Jews in Russia - The State of Israel and the Problem of Double Citizenship

The State of Israel and the Problem of Double Citizenship

Soon after the painless liquidation of the "Crimean republic" (if the execution of several men is not counted), there occurred one more event in the life of the Jewish ethnic group in the USSR. This event placed the loyalty to the State of the USSR of all Soviet Jews under doubt.

In the first two post-war years (1945-1947), a strenuous and intense propaganda for the creation of the separate sovereign State of "Israel" went on in the whole camp of victors in the Second World War. The creation of Israel was to take place in Palestine, where the majority of the population was Arab. The fact that in territory contemplated for the creation of the Jewish State, Jews were only a minority was not taken into consideration, and without voting or plebiscite, part of Palestine was given to the Jews, who at the beginning of 1948 proclaimed the creation of the "State of Israel".

The Jewish ethnic group of the USSR was entirely on the side of those Zionists who conducted propaganda in the whole world for the creation of "Israel". The Zionists based their claim for the "Promised Land" on the "promise given to Jews on the Mount of Zion" (The words of the Israeli Premier Ben-Gurion, November 1956, during the "Suez Crisis".

The Government of the USSR also did not protest the creation of the new state in this manner. The representative of the USSR at the United Nations voted for the creation of this state as well as for its admission to the United Nations.

What considerations and motives the USSR had for taking such a position is, for us contemporaries, difficult to judge because too much is still in the archives, inaccessible to researchers. At present, however, it is possible to raise only two questions for consideration in the future. In the first place, is it compatible with the principles of democracy prescribed in the fundamentals of the UN to create a state by such an obviously undemocratic way? Secondly, how could the USSR, standing on the position of atheism, recognize the mystical-religious Jewish "rights" to Palestine?

These two questions, up to now, have not been persuasively or convincingly answered, nor any one attempted to answer them. The political personalities of the whole world prefer to keep silent and generally do not touch these questions.

It is hardly possible to explain the USSR's position in this question as "pressure of public opinion" or as pressure of the Jewish ethnic group in the USSR. Public opinion, or to be precise, the unexpressed feelings of the whole population of the USSR were not on the side of the Zionists. And the Jewish influence on the external politics of the USSR was diminishing quickly and sharply, owing to their dubious loyalty. There is only one possible explanation to the obscure stand of the USSR in this question. How precise it may be is difficult to say. The essence of this explanation is as follows. The position of the Government of the USSR in the Jewish question was the result of the far-reaching plan to bring about "confusion'' in Eastern Affairs, by which the USSR would stand to gain in any event. In case the pro-communist elements had won in Israel, it would have automatically became the champion of the USSR's politics in the Middle East, the former stronghold of the still powerful colonial Empires of Britain and France at that time. In case, however, of Israel taking a pro-Western position, as indeed happened, the USSR would get the strongest propaganda means for the inclusion of the whole Arab world in its orbit, by offering them help against Israel. In such a way the hundred million people of the Arab world would be broken off from the influence of the West.

It may be that all that has been said are the idle thoughts of journalists and commentators; nevertheless, they deserve the attention of the future investigators.

Besides the above explanations, there is one more thing, namely, the wish of the Government of the USSR to verify the loyalty of its citizens, the Jews, on the basis of their reaction to the recognition of Israel. This was precisely what happened in 1948, several months after the proclamation of the sovereign state of Israel and its admission to the UN.

In October 1948 Golda Myrson (now Golda Meir) arrived in Moscow as the appointed ambassador of Israel to the USSR.

At that time more than half a million Jews lived in Moscow. Upon her arrival in Moscow, the Israeli Ambassador went to the synagogue where she was enthusiastically welcomed, and at once many thousands of Muscovite Jews applied to emigrate to Israel.

Iossif Vissarionovitch Stalin and the government drew a conclusion from this. After the welcoming demonstration of the Jews given to Golda Myrson there immediately followed a whole range of limitations ordered by the government, concerning the "personal-national" cultural activity of the Jewish ethnic group dispersed throughout the country. The Jewish newspaper "Der Emes" in Moscow was closed, as well as the Jewish theatres. Also in Moscow the teachings of ‘Yiddish’ were stopped. Quite a few of Jewish activists in the sphere of their national culture were forced to leave Moscow, and some were even arrested. All the "Muscovites" that applied to leave the USSR and settle in Israel were deported into far-off provinces of the USSR.

