The Dangers Of Antisemitic Terrorism in Russia

By Leonid Stonov, International Director of the UCSJ Human Rights Bureaus in the FSU Before the Helsinki Commission of the U.S. Congress 2255 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 10:00 a.m. - September 8, 1999
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about monitoring of the fundamental human rights, including the right for national-cultural-religious autonomy under protection of the law. I will speak mostly about antisemitism, although there are many other forms of xenophobia. These Congressional hearings about antisemitism are the third for the year besides emotional appeal of the 99 Senators to President Yeltsin in June 1999. It is difficult to overestimate an influence of these discussions of political realities on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. We can speak about systematic Congressional monitoring of this important problem, and it deserves the highest appreciation. The Congress continues remarkable traditions of Senator Jackson and Congres- sman Vanik, who during a difficult for the Soviet Jews time proposed the historic Amendment, which opened the exit gates for more than million Soviet Jews. Also we appreciate Senator Lautenberg's important initiative. His Amendment has for 10 years helped Jews and other persecuted religious minorities from the FSU to enter the USA as refugees. I hope that this Amendment action will be extended for the next fiscal year. I also want to thank the Helsinki Commission delegation led by Congressman Christopher Smith, who raised the question of antisemitism and other important human rights problems in Russia during the last OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Petersburg two months ago. I will not touch on here concrete and numerous facts of antisemitism in the different regions of Russia because in the next few weeks the Union of Councils will issue a new report - the second supple- mental edition - about antisemitic events in 50 regions of Russia in 1998-1999, about antisemitism in nationalistic parties and movements' ideologies, about using this shameful phenomena in the pre-elections campaigns, about absence of response of all authority branches to antisemitism and other kinds of xenophobia. In this report we use results of the MHG-UCSJ monitoring, sponsored by the US AID (special thanks to this Agency), and also information from our Bureaus and correspondents from many Russian cities and towns. My goal today is to characterize the peculiari- ties of modern antisemitism, which is flourishing in Russia. Antisemitism is not only heritage of the Tsarist and Soviet regimes. It is a reflection of political, economic and moral crisis that affected Russia and the other post-Soviet countries. Modern escalation of antisemitism is in part in due to the weakening presidential power. The FSB role and activity have increased during last months. This organization as in the past controls the whole life of the country, including Internet and information about environmental contamination (Nikitin, Pasko, and Soifer cases). The FSB also tries to influence the results of future elections. And, finally, big pre-election blocks with in-obvious ideology like "Fatherland"-"The whole Russia" of Primakov-Luzhkov is being created, which will try to influence the election process. Degradation of the economy is continuing, capital is flowing out and not into Russia. Poverty, drug addiction, child prostitution and criminality are rising. Longevity is decreasing. At the same time manifestations of xenophobia and other kinds of ethnic and religious intolerance are on the increase. Religious freedoms are suppressed. The Russian Orthodox Church role as carrier of the almost state religion has increased. Extremist and chauvinistic attitudes are growing and anti-Western, especially anti-American, propaganda in mass media is on the rise. The search for enemies and scapegoats is broadening. We are focusing today on analysis of antisemitism because German National Socialism started from these phenomena, and many people did not believe that Hitler's theories in "Main Kampf" could be implemented. As old people remember now, National Socialism was an ideology, which most normal persons in the world did not take seriously. Only when military actions started in Europe in 1939 did they react. They waited too long to fight. Many people also underestimate Russian national extremism in the same way. I am sure that open antisemitic appeals of Makashov, Iluikhin, Kondratenko, Barkashov and other extremists-chauvinists in the autumn of 1998 - winter 1999, which did not provoke any response from those in authority, resulted in a chain of terrorist acts in the summer, 1999. It seems that this was the beginning not only of physical, but also of psychological attacks against Jews, which were designed to intimidate. I mean numerous happened and not-happened explosions outside and inside all Moscow synagogues, in the Moscow Jewish Theater "Shalom"; attempt upon the life of Jewish Children Center director Leopold Kaimovsky in the Moscow Choral Synagogue on July 13, 1999; several dummy reports about bombs in order to stimulate panic among Jews; synagogues pogroms in Novosibirsk (March, 1999) and Birobijan (May, 1999); open appeal by TV in St.Petersburg (August, 1999) to expels Jews and Caucasian people; antisemitic slogans with threats on school walls in Orel and other cities; Mr.V.Chernomyrdin and numerous politicians and journalists antisemitic remarks about Jewish oligarchs; slaughters of rabbis and Jewish activists (Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod); antisemitic campaign in the mass-media (N.Novgorod, Ekaterinburg, Samara, Penza, Orel, Petersburg, Pskov, etc.). Well known writer Valentin Rasputin again joined antisemitic campaign, as well as many others from the Russian Writers' Union in Moscow, which long ago became a nucleus of Russian nationalists. Stalin's grandson Eugene Dzhugashvilli dragged out of naphthalene an old myth about Zionist conspiracy and threat to the entire world. Simultaneously there were Nazi activities directed against Jews and Blacks in Chicago and Los Angeles, that Russian nationalists applauded. However the American government