Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 238

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov and the KPRF’s Duma faction made public Wednesday (December 23) an open letter addressed to Nikolai Bordyuzha, head of the Kremlin administration and Security Council secretary, and Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov, on the issue of ethnic and religious intolerance. At first glance, the letter appeared to be, in essence, an apology for anti-Semitic statements made by two leading KPRF members, Albert Makashov and Viktor Ilyukhin. Expressions of “chauvinism and national intolerance,” Zyuganov and his comrades wrote, go against “communist convictions,” no matter who they are uttered by, for whatever motive. The letter characterized as “impermissible” expressions of “Judeo-phobia, which offend the national dignity not only of Jews, but of all the peoples of Russia.” The letter also denounced the idea of establishing religious or ethnic quotas for service in Russia’s government. Earlier this year, Makashov urged that such quotas be instituted.

Further into the letter, however, Zyuganov and Co. said the Jewish community must “more clearly define its position on a series of questions, including its “relationship to Zionism.” The authors of the letter then let loose, calling Zionism “a blood relative of fascism.” The letter stated: “The only difference between them is that, where Hitlerian Nazism appeared under the mask of German nationalism attempting to subjugate the world openly, Zionists, appearing under the mask of Jewish nationalism, act in secret and employ the hands of others.” It added that Jews should either remain in Russia and live as a community loyal to Russia (its “only motherland”) and assimilate, or emigrate (Russian agencies, December 23). Shimon Samuels, director for international liaison at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Geneva, told the “Moscow Times” that the letter was an example of “classical anti-Semitism” which expressed “Stalin’s line” on the Jewish question (Moscow Times, December 24).

The letter suggests that the KPRF is worried about the Kremlin’s pledge to crack down on political extremism, and has simply made a tactical change back to Soviet practice during the Brezhnev era, when the authorities tried, rather ineffectively, to hide the state’s official anti-Semitism under the mask of “anti-Zionism.”