"The government sensed the unreliability of the Jews" writes the Muscovite, David Burg, who left USSR in 1956, and published an extensive article, "The Jewish Question in Soviet in the German language in the Magazine "Anti communist" (No. 12, 1957). (The article is given in full in Part II of this work.)

This sensation of the "unreliability of the Jews" corresponded to the same sensation of the whole population of the country, which, in general, looked at Jews as an element "newly arrived, strange and alien".

However, it must be acknowledged that there were no mass dismissals from work nor were other repressive measures taken against the Jews just because they were Jews. They held their positions, which were neither the best nor the worst, and were not dismissed or deprived of the possibilities of work.

But the previous confidence they held disappeared. The previous positions of the mighty ruling class were shaken, and possibilities of attaining the leading roles in all spheres of life were considerably shortened and hampered. This especially pertained to those positions and professions in which complete reliance in loyalty was required, such as diplomatic affairs, external politics and the defense of the country.

Although the word "Jew" was never written and mentioned in these new measures the whole population of the USSR, and the Jews above all, distinctly sensed the new course of the government in the Jewish question.

The population met this new course with their full approval, however silent, because in the USSR the Government does not tolerate either approvals or disapprovals.

All the same, the Jewry in the USSR, as well as in other countries, saw in this new course "discrimination and persecution" toward Jews in the USSR, and the whole force of their indignation and resentment was directed in the first place at the dictator Stalin. Of course, there were many Soviet Jews who were aware of many valid reasons for the government to doubt Jewish reliability in the case of conflict with Israel, or its protectors and allies. But the fear of being accused of acting "against Jewry" in breaking the thousand-year tradition of racial-religious solidarity forced them to be silent. It forced even the staunch advocates of the communist theory and of Stalin's tactics and practice to keep silent.

Among the Jews, dispersed throughout a huge country, dissatisfaction with the new course in the Jewish question grew. The main culprit was considered to be Stalin who without nise and publicity steadfastly implemented his line.

The feelings of the Jewish ethnic group in the USSR were shared by the Jewry of the whole world and were reflected in the hostile attitude not only to Stalin and his regime but also to the entire Russian populace, considering them to be the culprits in the "persecution" of the Jews.

So it went on until the second half of 1952 when a group of doctors were accuse of an attempt to poison Stalin by means of improper treatment. The doctors, closest to the Kremlin heads, were, in the majority, Jews. How and why the care of Stalin and his collaborators was entrusted to the Jews scarcely requires explanation. They had remained there from those times when the Jews high and low occupied responsible positions. And they were not replaced by anyone, even after the sudden change in the year 1948.

The accusation brought forward against the Jews, and the corresponding campaign in the Soviet press was interpreted in a widely spread way by the population, especially the Jewish section, as sympathy to those who were confronted with the accusation, Moscow was full of rumors about approaching repressions against the Jews and about their exile to the Far East.

"They started to pack suitcases, to sell furniture cheaply and went to bed with thoughts that probably at night they will be arrested..." In this manner David Burg, in his article mentioned above, described the feeling of the Moscow Jews.

From October 1952 until the death of Stalin, the feeling of more than half a million Moscow Jews was characterized by panic. No one was in doubt that, as at the beginning of the war whole nationalities were exiled from the Crimea, Caucasus and Volga region, so too the Jews would be exiled, and not only from Moscow but also from the rest of the places where they lived.

Stalin's sudden death changed everything. The "doctors' plot" was declared to be a forgery. A calm ensued among the Jews.

However, there was no use even considering the return of the Jewish ethnic group to its previous position as the ruling class.

The politics of the USSR Government in the Jewish question progressed steadfastly toward the bringing about, on a percentage basis, the number of the intellectual professions and the responsible positions occupied by the Jews to the corresponding number of such professions and positions occupied by the representatives of the rest of the population. These policies were carried out without haste and without noise and shocks, arousing the approval of the whole population of the USSR and the resentment and indignation of its Jewish minority which consisted of one percent, minority which labeled this as discrimination.

