Vladimir Putin invites Jews back to Russia:
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called on European Jews who are facing anti-Semitism to move to Russia.
In a meeting with members of the European Jewish Congress, held in the Kremlin, Putin heard from congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor about the rise in anti-Semitism in Western Europe.
“They can come here,” Putin said to Kantor. “During the Soviet era Jews would leave, but now they can come back.”
Giggling ensured. According to the 2014 ADL survey, 30% of the residents of Russian Federation are hardcore anti-Semites. The number, while way above the regional low of just 13% for Czech Republic, is, on the other hand, way below the regional high of 45% of Poland and slightly below the regional average. I’m not sure what the 30% figure tells us about the attitudes of ethnic Russians because the country has a relatively high percentage of ethnic minorities and those may have different opinions on this subject. Both Ukraine and Belarus, on the other hand, are 38% anti-Semitic, so if I had to guess, the “titular nation” of the Russian Federation, as they like to call themselves, are probably similarly predisposed.
I first heard about Putin’s invitation on twitter where it was posted by a Kremlin journalist. Although he was trying to sell it as a positive development, the reactions among his countrymen were far less than enthusiastic:
To be sure some expressed different sentiments: “Good tactical move! Amnesty of capitals, return of Jews – will bring their capitals! Throughly stubborn and hardworking nation!” In Russia, just like in other European countries, Jews are considered a separate nation. Still, I’ll take the compliment.
For all of his complains about “color revolutions”, Putin is a master of getting into domestic politics of EU nations and exploiting ethnic tensions. Here he aims to score a point with Jews at the expense of the West.
The overwhelming majority of Jews left Russia in the 1990’s. The intermarriage rate among the remaining 150,000 (albeit the number depends on how one defines a Jew) is about 80%. Many of the remaining Jews think of themselves as Russians first. Others, having background in humanities — writers, journalists, etc., have calculated that they will be unable to find jobs abroad. For about 20 years, Jewish immigration subsided, then picking up again around the time of the failed protest movement of 2011.
Most Russian Jews are secular and (small l) liberal. They held on to the dream of transforming Russia into a normal Western country. About four-five years ago they, along with much of the Russian intelligentsia, saw the writing on the wall and started packing. I’m not sure it has anything to do with anti-Semitism which over the last decades remained a sad constant in Russian life.
And by the way, I thought about putting “normal Western country” in the paragraph above in quotation marks, but out of cultural sensitivity to the Russian intelligentsia, did not.
A minority of Russian Jews are religious. They see Putin in more traditional terms, as a protector, and write opuses like this one citing the strongman’s personal biographic connections to Jews. Some credit the autocrat with protecting them from pogroms, but if we take Ukraine and Belarus as a control group, we see that these two eastern Slavic nations didn’t stage large-scale pogroms either. So maybe the pogroms weren’t going to happen this time around, in part because it’s hard to have a good one with so few Yids left.
On the other hand, the Kremlin did rule out Jews as scapegoats in 2013, when homosexuals took the place traditionally reserved for us. The current favorite target, however, are the liberals, and by liberals many “patriotically”-oriented Russians understand Jews. There is a kind of one-drop rule for that: if a liberal in question can be shown to have a Jewish ancestor, or if he’s married to a Jew, he will be deemed a Yid. And sure enough, many in Russia’s capital where, in the Soviet days, Jews were the largest minority group after Ukrainians, have a Jewish granny. That they are baptized Russian Orthodox may not matter so long as they believe in free speech or free markets.
A few days ago Chechen warlord turned Moscow’s figurehead Ramzan Kadyrov fumed in best Stalinist traditions:
After calling Vladimir Putin’s foes “enemies of the people,” and after the speaker of his rubber-stamp legislature called liberal media outlets like Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd TV “traitors” and a “fifth column,” Kadyrov upped the ante with an article in the pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia calling Russia’s opposition “jackals” and suggesting they be placed in a psychiatric hospital in Chechnya.
“I promise not to skimp on the injections,” Kadyrov wrote. “In cases where one injection is prescribed, we will double the dosage.”
So, even if Putin, credit where credit is due, has a working relationship with Israel and is reasonably committed to protecting his Jews, I’d worry about the autocrat who will come after him.
That the normal Western countries Russian liberals yearn for might not exist much longer is another matter.
And here I want to introduce the story of my cousin. She was born and raised in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union the city was getting a bit creepy: my cousin was telling me that in certain neighborhoods women in pants would get rocks thrown at them. My relatives decided to leave, settling in Boston, MA, of all places. Twenty five years later Muslim refugees from the Russian Federation blew up an international sporting event there while the utterly corrupt Uzbekistan is considered a model moderate Islamic nation.
The Russian dissident news network TVRain recently reported about the outstanding job the former Soviet “republic” of Tajikistan is doing in curtailing Islamic radicalism. There, cops shave men’s beards, women have their hijabs forcefully removed, private mosques are banned, and functioning mosques have to have their sermons approved by a religious affairs committee.
Meantime the Leader of the Free Worlds imports hundreds of thousands of poorly vetted migrants from majority anti-Semitic countries and signs one executive order after another. It is hard not to worry about the future of freedom and the future of world Jewry.