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Group in Russia Invites Businessman Seen As Jew to Run for Parliament Seat

August 2, 1999
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Russian business tycoon who proudly displays his Jewish roots yet is disavowed by Jewish leaders may seek a parliamentary seat from a “Jewish region” of Russia.

Boris Berezovsky, who is believed to have converted to Orthodox Christianity a few years ago, is one of the wealthiest men in Russia and is seen by many in the country as the archetype of the influential, powerful Jew.

According to Russian media reports, the invitation to run for a parliamentary seat representing Birobidzhan in elections scheduled for December came from the Organization of Entrepreneurs for Economic Development in the Jewish Autonomous Region.

The area in the Russian Far East, which Stalin dubbed a Jewish Autonomous Region in 1934 as an alternative to Zionism, now only has a few thousand Jews out of a total population of 200,000. In recent years, Birobidzhan has provided the largest proportion of immigrants to Israel among Russia’s Jewish communities.

Last month, Berezovsky announced his plan to run for the Duma, the Russian parliament’s lower house, but later said his Jewish background could hinder his campaign.

Meanwhile, some Jewish officials, including Moscow’s chief rabbi, Pinchas Goldschmidt, are insisting that the media should avoid associating the magnate with the Jewish community.

“He is not a Jew, nor has he been a member of the community or ever supported Jewish life in Russia,” Goldschmidt said.

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