Not even the whole Jewish minority can be included in the one per cent figure. In the USSR there are quite a few Jews who consciously chose the way of free assimilation and became unconditionally loyal to the USSR. They chose not only full entry and inclusion into the Russian culture and mode of living but also their assimilation. Such disappearance considerably facilitated their departure from the Jewish religion which jealously guards the purity of race, race which is inseparably linked with its religion. The mixed marriages, about which rabbis speak with terror, considerably contributed to this process. The loss by the Jews of their spoken language, "Yiddish", and its substitution by the Russian language contributed to this process also. More than 80% of the Jews in the USSR cannot read or write in "Yiddish" today.

The Jewish ethnic group in the USSR experienced the same occurrence which happened to the Jews in Western Europe during the middle ages. They forgot their language in their everyday life and accepted without any compulsion the German language in its place, naming it "Yiddish".

At that time only the presence of the "ghetto" helped Jewry to preserve its tribal peculiarities and religion, and to prevent its full disappearance in the sea of Germany. Now, however, there is neither "ghetto" nor absolute subordination to the authority of rabbis. Therefore the process of assimilation, in spite of all kinds of protests and the existence of the Israeli State, goes on unflinchingly. It is impossible not to take this into consideration, but to prevent it is also impossible.

This inevitable and unavoidable process of assimilation on one hand, and the loss of the privileged position by the Jews on the other, engenders and nourishes anti-Russian feelings in the whole Jewry of the Diaspora. These feelings are also widespread among a considerable, probably overwhelming, majority of the USSR Jewry, unabling them to reconcile with the loss of their privileged position.

Julius Margolin also writes about these anti-Russian feelings which are interwoven with anti-Soviet feelings, as mentioned by David Burg in his article above. Margolin substantiates and justifies these feelings.

In his article "Tel-Aviv Note-book" which was featured on November 15, 1960 in the newspaper "Russkaia Mysl" No. 1604, published in Russian in Paris, Julius Margolin writes:

"In the special position, under the sceptre of Nikita, Jewish people are the only ones who are condemned to the loss of their nationality and the gradual liquidation of their historical and cultural individuality. Of course, Nikita is kind and humane; he is far from Hitler's cannibalism; the question is not physical extermination once and for all but it is the "EVTANAZIA": painless, as far as possible, suffocation and spiritual dying of the whole people from whom the right to decide its own fate is taken away. The right is also taken away from the other people of the Soviet Empire, but to these people, at least, within the next few centuries, there is no threat of danger of denationalization. Russians will remain Russians, Ukrainians will remain Ukrainians and Georgians remain Georgians. Only the Jews are "atomized" and subjected under "special regime". And as a consequence, those who hail national suicide, they show an exceptional zeal... but others hate this regime with unparalleled strength, because only in this hate can their national identity assert itself. I dare to affirm that even the most "irreconcilable" emigrants, peacefully living the rest of their days in different corners of the West, do not have the imagination about the depth and the quality of this bottomless hate".

Margolin’s acknowledgement that the Jews hate the regime which they created themselves in their own time, it seems, should have engendered the urgency to overthrow this regime, as was Czarism.

However, Margolin does not mention this urgency to the USSR Jewry...

To make up for it, David Bur speaks about it in great detail and quite convincingly. He was born and grew up in Moscow where he received his higher education and after this he emigrated to the West in 1956. Burg, of course, knows much better than Margolin the Jewish feelings in the USSR in general, and that of many thousands of Muscovite Jews in particular, and therefore he writes distinctly about these Jewish feelings, aspirations and apprehensions in the USSR.

In his article, which was mentioned above, Burg uses the "anti-Soviet" and "anti-Russian" as synonyms. Of course, this is not accidental, because the Jews, dissatisfied with the new political course of the government in the Jewish question, themselves interlace these two meanings, as their fellow tribesmen outside of the USSR are doing. Here is what David Burg writes on this question.

