Voices from Russia

Monday, 12 March 2018

No, Putin Is Not an Anti-Semite

Putin at a Jewish function in Moscow



This piece is snarkily Russophobic and rather anti-Putin, but the author has to admit:

V V Putin is probably not an anti-Semite.

That means that he’s more honest than most… we must encourage honesty wherever we find it. Much of the rest is rubbishy Russophobia, but the main point stands clear. That makes this a good read and it makes nonsense out of the anti-Semitic filth coming out of Russian Insider and Russian Faith (our bishops should condemn Damick et al for their collaboration with known anti-Semites), along with the snarky anti-Semitism purveyed by the likes of “the Saker”.

By the way, Putin has facility in English, but he has a heavy accent, which he knows the Anglo toddlers would use to make him look stupid. Therefore, he always uses an interpreter to speak for him to forestall this. That’s wisdom, even in small matters.


In an interview with NBC in Moscow that aired on 9 March, Megyn Kelly asked President V V Putin about the 13 Russian nationals indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election with a covert social media campaign. Through a translator, Putin responded:

Maybe they’re not even Russians. Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. We need to check that. Maybe they have dual citizenship… or maybe a green card. Maybe the Americans paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.

The reaction from US and Israeli media outlets was immediate and angry, headlines focusing on one word… Jews. Slate went with Putin: Maybe It Was the Jews Who Meddled in US Presidential ElectionNew York magazine with Putin Says Jews Might Be To Blame for 2016 Election Hacking, and The Jerusalem Post with Putin: Jews Might Have Been Behind US Election Interference, as a representative sample. The American Jewish Committee called Putin’s remarks:

They’re eerily reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The head of the Anti-Defamation League also drew this parallel. Democratic lawmakers also condemned the remarks. US Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut tweeted:

Repulsive Putin remark deserves to be denounced, soundly and promptly, by world leaders. Why is Trump silent? Intolerance is intolerable.

This reaction, while understandable, fundamentally misrepresents both what Putin said and the cultural context in which he said it. This isn’t to defend Putin for his smug and condescending tone throughout the interview, his palpably dishonest statements regarding whether the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election, or his unhelpful injection of ethnicity into the debate. Nonetheless, it’s important to be accurate about what Putin most likely meant and whether it represents a deeper animus toward Jews. Anti-Semitism in Russia is a real problem, but the panicked responses to Putin’s offhand comments miss the mark.

To some extent, this was a problem of translation. There are two words for “Russian” in Russian… rossiiskii, referring to any citizen of the Russian Federation, and russkii, which refers to a specific “nationality” (in the former USSR, this means something closer to “ethnicity”), ethnic Russians, who comprise 77.7 percent of the total population, according to the 2010 census. In total, more than 200 nationalities in Russia have had official recognition since the Soviet period. Most of these are quite small in number and many are associated with specific nominally autonomous republics within Russia, such as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Chechnya. All of them are rossiiskii, but only the ethnic Russian majority is russkii. The term Putin used in his conversation with Kelly was russkii, presumably translated to him via headset, which accounts for why he might have differentiated between ethnic Russians and other ethnic groups within Russia. However, why did he single out Ukrainians, Tatars, and Jews, in that order? Most likely, as Tatars are the second largest ethnicity after Russians (3.7 percent of the population) and Ukrainians are the third largest (1.4 percent). As for Jews… it’s complicated.

Under the Tsarist rule, the Russian state was de jure anti-Semitic, with the Orthodox Church used to justify the confinement of Jews to the Pale of Settlement and the infamous pogroms. However, when the Bolsheviks, many of whom, such as L D Trotsky, were of Jewish background, seized power in 1917, they passed laws banning anti-Semitism, permitted mass migration of Jews into major cities like Moscow and Leningrad, and legally recognised Jews as a nationality with equal rights as citizens. The official term they (and Putin) used, yevrei, means “Hebrew” and is the standard inoffensive word for Jew in Russian. It denotes an ethnicity, not a religion, which would be iudei (“Judaic”), a useful distinction not easily captured in English. Despite achieving formal equality, Jews still endured prejudice and, like all other ethnic groups, the suppression of their religion throughout the Soviet period. Many sought to emigrate.

After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, many Jews left for Israel, the USA, Europe, and elsewhere, and the Jews who remained were split amongst 15 newly independent republics, with by far the largest number in Russia. In 1997, Russia announced it’d no longer recognise nationality on internal passports. It removed the infamous “fifth point” that designated every citizen’s nationality, including “Jew”. In the same year, Russia officially recognised four religions… Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, though it’s important to note that many ethnic Jews in post-Soviet Russia are nonreligious. As a result, since 1997, Jews can and do live in Russia without being legally identified as Jews either by nationality or religion. This makes it hard to estimate how many Jews live in Russia today, but the answer is likely in the hundreds of thousands and includes a significant number of prominent people in business, politics, and the arts. Moreover, quite a few are close to Putin.

