Emergence of Anti-semitic Soviet Group Pamyat Concerns Wjc Scholar
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Emergence of Anti-semitic Soviet Group Pamyat Concerns Wjc Scholar

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The emergence in the Soviet Union of a chauvinistic, anti-Semitic organization reminiscent of the Black Hundreds of Czarist times is a potentially disturbing new phenomenon on the Soviet scene, says a report by the Institute of Jewish Affairs, research arm of the World Jewish Congress.

The organization is Pamyat — Russian for memory — the most influential of a number of so-called historical and patriotic associations which have surfaced in the USSR during the period of “glasnost” (openness) ordained by Party Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

Dr. Howard Spier, an IJA research officer, prefaces his study of Pamyat by saying its character and aims raise questions fundamental to the nature of Soviet society.

The organization achieved prominence after an apparently spontaneous demonstration in a central Moscow square on May 6. About 400 demonstrators marched toward the Moscow City Soviet, with banners condemning Gorbachev’s restructuring program and demanding a meeting with Gorbachev and the Moscow Party Chief.

Since then, a succession of vituperative attacks on Pamyat has appeared in some leading Soviet newspapers, suggesting that it had struck a nerve in Soviet public opinion.

According to Soviet press reports, Pamyat was founded in 1980 by a number of employees of the Soviet Ministry of Aviation Industry with the aim of preserving Moscow’s historical and cultural monuments in the face of official indifference.

However, Pamyat’s objectives had apparently changed as it was increasingly penetrated by fanatical believers in Great Russian nationalism who also had xenophobic hang-ups about the supposed Zionist-Masonic conspiracy against the Russian people.

This echoes the rallying cry of the Black Hundreds organization, the union of the Russian people, the reactionary monarchist and anti-Semitic body which bought against reforms following the 1905 revolution.

Pamyat shares with these earlier anti-Semites the belief in the notorious anti-Semitic forgery “the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and that freemasonry is pervasive. They even complain that the Soviet press in inundated with codes, menorahs and six-pointed stars.


Anyone with liberal or Jewish associations is anathema to them. They sent a veiled death threat to poet Andrei Voznesensky. They blame Lazar Kaganovich, the only Jew in Stalin’s Politburo, for the drastic decline in the number of Moscow’s churches, a charge which they also lay against Emelyan Yaroslavsky (originally Gubelman), chairman of the Militant Atheists.

Pamyat refrains from attacking Gorbachev directly, but has called him a puppet of Georgi Arbatov, his Jewish adviser on foreign policy and head of the Institute of the United States and Canada of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

According to Spier, there is no doubt that the views of Pamyat have won the backing of party officials at various levels, and a number of their meetings have been held in party premises.

It appears, too, that Pamyat meetings are well attended, including by youth, despite the lack of advance notice in the press. In Dmitry Vasilev, a journalist and photographer, Pamyat seems to have found a formidable, even charismatic leader, whose speeches are recorded on tape and distributed around the country

Pamyat has branches or allied groups in Leningrad, Sverdlovsk and Novosibirsk, apart from its center in Moscow.

Spier concludes: “Pamyat is in many respects a grass roots movement of the disaffected. As yet, it does not appear to have attracted any persons of prominence to its ranks…but at a time of great flux in the USSR, its significance should not be underestimated.”

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