- 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
- 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
- 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.