Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 210

The dispute involving calls to control the press is directly related to the issue of anti-Semitism: members of the communist and nationalist opposition have long charged that Jews are over-represented in the Russian media. Meanwhile, Albert Makashov, the ex-Soviet general and Communist Party (KPRF) deputy in the Duma, whose anti-Semitic comments last month triggered the current controversy, has been at it again. In an interview with the Italian newspaper “La Stampa” earlier this week, Makashov said there are too few ethnic Russians holding senior government posts, and called for quotas limiting the number of officials who are not ethnically Russians. Chased down yesterday at the Duma by NTV correspondent Pavel Lobkov, Makashov repeated his demand for quotas and then threatened Lobkov, who, in Makashov’s words, was behaving “worse than the last Yid” (Russian agencies, NTV, November 11).

Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, also a member of the KPRF but seen as more pragmatic, said of Makashov’s “La Stampa” interview: “That is his personal opinion. He’s continuing his line. It has nothing to do with the Communist Party or the KPRF faction [in the Duma].” KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov, however, ignored a question shouted out by reporters about the Makashov interview. Former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, meanwhile, said the Duma should consider revoking Makashov’s immunity from prosecution, because his anti-Semitic comments violated Russian law. A poll taken by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) among 1,509 Muscovites found that 51 percent were outraged by Makashov’s statements, 15 percent welcomed them and 24 percent knew nothing about them. (Six percent were not moved either way, four percent weren’t sure what they thought.) Thirty percent of those polled thought Makashov should face criminal charges, 29 percent thought he should not and 17 percent said they were not sure (Russian agencies, November 11).

Financier Boris Berezovsky, who last weekend called on the KPRF to be banned for failing to condemn Makashov, was himself the target of opposition wrath in the Duma on Wednesday, but a motion to have him removed as CIS executive secretary failed to pass. Mikhail Prusak, the liberal governor of the Novgorod region, called the idea of banning the KPRF “absolute stupidity.” It would, he said, only increase the party’s authority. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said there was “no legal basis” for outlawing the KPRF, and that a ban would violate “the democratic arrangement of Russian society.” The KPRF’s central committee, meanwhile, issued a statement charging that “Russia-haters” were trying to discredit the party using “the so-called Jewish question.” The statement claimed the KPRF had hundreds of thousands of members who were of Jewish origin, and charged that “criminal capital” is the main organizer of anti-Semitism in Russia, and is trying to blame it on the KPRF (Russian agencies, November 11).