Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 211

In a statement released by the presidential press service yesterday, President Boris Yeltsin ordered Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Federal Security Service Director Vladimir Putin, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha to “take urgent and decisive measures to halt cases of… political extremism which have taken place in recent days.” While not naming names, the Kremlin statement was clearly referring to Albert Makashov, a communist member of the State Duma whose anti-Semitic comments have led to a public feud between Russia’s mass media and liberal intelligentsia, on the one hand, and members of the Communist and nationalist opposition, on the other. The Prosecutor General’s Office began a criminal investigation of Makashov last month after he blamed Jews for Russia’s economic problems and called on them to be jailed. In an interview published earlier this week, Makashov called for quotas on the number of ethnic non-Russians in high government posts. Yeltsin’s statement Thursday criticized law enforcement agencies for “showing manifest indecision and tardiness in situations which demand an adequate judicial response.” The statement said the growth of political extremism “directly contributes to inflaming an explosive situation” (Russian agencies, November 12).

Meanwhile, communist leader Gennady Zyuganov met Thursday with Tzvi Magen, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow. Magen said after the meeting that he was satisfied with Zyuganov’s “unequivocal denunciation” of Makashov’s remarks, “which do not reflect the position of the Russian Communist Party.” Zyuganov, he said, had promised to “do everything possible to indisputably condemn such statements and make the party’s position on this issue clear.” For his part, Zyuganov said that his party “has always condemned attacks on any nationality.” He also said that “Russophobia, anti-Semitism and insults against any people are unacceptable.” Zyuganov added, however, that “careless and insulting remarks made on the spur of the moment must not be multiplied and proliferated by the mass media to fuel the fire in a country which resembles a forest drenched in gasoline” (Russian agencies, November 12).

Russian Public Television (ORT) devoted a large chunk of its 9 PM news program last night to the controversy. During the broadcast, anchorman Sergei Dorenko, who has been one of the major targets of wrath of the communists’ and nationalists’ wrath, repeatedly referred to them as “Red Nazis.” The program also featured a segment which examined the faces of Makashov and Zyuganov to determine their ethnic characteristics. The channel even dispatched a correspondent with a picture of Makashov to ask pedestrians what ethnic group they thought he belonged to (ORT, November 12).