What the veterans discovered when they came back from the war wasn’t just the poverty, the hunger and the destruction. They also came back to a country that had changed completely between 1941 and 1945. The former idealism, the faith in the revolution, communism, fraternity and equality were dead and gone. Profound cynicism and materialism set in. A very visible elite was formed that consisted of people who had connections and could get objects of luxury and trade them for other objects of luxury. The last generation of party leaders who took a tram to work was the pre-war one. The new generation led truly princely lifestyles. (This is something that would never change. Today, their grandchildren are the political leaders and the owners of the supposedly post-Soviet Russia.)
Understandably, the popular discontent was growing. People realized that even though they had won the war, all they had to come home to was misery and back-breaking labor that would only enrich the lucky few. Stalin needed to channel this massive unhappiness somewhere. As usual, he didn’t invent anything new but simply copied one of the people he admired the most in the world: Hitler.
The remedy took. People remembered how comforting it was to hate those greedy, nasty, scheming Jews and popular anti-Semitism grew.
There was another reason why Stalin encouraged anti-Semitism, though. There is ample evidence that at the time right before his death he was preparing to unleash World War III. Of course, he couldn’t initiate a nuclear conflict and expect the downtrodden of the world to support him. He needed to provoke his greatest enemy, the United States. I strongly believe that public trials of Jews and mass deportations were planned specifically to provoke the United States into doing something that would justify the entrance of the USSR into a global nuclear conflict.
After Stalin’s death, anti-Semitism remained the daily reality both on the popular and on the institutional levels until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nowadays, I don’t think that anti-Semitism is much of an issue in the FSU countries for the simple reason that most Jews left.
This concludes this series of posts. I will now accept questions and comments on how well I explain complex facts of history. 🙂