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From the US State Departments Report on Global Antisemitism


Russia

An estimated 600,000 to 1 million Jewish persons lived in the country (0.5 percent of the total population) following large-scale emigration during the last 2 decades.

Many in the Jewish community stated that conditions for Jewish persons in the country had improved, primarily because there was no longer any official "state-sponsored" anti-Semitism; however, anti-Semitic incidents against individuals and institutions continued to occur and violence was used during these attacks with increasing frequency. The Anti-Defamation League reported that while the number of anti-Semitic incidents remained stable in 2003, the nature of the attacks became more violent. Anti-Semitic statements were discouraged and have been legally prosecuted. While the Government publicly denounced nationalist ideology and supported legal action against acts of anti-Semitism, reluctance on the part of lower-level officials to call such acts anything other than "hooliganism" remained problematic.

On April 22, eight skinheads stormed the Ulyanovsk Jewish Center screaming, "don't pollute our land," smashing windows, and tearing down Jewish symbols as Jewish women and children hid inside. No one was injured, but police failed to respond quickly, arriving 40 minutes after they were called. A member of the extremist National Bolshevik Party later was arrested in connection with the attack. The investigation was ongoing at year's end, but it was suspected that both events were prompted by the anniversary of Hitler's birthday.

On April 29 in Voronezh, two skinheads attacked Aleksey Kozlov outside the headquarters of the Inter-Regional Human Rights Movement of which he is in charge. Kozlov is the regional monitor for anti-Semitism and racism in the country, a project sponsored by the European Commission.

On October 17, a group of skinheads tried to enter the synagogue in Penza, but were stopped by parishioners. A group of approximately 40 people armed with chains and iron clubs approached the synagogue later that day. The parishioners locked themselves inside and called the police. There were reports that three skinheads were detained.

Unknown persons vandalized Jewish institutions. On many occasions, vandals desecrated tombstones in cemeteries dominated by religious and ethnic minorities. These attacks often involved the painting of swastikas and other racist and ultra-nationalist symbols or epithets on gravestones. On January 27, an explosion shattered several windows in a synagogue in Derbent in the southern region of Dagestan. Vandals attempted to torch a synagogue and library in Chelyabinsk in February, but neighbors managed to extinguish the fire before the arrival of firefighters. Local Jewish community representatives suspected a local anti-Semitic group was responsible for the attack. On March 29, vandals broke the windows of the only kosher restaurant in St. Petersburg. On April 11, a group of young persons threw bottles at a synagogue in Nizhniy Novgorod. The police failed to catch the vandals, and the criminal investigation was dropped on April 22. In September 2003, an anti-Semitic poster with wires attached to it was found at the Velikiy Novgorod Synagogue. There were several attacks on a synagogue in Kostroma. A Jew was injured during an attack in December 2003. Reportedly, teenagers threw stones at the windows and covered the synagogue fence with anti-Semitic inscriptions. Local police doubted they would be able to find the vandals, and a local rabbi said the attack was blamed on hooliganism.

During the reporting period, Jewish cemeteries were desecrated in Bryansk, Kaluga, Kostroma, Petrozavodsk, Pyatigorsk, St. Petersburg, Ulyanovsk, and Vyatka. In Petrozavodsk, unknown persons sprayed anti-Semitic graffiti on tombstones on the day a local court was to render a decision in another case concerning cemetery desecration. In February, several Jewish tombs were desecrated in one of the oldest cemeteries in St. Petersburg; vandals again desecrated Jewish graves there in December. On March 31, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated in Kaluga and, after the local Jewish community chairman notified the governor about the incident, four teenagers and two adults suspected in the vandalism were detained. On November 25, three of the individuals, including one minor, were sentenced to two years probation. The other two participants were too young to be prosecuted. In April, vandals damaged 14 tombstones in Pyatigorsk's Jewish cemetery. In October 2003, a suspected bomb was found on a tomb at the Kostroma Jewish cemetery.

Anti-Semitism and xenophobic thought has become increasingly popular among certain sectors of the population. Nationalistic parties, such as Rodina and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), gained a wider voter base by addressing issues of nationalism, race, ethnicity, and religion. Allegations of anti-Semitism were leveled at the Rodina bloc, LDPR, and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). Anti-Semitic themes figured in some local election campaigns. There were multiple cases of anti-Semitic statements from government authorities in some of the country's regions, particularly in Krasnodar Kray and Kursk Oblast, as well as in the State Duma.

Originally registered with well-known neo-Nazis on its electoral list, the Rodina bloc attempted to improve its image by rejecting openly neo-Nazi candidates; however, it allowed others known for their anti-Semitic views to remain.

Vladimir Zhirinovskiy and his LDPR party also were known for their anti-Semitic rhetoric and statements. In Moscow during a May Day celebration, LDPR supporters rallied, carrying anti-Semitic signs and spoke out against what they called "world Zionism."