”The discrimination (He calls equalization discrimination) strengthens Jewish nationalism and the Jews' aspiration for Israel. At the time, when the generation of the Thirties had an indifferent attitude to the question of its identity, the overwhelming majority of the young Jews at present feel quite nationalistical. However, this nationalism is not in the least conditioned by the religion. In the majority, especially among the young Jews, this nationalism, resulting from the hostile politics of the government toward the Jews, combines with the sharp anti-Soviet line. However, this is not always so. To some the danger of the anti-Semitism "from below" seems greater than the danger of the anti–Semitism "from above". The reasoning is as follows: although the government puts pressure on us, it nevertheless allows us to exist. If, however, a revolutionary change comes, then during the inevitable anarchy of the transitional period we will simply be slaughtered. Therefore, it is better to hold on with the government, however badly it may be treating us. Among the people of these lines the anti-Russian feelings and striving toward Israel are especially strong".

The two statements of the Jewish authors given above deserve special attention. This is because they are of the latter years (of 1957 and 1960), and also because the two authors write frequently about the "Jewish question" in Russian in the periodical press. The two authors are unanimous in their appraisal and understanding of the Jewish feelings in the USSR, and of the attitudes of the whole population to its fellow citizens, the Jews.

At the same time, these two authors hush up the real cause that provoked these feelings and extensively speak about the "limitations" and about "discrimination", when in fact, as is seen from their own account, the conversation is about the equalization in rights and opportunities of non-Jewish population with the Jews, who for thirty years occupied privileged positions in the USSR.

Neither Margolin nor Burg writes anything regarding the time when discrimination actually was practiced with respect to the native population, when one per cent of Jewish minority used to make up 80% and even 90% of the diplomats and other Soviet dignitaries. Yet, they as Jews, ought to write about, try to explain, and, if possible, justify the "inverse proportionality" of the Jews who occupied the leading positions in the country in which they appeared a little less than a hundred and fifty years ago, and made up little more than one per cent of the population they controlled.

Both authors speak about the Jewish attitude in the USSR. Margolin did not live in the USSR as a free man, but as a Polish war prisoner who lived there from 1939 and associated in camps only with his fellow tribesmen who were primarily from Poland. He speaks about the "bottomless hate" they had toward the regime. However, he does not write about the feelings of the non-Jewish population toward the Jews.

To make up for it, David Burg speaks about it unambiguously: "if a revolutionary change comes, then during the inevitable anarchy of the transitional period WE WILL SIMPLY BE SLAUGHTERED". It is said quite clear. It is to be supposed that Burg knows well the feelings of the population of the USSR, although, it is hardly possible to agree with his assertion that all the Jews in the USSR WOULD BE SLAUGHTERED. But in the case of anarchy there will undoubtedly be quite a few anti-Jewish excesses.

Absence of any certain information about the attitudes of the population of the USSR with respect to Jews permits us neither to confirm nor to refute the gloomy forecasting of Burg. Therefore, we have to limit ourselves to citing only these statements in our short account of the twenty-year post-war period.

In telling about "bottomless hate" the Jews have for the REGIME, Margolin silently bypasses the attitude of the rest of the population of the USSR toward the regime, as well as toward the Jews. But Margolin does not touch upon the question of whether this Jewish hate goes so far as to wish the overthrow of the hated regime or is limited only to hatred without a possibility of manifesting itself, nor does he mention the question of whether this hate spreads to all Russian people.

Burg, on the other hand, speaks about the attitude, not only of the Russian people but also of the rest of the popu1ation of the USSR, not toward the REGIME, but toward the Jews. He reports that the Jews, regardless of their negative attitude to the regime, are apprehensive of its overthrow, and therefore support it.

The press of the whole world writes often and much about the hostile attitudes of the government of the USSR and its whole population toward the Jews. As a rule the government is identified for some reason mainly with the Russian people (meaning the Great-Russians), without including the other nationalities of the country, for example, even the Ukrainians who have an age-old account to settle with Jewry. Frequently reporting about the anti-Jewish feelings of the population, the foreign Jewish press explains that all incidents and excesses result from government initiatives, and hushes up the feelings of the population itself with respect to the Jews.

