Report-2017 on anti-Semitism in Russia

We're publishing the annual report on anti-Semitsm commissioned by the Russian jewish congress and made by "Sova" analytic centre. The level of anti-Semitic violence in 2017 was lower than in 2016, but the level of anti-Semitism in mass media has increased in comparison to the previous year.

We're publishing the annual report on anti-Semitsm commissioned by the Russian jewish congress and made by "Sova" analytic centre.

Displays of Antisemitism in 2017

The level of anti-Semitic violence in 2017 was lower than in 2016, but the level of anti-Semitism in mass media has increased in comparison to the previous year. It happened due to the increase of public anti-Semitic statements from authoritative public figures. And differing from the previous years, these statements were not connected with the topics of confrontation with Ukraine and the West. We have to admit that unfortunately, legitimation of anti-Semitism in public media, the possibility of which we had discussed in previous reports, is happening already.

The acts of violence and vandalism

The level of anti-Semitic violence was significantly lower than in 2016. We haven’t registered a single attack on anti-Semitic basis during the year (in 2016 there were 5 attacks).

We know only one act of anti-Semitic vandalism: an unknown person threw some bottles with Molotov cocktail into the building of the Federation of Jewish communities of Russia in September, as a result, the façade of the building was damaged, but there was no fire. FJCR didn’t report of the incident to the police, perhaps, because it regarded the damage as insignificant.

But we know two incidents with anti-Semitic motive. It came out in February about a malefactor, who had been sending anti-Semitic messages to the email of Moscow Jewish Religious Community during a year. The expertise has confirmed that the messages contain threats of violence towards the Jews. The police are looking for the author of these messages.

In February, a Moscow citizen, suffering from mental disorder, who for several days published anti-Semitic messages in social networks, including messages that he is persecuted by “Zionistic lobby”, and he flogged his daughter, exorcising a “Zionistic demon”, then he had been taking his family as hostages for several hours and finally, he jumped out of the window.

Besides this, anti-Semitism could be one of motives of vandals’ attack of Smolenskoye graveyard in Saint-Petersburg in April, where about 30 gravestones were destroyed. Among the victims are the stones at the graves of Mikhail Esterlis, a sports journalist, and his wife. M. Esterlis’ son doesn’t exclude that the reason for the destruction may be the “incorrect” surname of his parents. Witnesses informed of Nazi cries during the destruction. In January 2018 Vasileostrovskiy district court started prosecuting the cases of thugs, with radical right-wing members among them. They are accused according to asset 244 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (violation of dead bodies and places of their burial), but there is no motive of hatred in accusation.

Antisemitism in mass media

As we foresaw, loyal attitude towards public displays of anti-Semitism during last two years, has led to legalization of anti-Semitism in public sphere. During this year a number of high-ranking politicians and public figures allowed themselves public anti-Semitic statements. And if earlier such public displays of anti-Semitism generally took place during discussions of the situation in Ukraine, now the range of topics, when you may expect anti-Semitic statements, has become much wider. 

At the beginning of the year two State Duma deputies allowed themselves such statements, commenting the situation of discussed transfer of Isaakievskiy cathedral into the ownership of the Russian Orthodox Church. In both cases Jewish origin of those who oppose to the transfer, was mentioned. State Duma Vice-speaker of «The United Russia» Peter Tolstoy declares a «surprising paradox»: «People, who are grandsons and great grandsons of those, who destroyed our churches, having jumped over the Pale with a revolver in 1917, today their grandsons and great grandsons, working in different respected places – at radio stations, in general courts, continue the deeds of their grandfathers and great grandfathers»[1]. The deputy of the same party Vitaliy Milonov pointed the origins of protest organizers in an analogical way, particularly the deputies of Saint-Petersburg General Court Boris Vishnevskiy and Maxim Reznik: «The Christians survived, despite the fact that the ancestors of Boris Vishnevskiy and Maxim Reznik boiled us in coppers and threw us to the wolves»[2].

As it often happened before, there weren’t taken any disciplinary actions in respect of the authors of both statements. The board of State Duma re deputy ethics required explanations from V. Milonov concerning his statements. Then he adduced excuses, which B. Vishnevskiy didn’t accept. Nobody required explanations from P. Tolstoy. On the contrary, the State Duma chairman Vyacheslav Volodin called the accusations of Tolstoy in anti-Semitism «inadmissible» and noted that the term «The Pale» «was used towards the state convicts, then the convicts started taking executive positions during the revolution»[3].

