Walter Laqueur writes @ the Mosaic Magazine:
Vladimir Putin’s steely nationalist rule has raised fears in the West
of a return to Soviet-style dictatorship in Russia. But what many
outsiders fail to understand is that the country is still in a period of
ideological transition, with a new national idea gradually emerging
from the Marxism-Leninism of old. Among the more noteworthy aspects of
this new “Russian idea” is the explanation it provides for the upheavals
of the 20th century and the country’s perceived current decline.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with such overarching narratives,
Jews play a disproportionately significant role.
Home to a prominent anti-Semitic tradition under the tsars, and again
under the Communist regime that replaced them, Russia has long been
seized by the “Jewish question.” During the Soviet Union’s first two
decades, many among its key leaders were themselves Jewish—and Marx
himself, of course, was of Jewish origin—but within the party apparatus,
though less strong at the top than in the middle and lower echelons,
there was a great deal of animosity toward Jews.
Today, thanks in part to still-lingering consciousness of the
Holocaust, open anti-Semitism is démodé. It is unthinkable, for example,
to regret publicly that Hitler killed too few Jews, or to deny that he
killed any at all. But underlying anti-Jewish sentiments persist and
have found alternate means of expression, notably through the simple
replacement of “Jews” and “Judaism” with “Zionists” and “Zionism.”
Yesterday’s accusations of bloodthirstiness, perfidy, and licentiousness
have, for the most part, given way to revisionist accounts of the
satanic “Zionist” influence on Russia’s historical path.
The content of these works ranges from the relatively sane to the
utterly bizarre and lunatic. Their quantity, however, has lately reached
an all-time high, even as the number of actual Jews living in Russia is
at a historic low. (Émigré Jewish speakers of Russian in greater New
York may now equal or outnumber Jews currently living in Russia itself.)
What explains this recent surge?
One partial answer lies in the enduring Russian fascination with
para- and metapolitics, especially conspiracy theories, the appetite for
which has never been met by any homegrown tradition of detective
fiction; there is no Russian Sherlock Holmes or Jules Maigret, for
instance. Another answer lies in the more or less complicit attitude of
Russia’s current political and intellectual elites, some of whom support
the anti-Semitic campaign and would even see it intensified (though
others caution against overdoing it). But really to understand the
phenomenon’s sources and aims, one has to delve into its inner logic.
That anti-Semitic paranoia should flourish under today’s circumstances
speaks volumes about the contemporary Russian mindset, and demands
The New Antisemite