Anti-jewish Feelings Stronger in Republics of the Former USSR

Anti-Jewish feeling in the republics of the former Soviet Union has increased over the past 18 months, according to a survey sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.

The findings of the survey on attitudes toward Jews, other groups and the Middle East conflict were made public Thursday simultaneously in Moscow and New York.

Conducted in March and April by the Russian Center for Public Opinion and Market Research, the survey found attitudes toward Jews vary dramatically from one republic to another.

In Ukraine and Moldova, attitudes toward Jews were found to have improved significantly since the AJCommittee conducted a similar survey in October 1990. But in the Moslem republics of Central Asia, attitudes toward Jews have become a great deal more negative since the 1990 poll.

For the survey, pollsters conducted face-to-face interviews with 3,965 respondents in the three Baltic nations — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and in seven of the 11 nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 to 5 percentage points.

Respondents in the three Moslem republics surveyed — Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan — held the most anti-Jewish views.

Forty-two percent of Azerbaijanis surveyed said they agree, completely or in part, with the statement that “now and in the past Jews have had too much influence on world events.”

At the other end of the spectrum, 12 percent of Moldovans surveyed agreed with that statement.

JEWS ‘SEEN AS DEMONIC’

When asked if “Jews must answer for killing Christ,” 30 percent of those in Uzbekistan agreed, compared to 6 percent of Estonians.

Since a majority of Uzbeks are Moslem, they probably agreed that Jews must answer for killing Christ not for theological reasons, but because “this is another way to ascribe negative qualities to Jews,” said David Harris, executive vice president of AJCommittee.

“If one adopts a world vision in which Jews are seen as demonic, one easily attaches as many negative traits as possible,” he said.

Nearly half of the respondents in Uzbekistan said that if Jews leave for other countries, they should not be allowed to return. By contrast, only 17 percent of Lithuanians felt this way.

A 56 percent majority of Uzbeks said they would react negatively if Jewish parties or social-political organizations functioned in their republic, and 47 percent of respondents in Kazakhstan felt similarly. The smallest negative response, 19 percent, was registered in Estonia.

Respondents in the Moslem republics were also most negative about having a Jew as an immediate superior at work. Forty-six percent of respondents in Uzbekistan and 41 percent in Kazakhstan said they would not like to have a Jewish supervisor, while 72 percent of those polled in Moldova said they would have nothing against being supervised by a Jew.

More than one-quarter of Uzbeks said that all Jews should be deported to Birobidjan, the autonomous region that Josef Stalin designated for Jews in the remote, far-eastern part of the former Soviet Union. Only 6 percent of Moldovans and 7 percent of Estonians agreed.

NEGATIVE ATTITUDES IN BELARUS

Predictably, perhaps, a high level of support for Arab nations and the Palestinians was discovered in the Moslem republics.

But in nine of the 10 states surveyed — all but Estonia — respondents expressed more sympathy for Arabs than for Israel.

“What’s happening in the Islamic republics is a more politicized anti-Semitism,” said Harris.

“As they assert their independence and seek to establish their own national identity as sovereign nations, to the extent that religious fundamentalism and anti-Western ideology become appealing, they will also take on the trappings of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment,” he said.

“In 1990, the attitudinal problems were not nearly as acute,” he pointed out.

Particularly negative attitudes also were found in Belarus, formerly known as Byelorussia or White Russia.

More than half of Belarussians (54 percent) agreed that “Jews greatly overstate their misfortunes, sufferings and sacrifices.”

Belarussians again, more than respondents in any other republic, agreed that “Jews are mainly responsible for the disasters of the Revolution and the mass repressions of the Soviet era.”

While 25 percent of those in Belarus supported that statement, only 2 percent of Estonians did so.

Fifteen percent of Belarussians say that Jews have too much influence. And when asked if there are specific peoples whose behavior provokes violence, 11 percent of respondents in Belarus cited Jews. In both cases, the responses were more negative than in any other republic.

It is not yet clear why people in Belarus, which shares borders with Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, have such negative opinions of Jews.

“We are still trying to understand the phenomenon there,” said Harris.

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