Is Vladimir Putin’s Russia a Threat to Jews?

December 2, 2021 | Colin Shindler
About the author: Colin Shindler is an emeritus professor at SOAS, University of London. His latest book, The Hebrew Republic: Israel’s Return to History, has just been published by Rowman & Littlefield.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the world lost one of its most anti-Semitic regimes. But although there is very little official hostility toward Jews in today’s Russia, that doesn’t mean its Jews can rest easy, argues Colin Shindler:

One hundred years ago, Communists allied themselves with the intelligentsia to oppose the capitalists. Today in Putin’s Russia, their spiritual heirs ally themselves with the capitalists to oppose the intelligentsia.

Putin, however, has kept the beast of traditional Russian anti-Semitism chained in its lair. He may well be genuine in his opposition to anti-Semitism, but he has also learned from the Soviet experience that it had a corrosive effect on the regime’s standing. He also knows that Israel and Russia must cooperate in the Syrian skies to prevent an unexpected clash. Even so, it is the regime’s kneejerk reaction to crush anyone who proclaims the principle of being different that induces a profound historical resonance for many Jews.

Today there have been repeated Russian attempts to stir the fires of populism and racism through outreach to the European far right—to figures in the British National Party, the Hungarian Jobbik, and the French Front National, [all of whose ranks include no few anti-Semites].

And then there is the manufactured crisis of hapless refugees sandwiched between Belarus and Poland. For Jews, it brings to mind the time in 1938 when stateless Polish Jews, expelled from Nazi Germany, were located in the limbo of Zbąszyń on the Polish-German border. Close to 10,000 Jews were marooned in deteriorating, unsanitary conditions while both Poles and Germans refused to budge

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