MOSCOW (Oct. 11)
“Down with the Jews” and “Russians Unite” were blazoned across banners hanging at the Central House of Actors here last week as the far-right, anti-Semitic Pamyat movement held a conference to define its political agenda for the difficult winter ahead.
Pamyat’s aim is to “help the Russian people find their way and make the lives of the Zionists as hard as possible,” declared Dimitry Vasiliev, the movement’s best-known figure and leader of its National Patriotic Front faction.
Vasiliev, a portly, fiftyish man whose long black hair circles a balding crown, decried the “Zionists who are rubbing their hands over their victory over Russia.” He warned that Pamyat, whose name means “memory,” would not be a paper tiger in the future.
“Our National Patriotic Front is going to act. We’re not going to wear skirts,” Vasiliev said at a closing news conference.
That and similar talk dominated the two-day conference held, whether by design or coincidence, on Yom Kippur. The gathering was also attended by various small extremist groups, including Christian Revival and the Russian Monarchical Center, as well as some chauvinistic elements in the Russian Orthodox Church.
One priest denounced the patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Aleksei II, as “a devoted Leninist and friend of New York Freemasons.”
Freemasonry is often linked with Zionism in the political lexicon of the Russian far right. The reference to New York was to Aleksei’s visit there last year, where he met with Jewish leaders.
Participants in the conference, many of whom wore black, military-style uniforms, browsed between speeches at a kiosk selling anti-Semitic literature and beer.
It was not immediately clear how Pamyat obtained use of the Central House of Actors, the premises of the Russian Union of Actors.
Earlier this year, Vasiliev tried to rent the Palace of Congresses inside the Kremlin for a Pamyat rally, but officials refused permission. The rejection infuriated Pamyat, especially since the Lubavitch Hasidim had rented the hall for a Chanukah celebration last December.
About 1,000 Pamyat supporters turned out for the last week’s conference, a figure that reflects the movement’s continuing lack of appeal to the general population of Moscow, a city of 9 million.
Only one major daily newspaper covered the event, and it received little attention on the evening television news, which was dominated by President Boris Yeltsin’s privatization scheme and the political squabble between Yeltsin and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.