Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 39

Prosecutors in both Moscow and the Rostov region are investigating anti-Semitic comments recently made by Albert Makashov–former Soviet general, current State Duma deputy and hardline member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). The investigators will determine whether Makashov violated laws against inciting national hatred (Russian agencies, February 24). As the Monitor reported yesterday, Makashov, during a speech last weekend to a meeting of Cossacks in Novocherkassk, referred to the opposition Movement in Support of the Army (DPA) as the DPZh–which, he explained, stands for the Movement Against Yids. Clips from Makashov’s speech were shown on several of Russia’s national television channels earlier this week.

Makashov’s latest anti-Semitic outbursts would seem to have once again put KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov on the spot. Zyuganov distanced himself from Makashov’s comments yesterday, telling reporters in Moscow that “some statements by some members are not the official position” of the KPRF, its faction in the State Duma or the People’s Patriotic Union of Russia, the opposition umbrella group which Zyuganov also heads. Zyuganov declared that his party was “categorically against any manifestations of nationalism,” which he said included both anti-Semitism and “Russophobia.” The KPRF leader said the organizing committee of the party’s central committee had been instructed to study Makashov’s statements, and that the issue would be officially taken up by the KPRF’s faction in the State Duma (Russian agencies, February 24).

Zyuganov, clearly mindful of this year’s Duma elections and the need to widen his base, has tried to distance himself from the overt and crude anti-Semitism of party radicals like Makashov. At the same time, Zyuganov has tried to avoid fully alienating the KPRF’s hardline electoral base. Thus he has taken to denouncing “Zionism” rather than Judaism. His balancing act was also on display yesterday: While he distanced himself from Makashov’s remarks, Zyuganov also urged the gathered journalists to view a video tape of Makashov’s speech, which, he said, would show that the former Soviet general’s remarks contained nothing “criminal.” One television channel opined that the speech’s content was “debatable,” given that it was “impossible to understand” and without “logic” (RTR, February 24).

For his part, Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov said that Makashov appeared to be speaking for himself and not for the KPRF, and noted that KPRF officials themselves had disclaimed any responsibility for Makashov’s comments (Russian agencies, February 24). Zyuganov and other KPRF officials have strongly denounced Krasheninnikov for launching an investigation earlier this month to determine whether the party’s activities comply with legal requirements. That investigation is ongoing.