Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, Part II

In 1945, Soviet Union defeated the Nazi Germany and liberated the surviving Jews from the concentration camps. Soviet Jews had participated in the war effort heroically, in every capacity imaginable.

Three years later, a vicious anti-Semitic campaign was unleashed within the country against the Soviet Jews. If Stalin hadn’t died (or had been killed, which is far more probable), Soviet Jews would have been deported to Siberia. This was a very doable plan for Stalin, since he had already deported several nations to Siberia in their entirety. The deportations were going to be preceded by 1937-style trials over prominent Jews. The first such trial was going to be one where famous Jewish doctors would be condemned to death for, supposedly, organizing the murders of the Communist leaders of the Soviet Union, starting with Lenin and Gorky.

Many people believe even today that this anti-Semitic revival was a result of Stalin’s personal dislike for Jews. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no evidence that Stalin ever relied on personal sympathies or lack thereof in any of his crucial decisions. Let’s remember that he played the key role in the creation of the State of Israel. Besides, he collaborated with Jews in his government for decades. It’s very hard to believe that one day he just woke up and decided to entertain some long-held grudge against Jews all of a sudden.

Just like everything else he did, Stalin’s anti-Semitic policies served very practical purposes. On the one hand, anti-Semitism was what the country needed to vent the grievances caused by the war. During the war, many people crossed the Soviet borders for the first time in their lives. My Ukrainian grandfather was from a small village that had been ravaged by the Soviet policies aimed at destroying the Ukrainian agriculture. He walked across the entire Eastern and Central Europe with his regiment. And that was when he discovered that Soviet propaganda had been lying to him his entire life. Polish and German farmers lived incomparably better and richer lifestyles than he on the most fertile soil in Europe, in Ukraine. Even after the destruction of the war, it was obvious that he was a pauper compared to these “poor victims of capitalist greed.”

There were millions of soldiers and prisoners of war who came back with such stories. Many of them were sent to the concentration camps. Stalin couldn’t jail every single war veteran, however.

(To be continued. . . )

16 thoughts on “Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, Part II

  1. *Let’s remember that he played the key role in the creation of the State of Israel.*
    Do you mean that USA was afraid of USSR’s spreading ambitions and wanted to create their own outpost in the Middle East? USSR was definitely against Jews immigrating to Israel, who would live here then in Stalin’s mind? Jews from the Middle East countries and Africa alone?


  2. All this is in line with the need to have SOME scapegoat, not necessarily a Jewish one. I tend to believe that the antisemitism of the czarist times did not actually magically disappear after the revolution. The prejudice against “those greedy Jews” just went dormant… Or maybe it was unsafe to express that prejudice as long as so many Jews were in the positions of authority…
    But after “The Boss” gave a hint that antisemitism is allowed (and I agree with you on why) – the public life was just brought in accord with the underground currents.
    The same way (in relation to your other post on the same subject) – the Christianity was not really abandoned by the vast majority of people, it just went dormant. Most of the people secretly baptized their children, etc. Really abandoning religion was some urban intellectual thing. Which should not be extrapolated onto the majority of the population, in my opinion. Even in the 70ies, I was one of a very few of my classmates who actually was not baptized. And I am talking about a Russian-language school here, where most of the kids were either born in Russia or were descendants of people coming from various Russian-speaking parts of the SU.


    1. “The same way (in relation to your other post on the same subject) – the Christianity was not really abandoned by the vast majority of people, it just went dormant. ”

      -I actually thing that Christianity had never been accepted in the Russian Empire in the first place, so there was nothing to abandon.

      “Most of the people secretly baptized their children, etc.”

      -My grandparents baptized their children. But believe me, it has absolutely nothing to do with any religious feeling on their part. It was a superstition, like knocking on wood.

      “Really abandoning religion was some urban intellectual thing. ”

      -My mother’s side of the family are all from the country-side.


    2. Maybe I need to clarify that when I talk about religion, I talk about actual religious feeling, not about the formal semi-superstitious customs of eating at the relatives’ graves or baking those nasty things for Easter.


      1. I think more than 95% of any religion on Earth isn’t what you call actual religious feeling, so your definition is the exception rather than a rule, and shouldn’t be used to measure such things. I doubt in other countries live sincere people, unlike Russians with their special history.


        1. Not true. I do not doubt for a moment that religious Americans are, indeed, profoundly and deeply religious. I do not doubt the religious feelings of the Latin American people.

          “I doubt in other countries live sincere people, unlike Russians with their special history.”

          -I don’t understand this. What’s so special about Russian history except that this was always a nation of brutal, violent colonizers? There are crowds of such people everywhere on the planet.


          1. I think religious Russians don’t differ that much from religious Americans as you think and that the difference, if it exists, is more due to recent history of communism than to how they became Christian several centuries before, which many Russians don’t know even or don’t care about.

            *that religious Americans are, indeed, profoundly and deeply religious*

            Depends on the definition. Many choose and pick what suits them from their religion and many know very little about it, like an on-line survey where atheists got more points than religious. Against abortion and for “man to man wolf” economic policies, just like Jesus would do? And people rarely change, usually following religion of lack of it of their parents, which shows that most as usual go with the current and don’t think much and deeply about the topic.


          2. I wanted to add that we both left in the 90ies, albeit at different ages, and that from that point there is a huge propaganda of Christianity, return to religion, studying it at school and so on.


            1. Yes, that’s true. 😦 ROC is a horrible corrupt force in the Russian society. Now legislation has been proposed where women have to bring a man’s permission to get an abortion. This is happening in a country with NO child-support laws.



              1. I have recently (since 2-3 weeks ago) started seeing ads on Russian channel 1 (ORT) – how a centre helps women not to abort by providing pregnant women a room to sit in (and? May be some money too, I forgot) and how “men need be men” so that women won’t have to abort.


              2. My husband showed me Russian and Ukrainian advertisement encouraging men to join the army. As a fellow Ukrainian, I’m sure you will understand why I was flabbergasted.


              3. I left when I was practically a child, so is it because one must serve there anyway and the army is quite horrible with “dedovshina” and min salaries?

                Wait, is its’ goal to prevent parents paying doctors so their sons won’t serve by raising young men’s motivation?


              4. Yes to both questions. The ad says, “get from under your Mama’s skirt. Be a man.” Yeah, and be shipped home in a zinc coffin in a truly manly fashion.


  3. Now the First Circle makes more sense to me. Every veteran a suspect, every prosecutor out for blood.

    But did they really try to do R&D with convict labor? Any success with that? In the book (set in 1949 in the sharashka, or white-collar labor camp) seems they were trying to invent voice recognition technology.


    1. I am so happy to have a person who read The First Circle participate on my blog!!! You just made me very happy, n8chz.

      Yes, all the advances of the Soviet military were created in sharashkas. Everything in the novel is true. Solzhenitsyn is a great writer but he had no imagination. 🙂 So he just wrote autobiographical stuff all his life. People on whom he based the characters in his novels had a tendency to become very upset. (Lev Rubin, for example, had a real life protagonist who later claimed the writer slandered him.)

      See the story of Tupolev, for an example of a great engineer who worked on a sharashka:

      I love this novel. It’s my favorite book by Solzh, besides the Cancer Ward. I highly recommend both books to everybody.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.