Two more politicians made anti-Semitic statements on other occasions. In February the deputy of Liberal Democratic Party Ivan Sukharev followed the tradition of identifying everything that happened during the first Soviet years with Trotsky, that is popular among the anti-Semites. He said that the holiday of February, 23 «has fallen to our lot as the heritage of Lev Trotsky and isn’t Russian national holiday», so it is better to celebrate the protectors of the Motherland on August, 29 – the day of memory of the Russian hosts in the Russian Empire. And the Central Committee deputy chairman of «The Communists of Russia» party Sergey Malinkovich in January adviced the chief rabbi of Russia (Jewish Communities Federation) Berl Lazar «to behave more modestly», threatening him that otherwise «influential public powers <…> may demand depriving the rabbi of holy orders because of interfering into society range of problems»[4]. The reason for this statement is the rabbi’s interview to «Interfax», where he specifically said that Lenin and Stalin are «the people, who flooded the country with blood and tried to substitute the faith in God by the cult of idolized leaders», and called to bury Lenin’s body. «Such statements are suitable in Israel, but not in Russia», - S. Malinkovich said.

The minister of culture of the Russian Federation Vladimir Medinskiy, lecturing at Saint-Petersburg international forum in November, didn’t condemn an obvious anti-Semitic attack of one of the audience members. When he was asked, if it was necessary to use the term of «foreign agent», concerning the cultural workers with the following eviction «behind the Jewish Pale», the minister answered: «Let me keep silence».

Surprisingly, the premiere of Alexey Uchitel’s film “Matilda”, depicting the love affair of Nikolay II and ballet dancer Matilda Kshesinskaya, has become the reason for numerous anti-Semitic statements. Long before the premiere many orthodox believers declared abuse of their religious feelings, because of «slander» about the tzar canonized by ROC. During the discussion around the film, an anti-Semitic version of the tzar’s “ritual” murder, popular in conservative orthodox society, was expressed a number of times. And if referrals to this version at protest actions, organized by «orthodox activists» in different regions, may be regarded as a natural happening, its discussion by statesmen and media-persons that are far from being marginal may be regarded as a very unpleasant symptom.

In March the State Duma deputy of the dominant party and former Crimea Prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya informed of the ritual character of this murder in “Our country” TV show of “Tzarfrad” channel: «This crime is a horrible ritual murder. And many people are afraid to talk about this. But everyone understands that it happened. <…> God grant our people bravery and wisdom to admit and accept it»[5].

In September actor Vasiliy Livanov said in an interview that after Uchitel’s film the version of the tzar’s family ritual murder «seems probable». The actor’s interview to a little known «patriotic» “Slovo” newspaper, the editor of which is a former member of CPSU Central Committee Victor Linnik, was republished by a number of newspapers, having spread this anti-Semitic passage too.

On November, 27, 2017 senior investigator for particularly important cases of Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation Marina Molodtsova, speaking at Sretenskiy monastery in Moscow at "The Case of the Murder of the Royal Family: New Expertise and Materials. Discussion" conference, declared that the Investigating Committee plans to appoint a psychologic and historic examination to know if the murder of the royal family in 1918 was ritual. Therefore, the anti-Semitic version that was regarded as doubtful even among the orthodox believers, has received official support from the law enforcement agencies.

Public indignation that followed the declaration of the Investigation Committee representative, forced the supporters of the legitimacy of this version to explain themselves. Yegoryevskiy bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), under whose patronage the conference took place, where the above mentioned declaration was made, explained that it was meant that the following fact was confirmed at the government level: «in the basement of Ipatyevskiy house Tzar, not a “citizen” was killed, that the murderers saw the sense of their actions in putting an end to the Russian  orthodox monarchy as the heart of spiritual forces, that, according to patristic writings, oppose to the Evil in all its forms»[6]. According to his words, there wasn’t any anti-Semitic context, because «even visual conditions of the murder don’t resemble the mythology of «the bloody slander»».

His idea was developed on the pages of “Komsomolskaya Pravda” by Egor Kholmogorov, affirming that reproaches of anti-Semitism were provoked by «the representatives of traditional confession of Russia – Judaism» and «liberal journalists», «who had mixed up (or pretended to mix up) two absolutely different things - «a ritual murder», i.e. a murder with religious, mystical motives and using rituals and symbols, and «the bloody slander» - i.e. a medieval myth about rabbis who slaughter Christian infants at Eastertide». He called the actions of journalists and  «rabbis» «a simple trick»[7].

