« ÎnapoiContinuați »
a New York Times article entitled “The Not-So-Silent Soviet Jews.” (January 22, 1971) The phoenix of a throbbing Jewish national consciousness has arisen from the ashes of a burnt out precious heritage and culture.
I shall organize my comments on Soviet Jewry around five of the legal rights which the Soviet Jewish community is supposed to have—by virtue of the Soviet constitution—and the actual situation as regards the implementation of these rights.
The Soviet Jewish community is a national group first and foremost. Every Jew in the Soviet Union carries a passport, as does every other citizen. That passport, according to Point Five, identifies him as it identifies every other citizen, in terms of his nationality. In the case of Jews the passports read “Yevrei."
SOVIET JEW8 12TH IN SIZE There are 108 major nationalities in the Soviet Union, among which the Jews rank twelfth in size. The Soviet Constitution as well as the criminal code and various ideological pronouncements-guarantees to every national group all the means to preserve its identity and take pride in its culture.
This is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Leninist conception of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Tsarist prison-house of nationalities was to be transformed into a multi-national state in which all national groups would enjoy identical rights, prerogatives and privileges. The application of this principle is observed in the breach with regard to Jews.
Every national group in the Soviet Union has its own school system. Every national group in the Soviet Union has its own newspapers, periodicals, theatres, and communal establishments. Even the most dispersed and the smallest of such national groups has such rights. Take, for example, the Germans-1,600,000 in the 1959 census and 1,800,000 in the 1970 census. The Volga German Republic was destroyed by Stalin in 1941, and its peoples dispersed among over twelve Soviet republics. Today the Germans have an elaborate school system. They are encouraged to ask for German language and literature courses. They have pedagogi. cal institutes for the training of teachers. There are German newspapers and German magazines and, in Tselinograd and Alma-Alta, even German radio programs.
Take the Hungarians. In the Ukraine there are ninety-nine Hungarian schools for the fewer than 100,000 of this dispersed people. A small national group like the Chukchi in northern Siberia who number 12,000, has its own school system as well as a whole battery of publications. The Khant, an even smaller group numbering 6,000, has the same rights. The Jews do not.
Throughout the three million square miles of the Soviet Union there is not a single Jewish school, not a single class. Aside from sovietish Heimland, established in 1961 in response to international pressure, there is no national Jewish publication.
CULTURAL LIFE CURBED The once thriving Jewish publication establishment Emes was closed down in 1948. The great Yiddish theatres of Moscow, Minsk and Kiev are gone. It was at the Moscow Jewish State Theatre where the great performer Shlomo Mikhoels starred as perhaps the finest King Lear of his time; he was assassinated in January 1948, and the theatre closed the following year. As this indicates, until 1948 the Jews of the Soviet Union did have the same rights as other national groups enjoyed. They had a flourishing theatre, they had an active central organization—The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee; they had a publishing establishment, Emes, which put out a newspaper three times weekly in Moscow as well as scores of books. They also had, in 1940, a rather extensive Jewish school system in which there were 100,000 Jewish youngsters, approximately 20 percent of the young Jewish community at the time. The school system was destroyed by the Nazi invasion and was not restored by Stalin. Indeed, the few Jewish schools that remained in Birobidzhan after the war were closed down in 1946. For Soviet Jewry, since 1948, there has been virtually a wasteland, a parched desert which, since 1959, has been meagerly watered by slight trickles of Jewish culture in the form of a few books, a journal, some scattered theatrical performances and some concerts.
The pulverization of Jewish institutional life has been accompanied by a policy directed toward obliteration of Jewish national consciousness. References to Jews, Jewish history and Jewish culture have been removed from textbooks and encyclopaedias. The symbol of Soviet Jewry's greatest tragedy, Babi Yar, where 100,000 Jews had been butchered by the Nazis, is not permitted to be commemorated. Yevgenii Yevtushenko has been sharply castigated by the authorities for writing a poem about the subject while Dmitri Shostakovich's 13th Symphony which is based, in part, upon that poem goes unplayed and unrecorded. The courageous young Jewish radio engineer, Boris Kochubiyevsky, languishes today in a Soviet prison because he dared to say at a Babi Yar memorial service that "here is where a part of my people lie buried.”
If the Jewish community is regarded basically as an ethnic or national group, it is, secondly, a religious community. Jews are not obligated, under Soviet law, to identify themselves as a religious community. The group's religious aspect is purely a subjective phenomenon. Soviet citizens can choose whether or not to be identified with a particular religious community.
