MOSCOW (Oct. 8)
Edward Topol’s novels have been read by audiences all over the world.
Now a letter that the Russian Jewish emigre has published in a newspaper here has outraged Russian Jews.
The full-page letter, which was printed last month in the Moscow weekly Argumenty i Fakty, called on Russian Jewish bankers not to throw Russia into a “chaos of poverty and wars.”
Topol, who emigrated to the United States 20 years ago and now lives in New York, also urged Jewish tycoons to “chip in a billion or two” to help Russia’s economy.
The weekly’s popularity — it has a print run of over 3 million copies and is especially popular in Russia’s provinces — has prompted worries about how the letter will be interpreted by the paper’s readers.
Many Jews said the letter implied that a Jewish conspiracy exists in Russia, and they are worried that it could therefore trigger an outbreak of anti- Semitism.
“The article made me feel very uneasy,” said Lydia Tseitlina, an accountant. “All my Jewish friends were frightened.”
“Those Jews who are active in business and politics act not as Jews but as Russians. Topol’s letter provocatively alludes to the existence of some Jewish plan and that is why it is very dangerous,” said Mikhail Chlenov, president of the Va’ad, the Jewish Federation of Russia.
In the letter, Topol implied that a small group of Jewish business magnates exert an enormous control over the Kremlin and eventually led the country to the economic and financial crisis that began earlier this year.
The 59-year-old author also claimed that the Jewish prominence in Russia could lead to Jewish pogroms and even to a new Holocaust.
One Jewish leader said he did not expect a Jewish author to write such a letter.
“I would rather expect such an article from Anpilov or from Zhirinovsky,” said Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, referring to Viktor Anpilov, the leader of the leftist group Working Russia, who is known for his anti-Semitism, and to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party.
During the Soviet regime, Topol’s books were banned, but he gained international fame for a novel he published that focused on Soviet corruption.
After the fall of communism, he became famous throughout Russia. Some 15 of his novels have been published here.
Many of Topol’s novels have Jewish characters. Among the villains in his 1997 novel, “China Lane,” is a character based on Boris Berezovsky, a Jewish media and oil tycoon who is one of the most influential people in Russian politics.
Berezovsky — along with Vladimir Goussinsky, a media baron and president of the Russian Jewish Congress, and other top Jewish bankers — was among the people to whom Topol addressed his letter.
None of them responded to the accusations contained in the letter.
“It is true that the number of Jews in the business and financial spheres are higher than their proportion in the population,” said Goldschmidt. “But to say that all the banks are controlled by Jews is completely wrong.”
Goldschmidt said the Jewish reaction has a lot do to do with historical experience. Under the Communists, he said, when such articles or letters appeared, they indicated a shift toward a more anti-Semitic governmental policy.
Because of that, “I think some of the older people are taking such an article more seriously than it deserves,” he said.
Responding to the accusations that his article spurred anti-Semitism, Topol said this week that he only wanted to mobilize Jewish tycoons for the “sake of saving Russia.”