Putin, who has effectively ruled Russia since 2000, isn’t known for anti-Semitism. At various points, he instrumentalised xenophobia against ethnic minorities, in particular from the Caucasus, as well as homophobia, and he’s notoriously politically incorrect in his public statements. Still, he’s never targeted Jews. On the contrary, Putin counts many Jews among his circle of wealthy friends, has a warm relationship with the controversial Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Berel Lazar, and gets along famously with Israeli officials like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He’s always spoken of Jews in positive terms, and as his respected biographers Fiona Hill and Clifford Gady noted, he had close relationships with Jews dating back to his early childhood in Leningrad.

None of this means that Putin is entirely innocent when it comes to anti-Semitism, which is still widespread in Russia. In the process of consolidating his power, he did target a number of oligarchs with known Jewish ancestry, such as M B Khodorkovsky and B A Berezovsky, but he didn’t single them out for Jewishness, many other ethnically Jewish oligarchs, such as R A Abramovich and V F Vekselberg, thrived under Putin. Putin also oversaw covert support for far-right anti-Semitic political parties in various countries, including, one could argue, the USA. However, we should understand this as a strategy for destabilising those countries and not as serving an ideologically anti-Semitic agenda. Meanwhile, he’s consistently pursued closer relations with Israel and made many warm gestures to the Russian Jewish community.

Putin’s remarks to Kelly were awkward at the very least. However, we should understand them as dissembling or trolling, which, unlike anti-Semitism, the Russian president is well-known for. He was being insincere and deliberately dense, refusing to engage on the question of whether the Kremlin is responsible for the Internet Research Agency’s alleged cyberattacks against the USA. Raising the possibility that the perpetrators might be ethnically Jewish or Tatar or Ukrainian rather than Russian is immaterial to the question of whether they had Kremlin support, which is exactly why Putin said it… to demonstrate how little interest he had in answering Kelly’s questions seriously. Nevertheless, he didn’t single out Jews, and unless this is the start of a disturbing new trend, there’s no evidence that he intended to dog-whistle to anti-Semites. There are many good reasons to be concerned about Putin, but his feelings toward Jews are most likely not among them.

11 March 2018

David Klion




Friday, 28 September 2012

Patriarch Kirill to Pay Official Visit to Jerusalem

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem (Jerusalem DistrictISRAEL


Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias, the First Hierarch of the MP, will travel to Israel in November for his first official visit since assuming office in 2009. Last week, the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, visited Moscow to discuss the upcoming visit by Kirill with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk. Estimates say that the Church in Russia has more than 85 million members.

Barkat’s trip was his own first official visit to Russia since becoming mayor in 2008. In Moscow, he also met with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin for more than one hour, according to Matvey Chlenov, deputy executive director of the Russian Jewish Congress (REK), the group that invited Barkat. Chlenov told JTA that Barkat’s reception was “a promising gesture of sympathy from the Moscow administration towards Israel and the Jewish community”. He added that it showed that Sobyanin’s interested in strengthening relations with Israel and Russian Jewry. Before his election as Mayor of Moscow, Sobyanin served as Chief of Staff for President Vladimir Putin. He was Deputy Prime Minister before becoming mayor in 2010, and many believe him to be close to Putin.

28 September 2012



Editor’s Note:

The REK isn’t the main Jewish group with clout in Russia, that distinction goes to the FEOR headed by Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar. Just you watch, Rav Lazar is going to be in Kirill’s entourage in Jerusalem, as will Archbishop Mark Golovkov (they were with President Putin on his recent otpust to Jerusalem)… he served in the Russian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem and speaks Modern Hebrew. Remember, keep your eyes peeled at “Lenin’s Tomb moments”… that’ll keep you up to date on what’s really happening. Oh… the Blunder… he’ll be in the background of the picture as always. Only superficial ignoramuses think him important…


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

8 February 2012. A Picture IS Worth a Thousand Words… Here’s What the Church Thinks of Islam and Judaism… They’re Traditional Religions of Russia, Just Like We Are


Much undiluted hatred has been posted by the usual suspects amongst the konvertsy towards Islam, in particular. That’s pernicious hooey. The state and the Church recognise certain religions as being “traditional religions”… that is, Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Evangelical Lutherans. In certain regions (Byelorussia) and amongst certain nationalities (Poles and some Germans), Catholics are seen as “traditional”. Look at this photo from a meeting today at the Danilov Monastery in Moscow. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sits with Supreme Mufti of Russia Talgat Tadzhuddin, Metropolitan Yuvenaly Poyarkov of Krutitsy and Kolomna, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias, Rav Berel Lazar, and another unidentified rabbi during a confab with religious leaders in Moscow. None of the Uniates, schismatics, sectarians, or unrepentant Old Ritualists were present… or wanted.

This is the reality. Don’t listen to the konvertsy… they’re ignorant… on more topics than just the one under consideration.


