Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 135

The stabbing of a prominent member of Moscow’s Jewish community has raised tensions and sparked charges that the authorities have not taken adequate steps to thwart anti-Semitic political extremists. Leopold Kaimovsky, executive director of the Jewish Arts Center at the Moscow Choral Synagogue, remained in the hospital in serious condition after being stabbed repeatedly yesterday by a 20-year-old Muscovite reportedly sporting a swastika tattoo. The assailant, Nikita Krivchun, a student at Moscow’s Labor and Social Relations Academy, was detained by security guards after the attack. He said in a television interview aired today that the attack was “political,” not a personal one on Kaimovsky, whom he did not know. Krivchun said further that he did not belong to any political group and that the stabbing was his “personal decision.” After yesterday’s attack, witnesses quoted him as saying: “We will strangle you anyway. We are 50,000 strong.”

There have been several anti-Semitic incidents in Moscow this year. Last May 18, a large bomb was discovered and defused in a Jewish theater, while on May 1, two small bombs exploded near two synagogues, but did no damage. In February, police arrested two neo-Nazis who in 1998 had allegedly attempted to burn down a synagogue. The Moscow city authorities earlier this year effectively outlawed the wearing of Nazi-like uniforms or symbols and the activities of Russian National Unity (RNE) after Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov banned the group from holding a congress in the Russian capital (see the Monitor, February 24-25 ).

Vladimir Gusinsky, founder of the Most business empire and president of the Russian Jewish Congress, said yesterday that he was “extremely shocked by the news of the ugly crime committed at the main Jewish synagogue.” Gusinsky called the knifing of Kaimovsky “the consequence of the anti-Semitic hysteria provoked by a series of provocative statements publicly made by several prominent Communist leaders and their allies from left-wing and Nazi extremist organizations” (Russian agencies, July 13). Gusinsky was clearly referring to anti-Semitic comments made last year by two prominent deputies in the State Duma who are members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF)–Albert Makashov and Viktor Ilukhin.

Adolf Shayevich, Russia’s chief rabbi, said that the knifing incident showed “the state is too weak to resist extremism.” Shayevich warned that if a “wave of lawlessness” is allowed to sweep across Russia, “Jews will suffer first, but they will be followed by all other ethnic groups.” The rabbi said he was surprised the extremist newspaper Zavtra has not yet been closed down, but said he opposed a total ban on the KPRF, adding that it should have been banned back in 1991 (Russian agencies, July 14).