Staunton, July 7 – “No one denies that on the territory of present-day Ukraine terrible pogroms took place at the time of the Russian Empire and Civil War,” Galina Akkerman says; and “no one denies that thousands of Ukrainians, especially in Western Ukraine, cooperated with German occupiers and took part in the mass shooting of Jews.”
But, the Paris-based Russian writer says, “anti-Semitism was the official policy of the tsarist government and there were collaborationists throughout Europe.” And thus the question arises: “why do the Russian press and some in the West continue to ‘point fingers’ only at the SS Galicia Division? (graniru.org/Society/Xenophobia/Antisemitic/m.252817.html).
“The roots of these accusations” which are designed to discredit Ukraine today, she argues, are to be found “in the post-war situation in the USSR,” where the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and its successors fought with Soviet troops well into the 1950s, something Soviet officials could neither forget nor forgive.
Consequently, Akkerman continues, the Soviet state began to conduct “widespread anti-Ukrainian propaganda” in the West “making use of the facts of the participation of Ukrainians in the destruction of Jews to black the entire Ukrainian people.” Now, with the opening of archives, a more accurate assessment of what happened in those terrible years is possible.
But, she says, “independent of the conclusions about the guilt of one or another group of people in crimes against Jews, it is necessary to stress the following: even if part of the accusations are justified, the anti-Semitic policy and genocide of Ukraine’s Jewish community was not the policy of the Ukrainian state … but the actions of groups or individuals who cooperated with the Nazis.”
Moreover, Akkerman notes, “while the UPA was fighting with the Soviet regime, the Soviet Union itself was conducted an anti-Semitic policy” not only during the period when Stalin was Hitler’s ally but in the late 1940s and early 1950s when only the dictator’s death saved the Jews of the USSR from “possible mass deportation.”
And anti-Semitic state policies “continued right up to the collapse of the USSR,” with the notorious “fifth line” in passports used to restrict or exclude entirely Jews from enrolling in many educational institutions and pursuing various careers. And it was Soviet “anti-Zionist propaganda” that encouraged “both official and popular anti-Semitism” in the Soviet Union.
In general, the Russian writer says, “anti-Semitism flourishes where it is supported by state propaganda and corresponding laws,” published or unpublished. That was true in the Russian Empire; it was true in the Soviet Union; but Moscow’s claims to the contrary, the Ukrainian state is not promoting it and it is not strong or widespread.
“As soon as Soviet anti-Semitism ended,” she writes, “Jewish life in Ukraine began to flourish.” There are between 100,000 and 250,000 Jews in Ukraine now, and they “enjoy all the rights and play an important role in the political life of the country” – one of their number is now prime minister – and in all other spheres of Ukrainian life.
Of course, Akkerman says, “one cannot say that manifestations of everyday anti-Semitism are entirely absent in Ukraine: from this poison, no European country has a [perfectly effective] antidote.” But it is “interesting” that the Putin regime, which so often casts itself as a defender of Ukraine’s Jews from “an imaginary threat,” generally ignores what is “on the sites of Russian nationalists, Orthodox fundamentalists and supporters of ‘Back in the USSR.’”
And “despite this orgy of hated on these sites, one should not consider contemporary Russian an anti-Semitic country” because “without the support of anti-Semitism by the state, this phenomenon, as is the case in Ukraine, remains a marginal one,” all of Moscow’s efforts to suggest otherwise notwithstanding.