SOURCE. Antisemitism, Xenophobia and Religious Persecution in Russia's Regions 2001 (UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, September 2002). Edited and mostly written by Nickolai Butkevich , UCSJ Research and Advocacy Director. UCSJ website at http://www.fsumonitor.com
The third annual report published by UCSJ under the same title, this volume is based on monitoring in 63 of Russia's 89 regions, coordinated by the Moscow Bureau on Human Rights. Most of the 250 large pages are taken up by regional sections, but there is a useful executive summary and two thematic essays are appended. While the primary focus is on the situation of Russian Jews, information is also provided on persecution of other ethnic and religious minorities -- especially Armenians and Meskhetian Turks (in southern Russia), Chechens, Roma, non-white foreigners (mainly students), and various unorthodox Christian confessions. (1)
Changes over time in the number of antisemitic incidents (e.g., beatings and harassment of Jews, arson attacks on synagogues and Jewish property, desecration of Jewish cemeteries) seem to bear some relation, though not a very close one, to shifts in economic conditions. There was a sharp rise in incidents in the months following the financial crash of August 1998, a noticeable decline in 2000, and a new rise in the summer and fall of 2001.
Perpetrators of attacks are rarely identified or arrested. The occasional cases that come to court are treated leniently. "For stealing a chicken you can get 8 years," notes one observer, "but for a pogrom several months." (2)
The authors of the report divide the regions surveyed into three categories:
* A few regions in which the local authorities "take Jewish concerns very seriously." Luzhkov's Moscow is the most prominent example. Another may be Kaluga, where the regional government funded the erection of a memorial on the site of a Nazi massacre of Jews.
* The majority of regions in which the authorities adopt a neutral stance, neither attacking Jews nor taking adequate steps to defend them.
* A series of regions in which the authorities are tacitly or even openly allied with antisemitic forces. Thus in the Krasnodar, Kostroma, and Kursk regions, leading politicians make speeches demonizing Jews. (3) In the Vladimir, Oryol, and Bryansk regions, local media controlled by the regional government regularly contain antisemitic material.
Fascist groups remain active in many regions. Skinheads are clearly the most common and also the most brutal type of perpetrators of racist violence. "RNU" activity is reported by many local monitors, who evidently have difficulty in distinguishing among the various splinter groups into which the RNU (Russian National Unity) has broken up. The most prominent successor organization to the RNU seems to be "Russian Rebirth," which acquired official registration in 2001 in several provinces. (4) Mention is also made of the National-Bolshevik Party (NBP), the Russian Party, and Andrei Arkhipov's "Russian Project."
The ambiguous attitude of state security structures toward fascist organizations emerges from a July 2001 local press interview with Major-General Viktor Maslov, head of the Smolensk Federal Security Service (FSB). (5) Maslov acknowledges that armed nationalist groups, especially the RNU and the NBP, are "of serious concern" as terrorist threats. However, he urges not a crackdown but rather "constant constructive dialogue" with such organizations and the recruitment of their members into "regional public institutions that function strictly in accordance with the Constitution."
(1) For example, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Salvation Army. Unlike Judaism or Islam, these Christian confessions are resented by the Russian Orthodox Church as direct competitors. See RAS No. 12 item 6.
(2) Nezavisimaya gazeta12/22/01. For more on the savage sentences handed out for petty theft see RAS No. 9 item 4.
(3) Nikolai Kondratenko, the openly antisemitic former governor of Krasnodar, now represents the region in the Federation Council. His chosen successor, Alexander Tkachyov, does not publicly express antisemitic views, but other leading regional figures continue to do so. Similarly, Kostroma governor Shershunov does not attack Jews himself, but his colleagues do so on his behalf.
(4) In Ryazan, Voronezh, Tver, and Mari-El. This may be an incomplete list.
(5) p. 106. Original source: Rabochii put' 8/23/01.