However, the presence of anti-Semitic motive in the «ritual» version of Romanovs family murder was obvious to everyone, who was at least slightly following this story in conservative orthodox society. It was denoted in comments of the president of the Russian Jewish Congress Yuri Canner: «The Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t only take part in this investigation. It is the initiator. It is possible that this is connected with anti-Semitism» [8]. He offered including not only orthodox members, but representatives of other religions into the council of experts, investigating the version of ritual murder. Besides this, he offered including the representatives of the Russian Federation Communist Party into this council, if, as bishop Tikhon says, there are some Bolshevik rituals.

Besides this, as earlier, there were anti-Semitic statements on other reasons in federal and regional mass media. For example, in one of November “Sunday evening with Vladimir Solovyev” shows of “Russia-1” TV channel, its anchorman, discussing the absence of positive consequences of October 1917 events, said to Zhirinovsky, that if not the October revolution, both of them would «have been at the Jewish Pale». Zhirinovsky habitually replied: «My mother is Russian».

“Komsomolskaya Pravda” that had been the leader of our anti-rating for several years, continued the tendency of decrease of anti-Semitic publishing number that we pointed out a year before that, but hasn’t rejected them at all. In October the newspaper published an interview with the councilor of Moscow State Pedagogic University chancellor Evgeny Spitsyn, discussing Stalin’s speech at the XIX congress of the Soviet Communistic Party in 1952. The historian acquitted Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaign by necessity of fighting against the incipient globalism. According to his words, the campaign was «against the bearers of globalism or mondialisation idea, expressed from the position of sovereignty denial, creation of the world government». According the historian’s words, accusations in antisemitism are provoked by the fact that «first of all the bearers of mondialisation idea were the representatives of the Jewish intellectuals»

Because of anchorman Maxim Shevchenko «Echo of Moscow» has become one of the main suppliers of anti-Semitic statements. Thus, the public indignation that appeared after the above mentioned P. Tolstoy’s speech was called by the journalist a planned foreign-policy action, «attack» and «threat to our country from the Israeli lobby». In August in “Individual opinion” show he said that anti-Semitic threat from “Memory” society was falsified by the Jews. M. Shevchenko transferred a single “case of Norinskiy” to the whole situation of this time for that: «Then it turned out that leaflets, threatening the Jews with different curses, were sent by a Jew intellectual, who said, when they caught him: «I did it to attract attention to the threat of fascism»»[9]. In December in “The Facets of the week” show, commenting the trial over the member of Gestapo Adolf Eichman, who was responsible for «the final decision of the Jewish issue», Shevchenko admitted that he regards him as a criminal, but he specified that he regards him guilty «not of Jews murder, but of the fact that he was a member of the party that had killed 27 millions of Soviet citizens. And, you know, I don’t separate Jews from the Soviet citizens».

M. Shevchenko has been broadcasting his anti-Semitic views not only via radio transmissions. In July in his Facebook page, having lots of subscribers, reacting to the death of a blogger and founder of many internet projects Anton Nosik, he hints at «dominance of Jews» in the Russian Internet: «Everything is flooded with tears and sniffles of sorrow (and it indicates, whom does the so-called “Russian Internet” belong to)»[10].

Regional editions also occasionally published anti-Semitic materials. For example, the newspaper of Kaliningrad department of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation «Kaliningrad sparkle» in January announced the novel of “Tomorrow” newspaper chief editor Alexander Prokhanov, called «The Orientalist», abundantly quoting anti-Semitic phrases from the novel. Particularly, there was a phrase of one character: «Europe is a fish, and Jews peck eyes, liver and heart of it… postwar ash of Germany was buried, poured concrete, then put a synagogue above it all»[11]. The author of the review doesn’t criticize the presented theses, but absolutely supports them, calling the book an «excellent thriller». It lets us come to the conclusion that editorial board of the newspaper shares Prokhanov’s views.

And “Silver rain” radio station itself has become an object of anti-Semitic attacks. In December, appearance of a Jew anchorman provoked a flurry of anti-Semitic messages. After a 16-year old debutant Grigoriy Chernozatonskiy referred on air to the rabbi’s permission to work on Saturday, the editorial staff received hundreds of sms, from «get back to your rabbi» to «I’m not interested in things that your Jewish family lives».

Several cases of public anti-Semitism manifestations were noted outside mass media, and at least two times the guilty persons endured the punishment. In May the fans of «Spartak» at the football match with «Tom» displayed a portrait of musician Sergey Shnurov in the image of a Jew (with earlocks), accompanying it with a banner with the following text:

«Once Serega
Brought me to synagogue.
There were lots of bums,
And Miller was alone.
And in this synagogue
He whispered from the threshold,
That at “Spartak-Arena”
We would sing about “Zenit”!»

