NEW YORK (Apr. 1)
Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union is on the rise and is potentially dangerous to the Jewish community there, according to a recent survey of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union — the first to be conducted there since the 1920s.
The study, based upon lengthy interviews with 506 adults in the Moscow area, revealed “a disturbing climate of anti-Semitic feeling in the Soviet Union,” but also “some hopeful findings,” according to two political scientists from the University of Houston who conducted the survey.
Working in conjunction with Soviet sociologists, Assistant Professor Raymond Duch and Professor James Gibson found that almost half the people they interviewed believed that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Soviet Union.
Eighty-two percent were unwilling to say they “liked” Jews, while 77 percent admitted that some or most of their fellow citizens were anti-Semitic.
“Soviet Jews have been telling us through meetings, through their behavior, through their level of emigration, that they fear they are in danger,” said Sholom Comay, president of the American Jewish Committee, which jointly sponsored the study with the University of Houston and the National Science Foundation.
‘WORKING WITH FACT’
“This is the first time we have real data (to support their fears). Now we are working with fact rather than supposition,” Comay said.
The survey consisted of 350 questions concerning political tolerance in the Soviet Union, with a particular focus on the attitudes toward Jews.
The results of the survey were made public Thursday at a meeting of the American Jewish Committee in Manhattan. Presenting the findings were Duch and Gibson; David Singer, director of AJCommittee’s Research and Information Services; David Harris, director of AJCommittee’s Government and International Affairs in Washington; and Comay.
Of particular concern was the fact that, when asked to rate their degree of like or dislike for Jews, 18 percent of the respondents registered dislike, while 65 percent said they were “neutral.”
“It points to a classic anti-Semitic syndrome,” said Comay, “in which there is a core element of the population with an extremely high degree of anti-Semitism and a large group of ‘neutral’ citizens who don’t care one way or the other — who are not prepared to resist.”
Given the current political and economic instability and uncertainty in the Soviet Union, he said, the large “neutral” population could be swayed to support anti-Semitic extremists.
When asked to rate their feelings for the ultranationalist, anti-Semitic group Pamyat, 14 percent expressed liking, while another 23 percent were indifferent toward it.
Similarly, 33 percent agreed with the statement “When it comes to choosing between people and money, Jews will choose money,” while another 29 percent were uncertain whether it was true.
Twenty-three percent agreed that “Jews have too much influence over Russian culture,” with another 21 percent being “uncertain.”
On the positive side, 91 percent believed Jews should be free to decide for themselves whether they want to emigrate or remain in the Soviet Union.
Ninety percent said they believed that “the government should make every effort to see that the rights of Jews to equal educational opportunity are respected throughout the Soviet Union.”
Eighty-eight percent maintained that the government should ensure Jews equal employment opportunities.
Seventy-four percent also thought the government should be doing more to control anti-Semitism.
Experts also noted that the Soviet Union has a history of using Jews as scapegoats during times of political unrest. The AJCommittee was founded in 1906, in fact, to counter pogroms in czarist Russia.
Furthermore, experts said, the population interviewed for the study represented some of the Soviet Union’s more educated, sophisticated citizens. The lower the level of education, the higher the propensity for anti-Semitism, they said.
“Moscow is not typical of the Soviet Union,” said Duch. “The population is generally more educated and on the vanguard. Therefore, these results are a baseline measurement of anti-Semitism. Once outside the region, we can expect to find higher levels of anti-Semitism.”
In light of the survey’s results, the AJCommittee’s board of governors has adopted a 15-point plan of action concerning anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.
Among its courses of action are calls to repeal the United Nations “Zionism is racism” resolution; to press the Soviet government to permit direct flights to Israel from the Soviet Union; and to the development of ties with Soviet church groups in order to promote inter-religious harmony.
Of the 506 adults randomly surveyed, 88 percent were of Russian nationality, 3 percent were Ukrainian, 2 percent were Armenian and 2 percent were Jewish. Measures were taken to gauge the sincerity of people’s responses, and the margin of error was placed at 5 percent.