For example, in the journal "Socialist Herald" (an organ of the Jewish "Bund" and the "Russian Mensheviks"), published in Russian in the issue of December 1959 (p. 241), we read the following. "Upon entering stores and shops of the "Second Jerusalem" (Malakhovka — Moscow suburb), you can see their (Jewish) tallow and arrogant ugly faces everywhere, disdainfully looking at the Russian. And where is this? In our Russian land the Judaic stock, risen so high, throws dirt at the Russian people, calls them "fools" and "Ivans", and we tolerate everything... How long is this going to last? We saved them from the Germans, who are more rational concerning this nation, and sheltered them. But they so quickly became impudent; they do not even understand the Russian people. Who is in whose land anyway? The people are grumbling (theoretically), but they are not too far from practice either. To speak frankly, the Bolsheviks for no reason made haste to equalize this nation. This nation can be sent down to the lower classes, but it will come out like couch-grass, chocking up the pure and kind souls of the Russian people. So it happened. Our people are not the same now. From the Jews they became infected with bureaucracy, greed, the desire for personal gain and inhospitality. There is not an open sincere Russian soul except those which exist in villages".

The above quoted was supposed to be a leaflet which was signed thusly: "B. J. S. R. and L. R. P. ", which the "Socialist Herald" deciphers as: "Beat the Jews, Save Russia" and "Liberation for the Russian People".

The leaflet was circulated in the Malakhovka, a Moscow suburb, where before the revolution Jews were not allowed to settle, but there are now many Jews, even with two synagogues. The editor of the "Socialist Herald", P. Abramovich, published this leaflet in full in his journal, adding that, in his opinion, it was fabricated by the USSR Government itself, at the head of which at that time was N. Krushchov. It is unknown how precise this assertion is. Abramovich gives nothing in support of this claim, not even indirectly.

In the opinion of the former Soviet citizens who are non-Jews, now in emigration, the content of the leaflet (without considering style) corresponds in general with the opinion of the whole population in the country about the Jews and their rôle in the USSR. Under the restraints of Soviet censorship this opinion cannot be expressed publicly, yet it exists without doubt. Burg's statement about the threat of annihilation of all Jews not by the government, but by the population, confirms the presence of the corresponding feelings in the whole population.

One more thing is noteworthy in this leaflet: it is the absence of any indications of the religio-racial causes of the negative attitudes to Jews, that is, to what precisely causes "anti-Semitism". The causes given here are quite different and are purely of a materialistic character, namely, dissatisfaction and resentment against the privileged position of the Jewish ethnic group due to their capture of all the best positions in the country, and against the scornful and contemptuous attitude of this new ruling class to the native population.

The unsubstantiated assertion by the "Socialist Herald", that the leaflet was fabricated by the government itself, cannot be accepted seriously.

At one time the Jews used to repeat, and the press of the whole world echoed it, that the pogroms in pre-revolutionary Russia were the result of government orders. After the revolution, when all the police archives became accessible to the Jews who came into power, not one of such or even similar orders were discovered. The practice of resorting to unsubstantiated assertions or accusations, or even expressions such as, "it is commonly known" or "as it is known" does not give credit to those who resort to their use, unable to confirm their accusation with facts or documents. One case, well known to the "accusers" of Russia and its Governments in the organization of Jewish pogroms, is worth mentioning here. After the biggest pogrom, in terms of number of victims, which took place in Odessa in 1905 (see p. 122 of this book), the Jewish party "Poale-Zion" sent to Odessa its representative, who, after a thorough study of all the circumstances of the affair, wrote as follows: "I went to Odessa to find a purely provocative pogrom, but, alas!, I did not find it".

* * *

On this note ends the description of the last twenty-year post-war period, which as stated above, does not pretend that it includes documented proof and all the thoroughly elucidated events of this period.

The reason is the absence of the necessary facts and the impossibility of verifying opinions and statements of various people. A lot more has to be verified in the future, which, I hope, will be done by those who will engage in this question.

Here also ends the whole sketch "Jews in Russia and in USSR", which, as its name implies, is limited in time and territory: it is limited in time only by those comparatively short periods when the Jewish ethnic group lived in the Russian land, the territory of the State of Russia, now renamed the USSR.