Update 10.18 EST 9 February 2012:

A Kitchen Cabinet member sent me:

Wow! The Supreme Mufti has some very cool gear. I think the rabbis need to bring a Hasid in a brocade coat, white stockings, and fur hat next time!

I’ll bet it won’t surprise the grounded people to know that the Trad Religion leaders are all personal friends (people at that level need personal friendship and contact, too) and get on very well, together. It’s NOT the Russia of the Black Hundreds and the Doctors’ Plot any more. True, it’s not perfect… but it’s not perfect here, either. Russia’s ALL of us, or it just ain’t “Russia”… the cool people know what I mean, the rest need their nappies changed… P-U!


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Rosh Hashanah 5771! Happy Jewish New Year!


On Wednesday evening, the Moscow Jewish community centre will host a celebration of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) led by the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rav Berel Lazar. Worshippers will light holiday candles and hold a prayer service for the New Year, featuring a famous cantor from New York City, Rav Shneur Zalman Baumgarten, a spokesman for the FEOR told our Interfax-Religion correspondent.



During the prayers for the New Year, believers must bring before Almighty God an accounting of the year just past, repent of all the evil deeds they committed, and come back to God. They greet one another with the words, “May you be written and sealed for a good year” (ketiva ve-chatima tovah). On the same day, there will be a concert at the community centre featuring the male Jewish choir Хасидская капелла (Hasidic Cappella), and on Thursday, there will be a festive worship service where the faithful will gather in the courtyard of the centre for the blowing of the shofar, a special ceremonial horn. The sound of the shofar reminds believers that they must be mindful of the Kingdom of God. In ancient times, the sounding of the shofar celebrated the coronation of kings. Jews date their calendar from the traditional date for the creation of the world, and the coming year will be 5771 [according to their reckoning].



Jews celebrate the New Year for two days, they believe that God weighs the deeds of mankind and determines the fate of each person for the coming year. Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that the name of everyone living on earth is written in the Book of Life in Heaven. During the days of Rosh Hashanah, God writes in this book the fate of all living people on earth, “who shall live and who shall die, who shall rest and who shall wander, who shall have pleasure and who shall have pain, and who shall have want and who shall have plenty”. Jewish believers set a festive table for the New Year, but the ceremony of blessing the meal (Kiddush) doesn’t begin as on regular days, it begins with bread and salt, then, bread with honey. After the Kiddush proper, there’s a blessing over fruit, and one then eats apples dipped in honey. As they do so, Jews say, “Thy will be done, O God of our Fathers, give us a good and sweet year”.



Rav Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, marked the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) on the Jewish calendar. In his address to the faithful, he pointed up that repentance was the overriding theme of this holiday. “Many people are afraid of the word ‘repentance’, they think that it’s much too difficult and painful, it’s beyond their strength. In fact, nothing is more natural for a man to do. Repentance for a believing Jew isn’t loud lamentations or self-punishment, it isn’t torturing yourself with fasting, or other such exercises”, Rav Lazar said in a statement released by his press office on Wednesday. “Rather, it means to honestly admit to yourself what you’ve done wrong, and to honestly promise to God and yourself that you shall not continue to commit such acts, you’re going to set a positive programme of action for the morrow. Having rejected unjust actions, a man returns to God and to himself, to his own human nature. It’s obvious that everyone wants good things in their life and everyone wants respect! Everyone wants to be closer to God! So… don’t be afraid to repent, it’s not a great trial, but, it’s a great relief to find the road to happiness and peace for your soul”, he said.


NB: The intro takes about a minute before the music proper begins…


Rav Lazar reminded us that we sound the shofar during these holidays in all the synagogues to awaken people “from their spiritual slumber, to help them heal. What’s more, the sound of the shofar symbolises the cry of the human heart that knows that it can and should live differently, and it knows, with God’s help, that it can restore every splendid detail of its spirituality, righteousness, joy, and happiness. In the coming year, I wish that every one of you makes a true return to God, and through this joyous return, to find yourself, your true spiritual nature”, Rav Lazar concluded.


The Jewish community in Russia makes a significant contribution to the preservation of our national and cultural diversity, to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding in our society.

President Dmitri Medvedev


President Dmitri Medvedev greeted Russian Jews on the Jewish New Year, the 5,771th since the creation of the world. “Russian Jews, in accordance with their ancient religious beliefs, especially honour this holiday of spiritual purification with bright hopes for the future. It leads to the encouragement of creativity and moral perfection, to mutual understanding, kindness, and love for one’s neighbour. These values are dear to all religious believers. Over the centuries, they’ve been the basis for good-neighbourliness, peace, and harmony in our country”, according to the President’s telegram, as released by the Kremlin press service. The message went on to emphasise, “Today, in a revival of its rich traditions, the Jewish community in Russia makes a significant contribution to the preservation of our national and cultural diversity, to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding in our society”.

8 September 2010





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