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U.S. Scientist Causes Stir in Moscow; Wants Study on Anti-semitism

June 17, 1963
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An American professor told Soviet scholars that real studies in many social science fields are impossible in the USSR due to curbs imposed by the Soviet system. He cited the study of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union as an example, the New York Times reports Sunday from Moscow.

Dr. Lewis Feuer, professor of philosophy at the University of California, was reporting to his Soviet hosts at the Moscow Institute of Philosophy on his impressions of four months of research on Soviet sociology. Dr. Feuer is in Moscow on an exchange basis. His observations, especially his remarks about the impossibility of making a study of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union provoked a stormy discussion.

“Take anti-Semitism,” Dr. Feuer told his Soviet hosts. “At the University of California we have a $500,000 project to investigate this problem through interviews in industry, the arts and academic life. When I raised the question here I was told there was no anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. But I spoke to people in synagogues and heard stories to the contrary.”

Dr. Feuer’s Soviet hosts could restrain themselves no longer. “What evidence do you have that there’s anti-Semitism here?” Feodor Konstantinov, director of the Philosophy Institute, asked. “You talk to two or three old women in synagogues and consider that a basis for scientific investigation. We have laws punishing discrimination against Jews or any other national group. If anyone were to investigate anti-Semitism here it would be the Institute of Criminology. To justify a scientific study you must be confronted by a mass phenomenon. Look at Birmingham; there’s a problem for you to study.”

Dr. Feuer answered that he did not prejudge the extent of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. He said it did appear to exist and it required sociological study to determine how much, where and how it varied. “You don’t dare face the facts of your own society,” he told his Soviet hosts.

The atmosphere became heated and tempers flared.

“How dare you Americans come here and accuse us of anti-Semitism? ” Mr. Konstantinov shouted. “You are now allied with the destroyers of the Jewish people. We are the ones who saved the Jews in World War II.” Asserting that “Marx the Jew is our teacher,” Mr. Konstantinov accused Dr. Feuer of being “a cold war agent” who came to study our failures.”

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