Russian Communist Leader
Condemns Zionism
By Anna Dolgov
Associated Press Writer
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia's Communist leader, effectively endorsing the anti-Semitic rhetoric of his allies, accused Jews on Wednesday of bringing on the ``extinction'' of Russia's people and the country's economic woes, according to a news agency report. Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov _ a prominent politician who finished second in the 1996 presidential election _ also suggested that Russia's Jewish community condemn Zionism, the Interfax news agency reported.
Zionism, a movement supporting the Jewish state of Israel, is often used by Russian anti-Semites to refer to a supposed Jewish conspiracy against other ethnic and religious groups. ``Our people are not blind. They cannot fail to see that the spread of Zionism in the state government in Russia is one of the reasons for the current catastrophic condition of the country, the mass impoverishment and the process of extinction of its people,'' Zyuganov said in what Interfax described as an open letter.
Zyuganov's most blatant public expression of anti-Semitism to date, the letter was addressed to President Boris Yeltsin's national security chief and the justice minister. No one was available in either of their offices or the Communist Party on Wednesday evening to comment. Zyuganov's letter came in response to demands by Russian liberals and international Jewish organizations that the Communist Party, the largest party in Russia, condemn virulent anti-Semitic remarks by two of its members.
Under Zyuganov, the party has taken on an increasingly aggressive, nationalistic tone. Anti-Semitic rhetoric has grown with the nation's economic troubles _ the traditional spark for scapegoating. Several prominent Russian businessmen and politicians have called for banning the party, saying it had evolved into a fascist grouping.
In his letter, Zyuganov outlined the ``aggressive, destructive role of Zionist capital in the collapse of Russia's economy and the pilfering of its national wealth,'' Interfax reported. At the same time, Zyuganov insisted that he condemned anti-Semitism and was only calling for fighting an alleged Jewish conspiracy for world domination. Virulent anti-Semitic statements have been emerging from increasingly higher levels of the Communist Party in recent months, culminating Wednesday with Zyuganov's letter. In speeches this fall, Communist lawmaker Albert Makashov blamed the country's problems on ``zhidy,'' or ``yids,'' a derogatory term for Jews.
Communists in parliament blocked a resolution condemning him. This month, prominent Communist lawmaker Viktor Ilyukhin accused Jews of waging ``genocide'' on Russians. He also said that Russia's post-Soviet collapse would not have occurred if Russia's government was not made up ``exclusively of one group, the Jews.'' Yeltsin's governments have contained a number of Jews and other minorities in prominent positions, but they have always been outnumbered by ethnic Russians.