The Soviet Union is committed to the proposition of Marx and Engels that religion is an opiate of the people. In consonance with the doctrines of scientific socialism, which is dedicated to the eradication of all religions, the Communist Party campaigns vigorously against religion and the propaganda organs constantly beat upon the theme that religion must go. Yet-and this is extraordinary-the approximately dozen recognized religions in the Soviet Union-Russian Orthodox, Baptist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Moslem, Buddhists, etc.-all have certain rights, despite the vigorous anti-religious campaign conducted by the Party.
NO CENTRAL JEWISH STRUCTURE
All of them have rights which Judaism does not have. Every major recognized religion in the Soviet Union is permitted a central structure, except the Jews. Each Jewish congregation operates on its own, on a fragmented, atomized basis. A central structure hasn't been permitted since 1918; the last formal meeting of a group of rabbis to deal with Jewish concerns was held in 1926.
Every other religious community in the Soviet Union is permitted formal contacts with co-religionists abroad. The Russian Orthodox Church is a member of the World Council of Churches; the World Baptists are members of the World Baptist Congress; the Buddhists are part of the World Buddhist Congress; the Moslems are part of the World Islamic Congress. Yet no Jewish congregation and no rabbi in the Soviet Union can have membership in, say, a European synagogal or rabbinic body. Every religious community in the Soviet Union has adequate prayer books, hymnals, Korans, Bibles except the Jews. Anyone who has visited the Soviet Union is fully aware that the Jews and the synagogues in the Soviet Union have only limited Bibles and worn out prayer books. A Hebrew Bible hasn't been printed there since 1929.
Things that are essential for the functioning of any religious community, that is, religious devotional articles, are manufactured in large numbers by the various religions. The Russian Orthodox, for example, manufacture ikons and candles. But the Jews are permitted no opportunity to manufacture talesim or tfilin or mezuzas, or any other such essentials.
Every other religion is permitted a teaching institution for the training of the priests, ministers, or ulemas. There are flourishing Madrassahs, for example, for the Islamic community. There are theological academies and seminaries for young people over 18 years for the Russian Orthodox. For Judaism, a yeshiva was established in 1957, but to all intents and purposes it is now closed.
Other religions are permitted to send students abroad for study. Baptists send their students to Oxford or to Upsala in Sweden or to McMaster's in Canada. Moslems send their students to Al Azhar in Cairo for religious training. Jews are not permitted to send their students for rabbinical training even to Budapest.
Now, as to civil rights, the Soviet Constitution is very clear. General policy goes back to a decision taken by Lenin and Stalin and one of the first edicts issued by the new Soviet regime, on November 15, 1917, exactly seven days after the seizure of power. The edict provided that all forms of discrimination, including those against Jews, were to be eliminated. This, in fact, was the case for several decades thereafter in the Soviet Union.
Since the late thirties, however, and especially since 1948, there are particular areas of activity where Jews are excluded not only from decisionmaking roles but from participation on any level. Certain areas of activity in the Soviet Union are completely Judenrein, e.g. the diplomatic corps. In the Supreme Soviet there has been a general reduction of the number of Jews to an infinitesimal proportion, one that no longer corresponds to their proportion of the total population.. EXCLUDED FROM COMMUNIST PARTY As late as 1939, 10.8 percent of the total membership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party was Jewish. Today, of 241 members of the Central Committee, there is one token Jew. There has been a very drastic reduction in the number of Jews not only on the level of the Supreme Soviet, but also on the level of the Supreme Soviet within each republic, and in local Soviets throughout the country. In the central apparatus of the Party there are virtually no Jews; and on the level of first and second secretary there was not a single Jew until the appointment—undoubtedly as a response to outside criticism-of Lev Shapiro, early this year in Birobidzhan. And Birobidzhan, which was established as an autonomous Jewish region is-recalling Voltaire's description of the Holy Roman Empire-neither Jewish nor autonomous. Of the region's total popula. tion of 160,000, according to the 1959 census, some 14,800 were Jews, or about 8.8 percent. Of Birobidzhan's five representatives in the Soviet of Nationalities, two are Russian, two are Ukrainian and one is a Jew-a half Jew.
There is a quota system operating in most fields of government, even in the administration of science--although Jews play a very active role in the Soviet scientific world. Andrei Sakharov, the prominent Soviet physicist and co-inventor of the hydrogen bomb, has made it clear that since 1939 the top bureaucratic elite of the Soviet Union has been influenced by what he calls “zoological antiSemitism," which extends to its appointment policy. Most disturbing of all, a quota system operates in the universities, and limits the number of Jews in careers of opportunity.
Specifically concerning anti-Semitism, Soviet law originally made an extraordinary and very significant contribution. As early as July 1918, the U.S.S.R. was the first country in the world officially to ban anti-Semitism. Pogroms were outlawed and all encouragement and incitement of anti-Semitism were made subject to the direct forms of punishment. According to all criminal codes of the Soviet Union, since 1922 through 1927 and even 1961, manifestations of racial hatred or stimulation of ethnic or racial hatred are to be punished severely.
