Staunton, August 17 – An instructor at the Russian foreign ministry’s training academy told participants at a government-sponsored youth camp that “Zionism is a movement for the establishment of the world rule of Jewish bankers,” that it “finances pagans to destroy Orthodoxy,” and that it has so “Judaicized” Catholicism that “almost nothing remains” of that faith.
Olga Chetvertikova of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations made these noxious comments at the Seliger Civic forum (camp) a week ago, when they were picked up by Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Tragically, in the days since, they have been disseminated by other outlets.
What makes these words so disturbing is that they remind us of the ugly Soviet-style anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. This may be a result of Vladimir Putin’s increasingly authoritarian and imperialist rhetoric and the Russian government’s media outlets ever more virulent attacks on ethnic Ukrainians and others.
Many commentators, while decrying those attacks in and of themselves, have ignored the way in which such ugliness when visited on any group tends to spread and ultimately to come to target the Jews who have all too often been the “default” ethnic “enemy” among Russian nationalists.
Until a few months ago, it would have been unthinkable, even in Putin’s Russia, to hear such things at a government-organized meeting, given that many Russians will see that as a green light for the expression of such feelings by themselves. But now, the door to this kind of viciousness has been opened.
It is critically important that any such expressions be monitored and denounced and that those in Russia and the West who care about human rights demand that the Russian authorities distance themselves from such comments and make it clear that any repetition of them will further isolate the Kremlin from all people of good will.