 1% of the inhabitants.

For us, it is important that the revised history textbooks, which glorify Russian imperialism, both tsarist and soviet, with anti-Semitic features, but also the expansionist Putinist one, reached schools in Transnistria. Respectively, while on the right bank of the Nistru citizens hope that the Republic of Moldova can be reunited, on the left bank of the Nistru the younger generations are instructed to wait for an eventual restoration of the Russian empire – “the only liberating empire, unlike all other invading ones”.

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