In Russia, Anti-Semitism Makes a Comeback

August 11, 2023 | Ben Cohen
About the author: Ben Cohen, a New York-based writer, has contributed essays on anti-Semitism and related issues to Mosaic and other publications.

Although Vladimir Putin has aligned himself with a nationalist and authoritarian Russian political tradition that more often than not has been entangled with anti-Semitism, and has also sought to repair the reputation of Communist anti-Semites like Stalin, he has shown few if any indications of personal animus toward Jews. To the contrary, he has made a point of cultivating good relations with Jewish leaders where possible. But since the war with Ukraine began in 2014, state-sponsored anti-Semitism has begun to reemerge from the margins. Ben Cohen discusses this resurgence with the historian Ksenia Krimer:

Jews are [often] presented [by state-sponsored media] as exercising a sinister, unaccountable power. Krimer quoted [the] instance, . . . from 2016, when Maria Zakharova—now the spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry—declared on a TV chat show that to understand why Donald Trump won the election that year, “you have to talk to the Jews, naturally.” Adopting a faux Brooklyn accent, she added: “They told me: ‘Marochka [a Russian diminutive for Maria], you understand, of course, we’ll donate to [Hillary] Clinton. But we’ll donate twice as much to the Republicans.’ That was it! The matter was settled, for me personally.”

The host of that show, the Kremlin loyalist Vladimir Solovyov, has continued to push anti-Semitic themes in his output, Krimer said. In one episode following the March 2022 massacre of hundreds of civilians by Russian forces in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, Solovyov—who acknowledges his Jewish origins and has even accused Ukrainian “neo-Nazis” of trying to assassinate him—nevertheless ranted against journalists and pundits with Jewish names, [calling them] agents of “Russophobia” who had failed to show genuine gratitude to the Russian liberators of Nazi concentration camps in the closing stages of World War II.

A soldier’s manual published in October 2022 with the approval of the Russian Ministry of Defense attempted to justify the invasion to those tasked with carrying it out by claiming that “all power [in Ukraine] is concentrated in the hands of citizens of Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom. They orchestrated the genocide of the native inhabitants. . . . Today, all of us, Russian Orthodox and Muslims, Buddhists and shamanists, are fighting against Ukrainian nationalism and the global Satanism that supports it.”

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