ANTI-SEMITIC CAMPAIGN SINCE 1967 In fact, however, Soviet propaganda, particularly since 1967, has been such as to endorse anti-Semitism and to propagate it in a most vile and virulent form. During the twenties there was a vigorous campaign on the part of the Communist Party aimed at liquidating vestiges of anti-Semitism. It was carried on not in the press, but through actual court trials. While this campaign diminished during the thirties, the Party leadership did make it clear on several occasions that anti-Semitism was not to be tolerated.
Since the early forties, however, this has no longer been the case. We need only recall the “anti-cosmopolitan" campaign of 1948 which culminated in the notorious Doctors' Plot of January 1953, echoes of which we've been hearing now for the past three or four years. The most recent turn was initiated in August of 1967, obviously by a decision of the highest bodies in the Soviet Union.
A massive internal and external propaganda campaign presents the stereotypic image of the Jew, in the form of Zionism, as a threat to the socialist world and the new-independent countries. A global “Zionist Corporation" is portrayed as composed of "smart dealers in politics and finance, religion and trade" whose "well-camouflaged aim" is the "enrichment by any means" of the "international Zionist network.” Presumably exercising control over more than 1000 newspapers and magazines in "very many countries of the world,” with an "unlimited budget,” the world Zionist "machine" services the vast monopolies of the West in their attempt "to establish control over the whole world.”
Early in the Twentieth Century there appeared a crude anti-Semitic work in Tsarist Russia which purported to be the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It described the hidden and sinister plans of the all-powerful “Elders of Zion" to establish control over the world by fostering discontent within each state, then by discrediting governmental authorities and, finally, by exacerbating relations between states. A patent forgery composed of absurd allegations, the Protocols, nonetheless, took on a life of its own, was accepted in certain fashionable circles both in Russia and elsewhere, and eventually became what one scholar called a "warrant for genocide."
The fantasy world of the “Protocols" today fills the mass media of the U.S.S.R. extending even to speeches of the Soviet delegate to the UN. His recent presentation of the Jewish religious concept of "the Chosen People" is exactly the same as that presented in the “Protocols.” Even the brutal Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August, 1968, was justified to the Soviet public as necessary in order to prevent that country from being "subverted” by the "world Zionist conspiracy." A prominent German Marxist, August Bebel, once described antiSemitism as “the socialism of fools." Were he alive today, he might very well have characterized the U.S.S.R. in this fashion.
In 1964, the world was stunned when it was revealed that a book had been published in October, 1963, by perhaps the Soviet Union's most notorious bigot, Trofim Kichko. The book was Judaism Without Embellishment. Its cartoons could have been drawn from Nazi prototypes. So aroused was world public opinion, including broad sectors of Communist Parties abroad-especially in France and Italy, but also in Canada, the United States and England—that the ideological commission of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party barred the book, recognizing that it indeed contained elements of anti-Semitism. The book was withdrawn from the stalls, and Mr. Kichko was censured. Lo and behold, in January, 1968, he reappears, honored by no less a body than the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukraine, and a new book by him is published: The book is Judaism and Zionism and it has the same characteristics that typified Judaism Without Embellishment.
This is by no means the end of the story. In 1969, there appeared a book by Yuri Ivanov. Ivanov's book, Beware Zionism, was authenticated by Pravda and every journal throughout the Soviet Union as the authoritative account of Zionism. According to the book, Zionism is an international concern which manipulates governments, which dominates the press, engages in subversion and threatens to undermine the socialist order. Then in 1970 a second edition of Beware Zionism was published. It elaborated upon the themes of 1969. In the new book we learn how the "Jews' Rothchilds” are trying to undermine and subvert not only the Communist world, but also the national liberation movements of the developing countries. One can be amused to learn from Ivanor's book that the Vatican itself, no less, is manipulated and dominated by the Zionists.
A brilliantly-written samizdat document which has only now surfaced poignantly and in detail describes the travail of Soviet Jewry. It was drafted in May, 1970, by the prominent Soviet historian and dissenter, Roy Medvedev. Like Sakharov and his colleagues in the Soviet Committee on Human Rights, and in keeping with great humanist tradition of the Russian intelligentsia going back to the Tsarist period, Medvedev is profoundly concerned with the plight of Soviet Jews. He writes:
The history of Soviet Jews in the past 25 years is full of sorrowful pages; these people were subjected to, and still continue being subjected to, abusive discriminations. There has grown up & whole generation of young Jews who have never breathed the pure air of national equality, who have never felt
themselves Soviet citizens enjoying full rights. Finally we come to law vs. reality with reference to the right to leave the country. This is particularly important because the situation I have been describing would obviously lead not only to anguish, but to a determination on the part of many Jews to refuse to continue to tolerate this assault upon their dignity. They have therefore appeared to what is an essential principle of international law as well as of Soviet law: the right to leave.