Therefore, the initiators of the action decided to ridicule Shnurov, «depicting him as a cunning, cute Jew»[12], because he promised to sing a song about «Zenit» at “Spartak” stadium. Russian Football Union punished «Spartak» for displaying a banner without coordination with a 25 thousand roubles penalty.

Also, measures were taken to the creators of the incorrect advertisement of the "Koshelev Corporation" from Samara, complaints about which were made in 2016. Regional Antimonopoly Federal Service decided to open administrative cases for “Koshelev project Samara” JSC – promoter of the video, broadcasted via local television and radio, for abusing the advertising legislation. There was an image of Jacob Moiseevich in the video, who was offered not to pay rent for a flat, but to buy it. Many TV viewers and radio listeners regarded the commercial as anti-Semitic.

Besides this, as before, anti-Semitic slogans were heard at nationalistic actions. Particularly, on April, 29 at the procession and meeting «For People’s Court against oligarchs and corruptionists» in Moscow, ex-deputy of State Duma from Liberal Democratic Party Nikolay Kuryanovich was complaining “Zionistic mass media”, ignoring Russian patriotic actions from the stage. And the veteran of right-wing radical movement Alexander Ivanov-Sukharevskiy wished death to «everyone, who has climbed down from the mountains and creeped out of synagogues». On November, 4, at the day of national unity, at the meeting after «Russian national march» in Moscow Kuryanovich presented Lev Rokhlin’s widow Elena Rokhlina as a «real human rights advocate», protecting not only «her own Zionists», opposing her to other human rights advocates.

Finally, an important and unusual manifestation of anti-Semitism can be considered the March decision of the Central District Court of Sochi to recognize Marcus Leman’s, a rabbi, writer and public figure of the XIX century “Christed by force” novel and “Israel land sanity” article by Zoya Kopelman, a translator and specialist of Jewish and Russian cultures connection. The novel is dedicated to the life of Jews, living in the territory of Poland and Lithuania in XIV century, and discrimination that they had been suffering. Zoya Kopelman’s article is a popular science description of concepts of Israel as a holy land in Judaism. We regard prohibition of these materials as extremist as groundless, because concepts of Jewish people mission and of Israel land sanity can’t be regarded as an evidence of hatred towards other religions. Moreover, you shouldn’t regard an artistic understanding of Jews discrimination in Medieval, written more than a century ago, in such a way.

Law enforcement practice

The number of sentences known to us that were lawfully passed in 2017 for hatred propaganda has increased a little in comparison to 2016: 268 against 255. Minimum 24 of them were sentenced for anti-Semitism propaganda, in overwhelming majority of cases it is connected with other types of xenophobia. This is significantly more than a year before (13 sentences), but we can’t be sure if it is provoked by anti-Semitism resistance activation or peculiarities of publishing information about sentences for hatred propaganda. As we have mentioned earlier, in such cases law machinery rarely inform about the exact reason of sentence. Probably, there are more sentences for anti-Semitism propaganda than we know.  

The majority of 24 sentences, known to us, as earlier, was dealing with propaganda on the Internet. The exception was two sentences, made for “offline” crimes.

October District Court of Arkhangelsk in April, recognized two musicians, who in 2015 performed an anti-Semitic song in one of the music clubs, guilty of part 1 of Art. 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (incitement to hatred) and sentenced them to two years and two months of probation with probationary period for one year.

In December Tverskoy district court of Moscow sent a 49-year old wood carver Mikhail Boldenkov to compulsory treatment, found guilty according to the same article for a single picket with a “Our Heavenly Father will exterminate the Satanist Jews” poster and giving “The last warning to the folks of Israel (To escape the wrath of God, be reasonable!)” leaflets.

In comparison to the previous year the number of cases, when propaganda of anti-Semitism was penalized by real deprivation of freedom periods, has increased: 5 cases, in 2016 - 1. The longest period, 3 years 7 months of deprivation of freedom in a high security colony, was sentenced to a citizen of Vodniy village of the Republic of Komi. In November Uhtinskiy city court found him guilty according to part 2 article 280 of Criminal Code (public appeals to extremist activity, made via informational and communication networks) and part 1 article 282 of Criminal Code for publishing a number of xenophobic materials in “VKontakte” in 2014-2015, serving a federal sentence in a colony for another crime. Besides this, the court deprived him of right to perform professional activity using the Internet for three years.

Almost the same sentence, in August, 3 years 2 months 29 days of deprivation of freedom in a high security colony with a prohibition to perform journalistic and editorial activity in mass media for three year period, according to the same articles was sentenced to a citizen of Syktyvkar. He had also been sentenced for another crime and was additionally punished for anti-Semitic publications in “VKontakte”.

