Some 500 people gathered in a Moscow square Sunday to express support for a Communist lawmaker who recently escaped parliamentary censure after making several anti-Semitic remarks.
“We all live in poverty and Zionists in government are to blame. They think only how to destroy Russia and when a patriot calls a spade a spade, they immediately want to throw him in jail,” said Nina Drobysheva, who attended the rally for Albert Makashov.
The significance of the rally’s turnout is unclear. It was far less than the roughly 2,000 people who turned out in Moscow last week at a rally honoring slain liberal lawmaker Galina Starovoitova.
The rally, held in bitterly cold weather, came on the heels of a nationwide public opinion poll conducted last week that strongly suggests a majority of Russians do not share the views of the demonstrators.
Some 83 percent of the poll’s more than 1,500 respondents said public statements insulting Jews should not be allowed; only 8 percent said they should be allowed.
Roughly 43 percent said they opposed the Duma’s failure to censure Makashov for his anti-Semitic remarks, while 23 percent supported the body’s failure to act.
The poll’s margin of error is about 3.5 percent.
Dmitry Vasilyev, leader of the ultranationalist group Pamyat, and other speakers at the rally hailed Makashov as a Russian patriot.
Some speakers were critical of the Communist Party’s equivocal stance on the controversy, and others were particularly outraged by a recent meeting that Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov held with German Jewish leader Ignatz Bubis in an apparent attempt to save his party from further international embarrassment over Makashov.
The flags above the crowd at the rally represented the full spectrum of contemporary Russian ultranationalism — from the white, yellow and black colors of monarchists to red Soviet-era flags to white banners with black crosses belonging to the small, rabidly anti-Semitic National People’s Party.
One of the newspapers sold at a rally called on its readers in large-print letters “to clear Moscow of the wicked Jews.”
Though the Russian criminal code prohibits this sort of “incitement to racial hatred,” authorities have not prosecuted any of the dozens of Russian papers spewing hate that are regularly sold at many of Moscow’s subway stations.
Meanwhile, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office said it would investigate a small ultranationalist group to see if the group could be charged under Russia’s hate crimes law for a rally it held last week. The leader of the Black Hundreds, named after a czarist-era group known for its role in pogroms, said the demonstration was not anti-Semitic and that its participants used humorous slogans to protest the “Jewish-controlled media.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.