Given the rise in xenophobia in Russian society following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and his increasingly repressive authoritarianism at home, many have pointed to the danger that anti-Semitism, one of the ugliest plagues of Russian history, is making a comeback.
Russian officials and commentators have proudly and up to a point accurately noted that what anti-Semitism there currently is in Putin’s Russia is incomparably less than there was in late Soviet or imperial times. But there are signs there claims are increasingly hollow.
Developments in the past month are especially worrisome and those this week are even more so because they suggest that contrary to what the Kremlin claims, Russian officials are giving aid and comfort to at least some anti-Semites and thus sending a signal to Russians that the limits of the permissible in attacking Jews have expanded.
Not only are Russian officials very publicly working to deport a rabbi and his family from Sochi as security risks, but they have opened a case against someone who used to repost to criticize a Duma deputy who said Jews in the past “boiled Christians in pots.”
Yesterday, during a demonstration in St. Petersburg in support of handing over to the Russian Orthodox Church St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Duma deputy Vitaly Milonov told the crowd that Jews, because of age-old hatreds, were orchestrating opposition to the return of the cathedral.
“Christians survived,” he said, despite the fact that the ancestors of Boris Lazrevich Vishnevsky and Maksim Lvovich Reznik [two Jewish deputies in the St. Petersburg legislative assembly who oppose handing the cathedral back to the Russian Orthodox Church] boiled us in pots and fed the remains to beasts.”
Milonov added that “if there weren’t these new anti-priests and provocateurs, there wouldn’t have been any protests” about the church transfer. But the two Jewish deputies, he continued, were “using this situation for political PR.”
Such an outrageous expression of anti-Semitism should have been condemned by all people of good will, but instead of joining them, the Russian government took a step which at least some Russians will see as an indication of just what side of the debate about Jews the Kremlin is on.
As the New Chronicle of Current Events reported, they instead brought new charges against Open Russia activist Dmitry Semenov for reporting a picture of the very same Duma deputy wearing a t-shirt reading “Orthodoxy or Death.”
Nominally, of course, the Russian authorities claimed they were combating extremism which they suggested Semenov was promoting by reposting this picture. But few if any Russians or others except those who are prepared to justify anything Moscow does are going to read this step in that way.
And in a development unrelated to this back and forth, the Russian Imperial House attacked the Jewish banking house of the Rothschilds for supposedly facilitating, on behalf of the United States, the theft of the Russian gold reserve from Russia.