or the people does not tolerate these activities. In contrast the Russian government made only halfhearted attempts to catch the perpetrators of these crimes. Russian authorities did not catch anybody who organized bomb explosions and attacks (besides N.Krivchun, Moscow synagogue security guard detained him after his attack against L.Kaimovsky and then passed him to police), although character of all explosions and equipment were similar in Moscow. It seems that well organized group is behind these explosions and attempts on Jewish lives and property. The number of extremist and chauvi- nistic organizations with open or hidden antisemitic ideology has increased in Russia. The main are: Russian National Unity (RNU), Movement in Support of Army, Military Industry and Science (which Iliukhin wanted to rename to Movement Against Kikes), LDPR (Zhirinovsky Party), KPRF (Zuganov Party), World Russian People Council (Sobor), Congress of the Russian Communities, Natio- nal-Bolshevik Party, "Otechestvo" ("Fatherland") of N.Kondraten- ko, "Pamyat" of D.Vasiliev, Russian All-People Union, Russian National Socialistic Party, Skinheads, Veneds Union, Cossacks Union, People's National Party, National Republican Party and many others. The UCSJ and MHG monitoring allows us today to alert the world that there are whole regions in Russia, where human rights violations and antisemitism have become the policy of local authorities. I would like to name them hoping that Russian human rights activists will help to strengthen local democrats. Businessmen, especially from the West, should know what to expect in these regions of Russia. And it is useful for politicians to know who is who, because officials from these regions often visit the Western countries. The first group of regions is Krasnodarsky and Stavropolsky krays, Volgograd and Pskov oblasts. The level of the national extremism reached here the highest point, and ultra-nationalism became a part of an official ideology, RNU takes here the strongest positions. The next group - Vladimir, Tula, Voronezh and Kursk oblasts. Here communists are dominant, and their policy encourages the strong nationalism. Ulianovsk, Bryansk and Kemerovo oblasts. Leftists' radicals and communists are in power. They violate human rights, restrict economic and other freedoms, but directly do not support national extremist organizations. The restoration of Orthodox Bolshevism takes place here. The old nomenclatura in Orel oblast is in power, although it does not share any ideology. Human rights are broadly violated, the RNU continues to be very strong and influential. Primorsky kray, Bashkortostan and Kalmykia - the administration implant authoritarism, clans support system without any visible ideology. I would like to discredit the myth that the struggle against political extremism and antisemitism is the result of the lack of legislation. There are the laws in books, but they are not enforced. Of course, it's the positive step that Ministry of Justice developed and sent to the Duma in July 1999, the draft of the Anti-Extremism Law, but the Duma is not on hurry to fix the date of hearings. The Russian Constitution, and may be not very prominent, but quite clear Laws "About mass media" and "About public associations", and at last the new Russian Criminal Code (articles 282 - rising racial, ethnic and religious hatred; 205 - terrorism; 105 - murder and attempt upon life on the ground of ethnic and religious hatred) continue to be legislative basis of non-admission of extremism and national-chauvinism. As Mrs. Luidmila Alexeeva, chairperson of MHG, said, those who are supposed to protect the people, are, in fact, the perpetrators of crime against the people. President Yeltsin, in his discussion with President Clinton in Cologne in June 1999, promised to fight antisemitism in Russia if President Clinton could have proved that it existed. The Union of Councils provided President Clinton with evidence of antisemitism and right violations in Russia. Later the UCSJ provided Vice-President Gore with the same materials before his meeting with Prime-Minister Stepashin in July 1999. Russian leaders in their discussions with the foreign leaders, including Israeli Prime-Minister Barak, readily acknowledged antisemitic events, but refrained from public statements at home. The strong impression is that antisemitism has so deeply and widely penetrated all aspects of the society that Russian leaders are afraid to rebuff chauvinists-nationa- lists in order not to lose votes. The state antisemitism merged with public (street) antisemitism. From time of the disintegra- tion of the Soviet Union in 1991, antisemitism has become the biggest threat to Jewish physical existence. The mutual and the first time during many years' clear position of the Russian Jewish leaders indirectly supports this thesis. Many people are so accustomed to antisemitism, that they try not to notice it, as they often do not respond to contamination of air and water in their regions. The others do not want to irritate the authorities, because they are afraid that "it could be worse". But now many leaders led by V.Goosinsky, the RJC President, sharply spoke that the Russian government showed "impermissible indifference and open irresponsibility by turning the blind eye on the antisemitic escapades of individual politicians and whole parties" (Interfax, July 13, 1999). A.Shaevich, chief Rabbi of Russia, strongly condemned attack on L.Kaimovsky, but before the investigation was over, he said that N.Krivchun acted alone. We are sure that absence of the strong reaction of the all branches of authorities, including court system, to inspiration of inter-ethnic and inter-religious hatred is a manifestation of state antisemitism. The new phenomenon is that antisemitism is openly declared as ideology of some parties and movements. The elucidation of parts of the Jewish blood became the certain component of the election campaigns in the country. We hope that operating together and efficiently we do not allow an escalation of the violence, inter-ethnic and inter-religious hatred in Russia, and by this we will promote the growth of democracy and market economy, and establish stable peace and agreement in the society. Thank you.