The questions connected with the Jewish sojourn outside of this territory and its mutual relationship with those nations among whom they lived or live during their dispersion, we have not touched, because this is outside of the framework presented here.

* * *

In conclusion, we have the opportunity to show statistical data, giving a clear picture of the degree of the Jewish participation in the cultural life of the Soviet Union, where they make up 1.1% of the population.

According to the 1959 census the population of the USSR was 208,828,000; of these, 2,268,000 were Jews, which equals approximately to 1.1%.

The percentage of Jews in individual intellectual professions is as follows: doctors — 14.7%; scientific workers — 11%; jurists — 10%; writers and journalists — 8.5%; art workers — 7%.

Knowing all these facts, the accuracy of which is not disputed by anyone, one can only wonder at the assertions of "discrimination" and "persecution" about which so much has been spoken and written in all the languages of the world.

On the question of persecution of the Judaic religion in the USSR, the State, where every religion is proclaimed to be "opium for the people", and against which a struggle is carried on, it can be asserted that the Judaic religion is in better condition than any other religion. As already has been mentioned in a previous account, even the Moscow city council was engaged in baking matzos in the prewar years, while at the same time the city council not only disengaged itself in making Kulitch and Paskhas (Easter Cakes) for Orthodox Christians but it even forbade all bake and pastry shops to make such things. In the USSR such enterprises are state owned. Jews in Moscow have their own separate Jewish cemeteries, which is not permitted to any other faith.

On the days of the big Jewish holidays the celebrations are unhindered in Moscow, even under the watchful eyes of the militia, and many thousands of Jews conduct their religious demonstrations accompanied by songs and dances.

The most-circulated American newspapers, the "Daily News" of October 18, 1965, and the "New York Times" of October 19 of the same year, reported details of these festivities. The "Daily News" writes: "half a million Moscow Jews were drinking and dancing on the streets adjacent to the synagogue", and reports that this demonstration lasted from six o'clock in the evening until midnight.

The "New York Times" writes about this at greater length, but speaks not about "half a million" but about "tens of thousands young and old Jews" who took part in these festivities, and the whole block of streets adjacent to the synagogue were closed to traffic. Arkhipov by-street, on which a big hospital is located, was filled by the dancing and singing Jews who kept on merry-making until midnight. And the militia did not prevent them.

The facts above, whose reliability is beyond doubt, testify silently to how much the Judaic religion is "oppressed" in Moscow.

And at the same time, it is unthinkable for Christians to have religious processions in Moscow where tens of thousands could take part, even under the watchful eye of the militia.

In view of the above, it is difficult to agree with all those who in most newspapers of the world write about religious persecutions of the Jews in the USSR, forgetting that all the other religious in the USSR, with regard to the freedom to perform their religious holidays and ceremonies, are constrained immeasurably more.

* * *

An impartial history, having at its disposal strictly verified facts, which to us contemporaries is still inaccessible, cannot fail to recognize that in no one country, in no one nation during the whole of its two thousand year sojourn in dispersion, did the Jews have such opportunities. Never have they reached such a position as in Russia or the USSR, especially in the thirty-year period from 1917 to 1947, when they actually were the ruling class of the country.

If they were unable to hold this position and lost it irretrievably, then it is not the Russian people and not the population of the State of two-hundred million that bears the guilt for it. The guilt must be placed upon the peculiarities of the Jewish people themselves, who brought the negative attitude upon themselves. With their activities the Jews created against themselves that negative attitude, which used to be called "Judaeophobia" and is now called "anti-Semitism". This is confirmed by many Jews themselves, from Spinoza to Professor Solomon Lourie. Professor Solomon Lourie expressed this opinion in 1922 in his well-researched book, "Anti-Semitism in the Ancient World".

But this question, first, is too controversial, and, secondly, is outside the framework of this sketch; therefore, it is not subject to our examination.

The task of this work is limited — to tell the truth about the Jewish life and conditions only and exclusively during their sojourn on the territory of Russia and the USSR. How this has been accomplished is for the reader to decide.