The KPRF also made anti-Semitic statements during the 2003 Duma elections. Krasnodar Kray Senator Nikolai Kondratenko blamed Zionism and Jews in general for many of the country's problems and blamed Soviet Jews for helping to destroy the Soviet Union, according to a November 2003 article in Volgogradskaya Tribuna.

The ultranationalist and anti-Semitic Russian National Unity (RNE) paramilitary organization continued to propagate hostility toward Jews and non-Orthodox Christians. The RNE has lost political influence in some regions since its peak in 1998, but the organization maintained high levels of activity in other regions, such as Voronezh.

Most anti-Semitic crimes were committed by groups of young skinheads. The estimated number of skinheads increased from only a few dozen in 1992 to more than 50,000 in 2004. Typically, skinheads formed loosely organized groups of 10 to 15 persons, and, while these groups did not usually belong to any larger organized structure, they tended to communicate through the hundreds of fascist journals and magazines that exist throughout the country, and increasingly on the Internet.

Many small, radical-nationalist newspapers were distributed throughout the country, sometimes containing anti-Semitic, as well as anti-Muslim and xenophobic leaflets. Anti-Semitic themes continued to figure in some local publications around the country, unchallenged by local authorities. For example, an anti-Semitic novel, The Nameless Beast, by Yevgeny Chebalin, has been on sale in the State Duma's bookstore since September 2003. The xenophobic and anti-Semitic text makes offensive statements about Jews and non-ethnic Russians. According to the Anti-Defamation League, books sold in the Duma were not typically monitored for content. In cases where Jewish or other public organizations attempted to take legal action against the publishers, the courts generally were unwilling to recognize the presence of anti-Semitic content. Some NGOs claimed that many of these publications are owned or managed by the same local authorities that refuse to take action against offenders.

The larger anti-Semitic publications were Russkaya Pravda, Vitaz, and Peresvet, which were available in metro stations around Moscow. In addition, there were at least 80 Russian Web sites dedicated to distributing anti-Semitic propaganda; the law does not restrict Web sites that contain hate speech.

Responses to anti-Semitic violence were mixed. Authorities often provided strong words of condemnation, but preferred to label the perpetrators as terrorists or hooligans rather than xenophobes or anti-Semites. Occasionally, the Government redesignated these events as criminal acts resulting from ethnic hatred. Human rights observers noted that considerable legislation prohibits racist propaganda and racially motivated violence, but complained that it was invoked infrequently. There were some efforts to counter extremist groups during the year.

Federal officials maintained regular contact with Jewish community leaders. In March, then Russian Minister for Nationalities Vladimir Zorin brought extremism to the forefront of public attention by calling anti-Semitism and xenophobia major threats to the country. Zorin called for stricter enforcement of the country's existing statutes outlawing extremism and anti-Semitism and urging tolerance education programs. In addition, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev became the first high-ranking official to acknowledge the existence of right-wing extremist youth groups in the country and noted combating this extremism was one of the top priority tasks for the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Security Service. These statements marked a positive step by the Government to prosecute those who commit acts of anti-Semitism, although few concrete steps were taken to solve high-profile cases.

A criminal proceeding was initiated against Boris Mironov, one of the three co-chairs of the National Sovereign Party of Russia, who ran for governor in Novosibirsk. The charges were instigation of national hatred. The major slogan of his election bulletin was "We'll not allow Jews to take power." Experts found the texts of the bulletin anti-Semitic.

In December, Igor Kolodezenko, the publisher of the newspaper Russkiy Sibir, was given a 2? year suspended sentence after being convicted of inciting ethnic hatred for publishing anti-Semitic articles. In June, the Arbitration Court of Sverdlovsk Oblast ordered the shutdown of a local anti-Semitic paper, Russkaya Obshchina Yekaterinburga, after the Court found that the newspaper violated the laws banning incitement of ethnic hatred, according to the Jewish National-Cultural Autonomy of Sverdlovsk Oblast. The newspaper had received three warnings from the Ministry of the Press based on complaints from activists. In 2002, the Prosecutor's office had closed the criminal case. The court also fined a company that published the newspaper approximately $34 (1,000 rubles).

In September, a new course "A History of World Religions" was introduced at some Moscow schools, pursuant to which some students were taken on field trips to local synagogues and other religious institutions to increase mutual understanding. The Government backed away from previous plans to promote a compulsory nationwide course in schools on the "Foundations of Orthodox Culture," using a textbook by that title, which detailed Orthodox Christianity's contribution to the country's culture. Although the book was still used by some schools, the Ministry of Education has rejected funding for another edition and further circulation of the textbook. Many religious minorities had complained about negative language describing non-Orthodox groups, particularly Jewish persons.

In March, prominent rabbis Berl Lazar and Pinchas Goldschmidt together requested that the Government better define the meaning of extremism. Lazar and Goldschmidt said that law enforcement was prone to dismiss anti-Semitic actions as simple hooliganism to avoid calling attention to the presence of extremists in their region, and to consciously protect extremist groups with which they sympathized. In October, President Putin met with Rabbi Lazar and promised that the state would help to revive Jewish communities in Russia.

Source: US Department of State

1993-2003
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