The Soviet legal position, insofar as it is drawn from international law, is clear. The Soviet Union is an adherent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted unanimously by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. It provides, in Article 13, paragraph b, that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to that country.
When this Article was under debate in the General Assembly in the fall of 1948, the Soviet Union voted for it. In December 1966, the General Assembly adopted, by unanimous vote, its most important international treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This covenant, in Article 12, says very simply that everyone has the right to leave any country.
The Soviet Union voted for this covenant and then signed it in March 1968, with Byelorussia and the Ukraine shortly afterward doing the same. The United Nations had previously adopted (in December 1965), by unanimous vote, a treaty binding upon all who ratified it. This was the Convention on the Elimi. nation of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, which stipulates in Article 5, paragraph d, subsection 2 that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own.
Not only did the Soviet Union vote for this convention but, most important of all, its Supreme Soviet ratified it, on January 22, 1969. The U.S.S.R. is thus bound by international law to observe the right to leave; the evidence is overwhelming.
ON REUNITING FAMILIES Furthermore, the Soviet Union has accepted another fundamental principle of international law; the right of persons to leave for the purpose of reuniting families. In 1959 there was an exchange of correspondence between the then Vice President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, and the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, Andrei Gromyko, in which both committed themselves to the principle of the reunion of families.
In fact, the Soviet Union has acted on the international scale to give effect to this principle. In 1958 they permitted Soviet citizens of Spanish origin, who had been in the Soviet Union since 1937 or 1938, to go back to Spain because they wanted to go back to their homeland. They have permitted Greeks to go back to Greece, Greeks who had been living in the Soviet Union since the time of Alexander the Great. They have permitted Poles to go back to Poland and Mongols to go back to Mongolia and Koreans to go back to Korea.
Indeed, it has also worked the other way around. In 1955 the U.S.S.R. established a committee to encourage former Tsarist citizens to return to the homeland. It appealed to Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and Georgians, scattered in various parts of the world, to "come home.” The committee put out newspapers in these four languages urging return from all over the world, notably from the United States and from Argentina. (There were one thousand Russians and Ukrainians who had been living in Argentina since the Revolution of 1917, who emigrated to the U.S.S.R. on the basis of the reunion-of-families principle.) Most massive of all has been their effort to convince Armenians to return to the Soviet Union, and 200,000 Armenians have returned since 1946, on the principle of the reunion of families and in response to appeals made by the Soviet government in terms of this principle. But so far as Jews are concerned, until December 1966, this principle was observed only in the breach.
On December 3, 1966, at a press conference in Paris (reported in Pravda and Izvestiia on December 5th), when Mr. Kosygin was asked specifically whether Soviet Jews could be reunited with their families in Israel as the Armenians and Greeks had been united with theirs, he answered that there was no obstacle in their path. Soviet Jews would be allowed to leave in order to reunite with their families. For a while the principle was partially fulfilled and Soviet Jews often carried copies of Pravda and Izvestiia in their pockets when they approached the local offices of the Ministry of the Interior to seek their exit permits. Then the gates were banged almost completely shut.
80,000 APPLICATIONS TO LEAVE
The situation today is, as you know, spotty, if slightly encouraging. As a result of a tremendous outcry of world public opinion, this year some recognition has been given to the right-to-leave principle. By the end of the year perhaps as many as 10,000 Jews will have been permitted to leave. But a total of approximately 80,000 applications to leave have been filed which, when one adds entire families, means that one-quarter million Jews are still hemmed in by what the Soviet physicist and humanist Sakharov calls a "gilded cage.”
Any attempts at harmonizing law and reality over these fifteen to twenty years, whether in terms of ethnic rights (a few token concessions) or in terms of religious rights (a few token concessions, such as baking matzo); any sensitivity on the part of the U.S.S.R. to the problem of anti-Semitism (in dealing, for example, with Judaism Without Embellishment), any attempts to harmonize Soviet obligations and principles under international law with actual Soviet practice concerning the reunion of families, have all been the result of world public opinion, emanating from many broad sectors of the globe. The Kremlin is not so monolithic that there are no crevices through which to direct appeals.
The fact is that the U.S.S.R. is responsive to world public opinion when (a) its vital interests are not at stake, and (b) when moral pressures are clear and intense. I am convinced that men of good will have taken to heart the dictum of George Santayana that he who chooses not to recall the past is doomed to relive