Two known experienced nationalists were sentenced to 1,5 years of colony according to article 282 for anti-Semitic publications art. 282. In May Dorogomilovskiy district court of Moscow sentenced the leader of “ParaBellum” movement and the activist of Russia people’s volunteer corps Yuri Ekishev. And in August Privolzhskiy regional military court sentenced the leader of this movement, retired colonel of Intelligence Department Vladimir Kvachkov, serving a federal sentence in a colony.

Besides this, in September a citizen of Rostov-on-Don was sentenced according to the same article to 8 months of general regime colony for publishing “VKontakte” materials against Jews, Arabs and people of Caucasus origin.

In the rest of cases such crimes were punished by conditional period, fines or mandatory works.

9 citizens were sentenced to one-two years of conditional deprivation of freedom periods for anti-Semitism. For example, a resident of Gorno-Altaisk for publishing an audio recording calling for "violent acts against Jews" was sentenced in May to Part 2 of Art. 280 of the Criminal Code to a year of probation with a probation period of one year.

The biggest fine for anti-Semitic publications was sentenced to a citizen of Yekaterinburg: in March Kirovskiy district court of the city penalized him for 100 thousand roubles according to the same article 282. In July a citizen of Kirovo-Chepetsk was penalized for 90 thousand roubles according to the same article for publications against people of Caucasus origin, Jews and black-skinned. In other cases, the sum of fine vaied from 15 to 60 thousand roubles.

At least three people were sentenced to mandatory works. The strictest sentence was performed in September to the citizen of Osa city of Perm region, who, according to article 282, was sentenced to 9 months of disciplinary works with charging 15% from his salary. The reason was the publication in a social network «images of fascist leaders with a text, humiliating national dignity of the folks of Caucasus, Central Asia and Jews»[13].

Note also that there was a case commenced in August against Perm journalist and activist Roman Yushkov according to part 1 article 282 of Criminal Code and part 1 article 354.1 of Criminal Code. The case was commenced for re-publication a link to an article in Facebook of nationalist Anton Blagin «Jews! Return the Germans money for fraud with Holocaust six millions jews!». This case has become the third case against Yushkov during the year, and in October the fourth case according to article 282 was commenced against him, and all four cases were united into one. The reason for commencing each of these cases was publication of xenophobic materials, but only in the above-mentioned case there was an anti-Semitism motive.


[1] State Duma vice-speaker, proving the necessity of transfer of Isaakievskiy cathedral to the Church, made an anti-Semitic statement // Newsru.com. January, 23, 2017. [http://www.newsru.com/religy/23jan2017/tolst.html]

[2] Milonov: the ancestors of Vishnevskiy and Reznik boiled Christians in coppers // MR7.ru. February, 12, 2017.  [http://mr7.ru/articles/152190/]

[3] Volodin comments Tolstoy’s words about the "jumped over the Pale" // Interfax. January, 24, 2017. [http://www.interfax.ru/russia/546743]

[4] The communists criticize the chief rabbi of Russia // The Communist Party Leningrad region website. January, 4, 2017. [http://kplo.ru/content/view/3997]

[5] Natalia Poklonskaya: Alexey Uchitel doesn’t carry on a dialogue // Tzargrad-TV. March, 4, 2017. [http://tsargrad.tv/articles/natalja-poklonskaja-aleksej-uchitel-ne-idet-na-dialog_51899]

[6] Kholmogorov E. Shooting citizen Romanov, or a ritual murder? // Komsomolskaya Pravda. November, 30, 2017. [https://www.stav.kp.ru/daily/26763/3795347/]

[7] The same.

[8] Rabbis wanted to join the case of Romanovs ritual murder // Lenta.ru. November, 29, 2017.. [https://lenta.ru/news/2017/11/29/ravvins/]

[9] «Individual opinion» with Maxim Shevchenko // Echo of Moscow. August, 31, 2017.[ http://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/2046498-echo/#mmread]

[10] Anton Nosik died… // Maxim Shevchenko’s Facebook. July, 9,2017. [https://www.facebook.com/shevchenko.maxim.leonardovich/posts/1385416351535648?pnref=story]

[11] Revin I. Prokhanov’s Arabic character // Kaliningrad sparkle. 2017. № 226 (January).

[12] “Spartak” football club website.

[13] В Осинском районе местный житель признан виновным в преступлении экстремистского характера с использованием сети Интернет. Следственное управление призывает к бдительности // Официальный сайт СУ СК РФ по Пермскому краю. 2017. 11 сентября. [http://perm.sledcom.ru/news/item/1163113/]

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