For the first time ever, a committee of Russia’s legislature has conducted an official hearing on the problem of anti-Semitism in the country.
The Supreme Soviet’s Committee on Human Rights heard five hours of testimony Monday on past and present manifestations of anti-Jewish hatred. Among those testifying were Michael Chlenov, co-president of the Vaad, the main umbrella group of Jewish organizations in the former Soviet Union; noted Moscow lawyer Genrik Reznik; and Valery Fadeyev, chairman of the Moscow City Council’s Human Rights Committee.
Testimony focused on possible amendments to Article 74 of the Russian Criminal Code, which prohibits incitement of racial and ethnic tension.
Some of those present expressed disappointment at the small turnout for the hearing.
“Only five of the committee’s 12 members showed up and not many journalists. But when the far right calls a press conference, the press flocks to it,” lamented Mikhail Molostvov of St. Petersburg, a one-time dissident who is now a member of the Congress of People’s Deputies.
Others attributed the low turnout to the fact that attention is riveted on the upcoming Congress of People’s Deputies session, set to begin Dec. 1, which is expected to be a major test of strength for President Boris Yeltsin.
Committee Chairman Sergei Kovalyov, a noted human rights campaigner, said the hearings would continue after the congress session ends.