Interview with Metropolitan Rafail (Leonid Prokopiev) of Moscow and Krasnoiarsk, the head of the united True Orthodox Church (IPTs)
--Master, where does the name of your church come from?
--Our portion of Russian Orthodoxy in USSR and today’s Russia is called "catacomb." There always were fewer church buildings than parishes. In the October revolution of 1917, the civil war, and the early five year plans the government took away from us not only church buildings but also the lives of priests and parishioners.
--Where does the name IPTs come from?
--It was uttered by the lips of Metropolitan Joseph Petrovykh of Petrograd in 1928, as an alternative to the official church. He is our founder. He was shot in 1937.
--Those "Josephites" were accused of schism and sectarianism. Does that fit your church?
--That is because we remember how after 1917 priests and monks were shot and crucified at the gates of the altar. In 1922 and 1923 alone more than 8,000 perished. We have not forgotten how Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky violated the "Testament" of Patriarch Tikhon and with the help of GPU-NKVD created the collaborationist Holy Synod and in 1927 published the declaration of loyalty to the bolshevik regime. Because of this, at that time a third of Orthodoxy "renounced" the "sergian" church. And RPTs is its successor. RPTs has not repented for the policy of Sergius and that means that it approves of it. The government and RPTs do not think it necessary to return our churches and monasteries that we had in 1928.
--But now, when buildings are not returned, other churches take the government to court.
--We have not tried to take away anybody’s churches. After all, they are serving God there. We have built new ones, like in Petersburg, and restored "orphaned" churches. We bought two tourist centers outside Moscow. We will build monasteries there and there will be shelters for almost 1,000 invalids and abandoned children. We do not ask the government for anything. But they still interfere with us there. Priests from the neighboring church try to persuade local authorities and residents that we are sectarians. If we build a building and invalids are going to live there in a human fashion, who could be against that! It will reduce the terrible number of needy people. There is room enough here for other churches to do good.
--In your earlier life you were wounded in Lebanon. But after all USSR was not participating in direct military operations was it?
--In 1983 I was a military advisor for a Syrian brigade. An advisor is an independent figure. But the circumstances in probing the positions of the Israelis outside Beirut became complicated. There was no room to move. I walked into a mine field and there was an explosion. The result was a severe wound. I lost a leg. I have a prosthesis. The other is crippled. I believe that this was an experience given from above and that the Lord helped the physicians to bring me through. The wound strengthened me in my Orthodox destiny and in 1990 I left the army to serve in the church.
--Your church is called the "united" IPTs. With whom are you united and what preceded this?
--We are bishops from three independent Orthodox churches and separate dioceses who agreed on unification in 1996-1998 at joint conferences of bishops. We mark our road in this way: unity for the sake of truth, service to God, and brotherhood of parishioners who were broken by the conditions of the underground in USSR, and a "literal" observance of Lord’s commands. We refuse to unite with those churches where the apostolic succession of the priesthood has been disrupted. In the 1920s and 1930s their priests were shot and new ones were ordained in secret or priests’ wives began to lead them. There were parishes that did not want to have anything to do with us because of the "hidden idea," that "truth will not exist in the country." Many of them are in Tver, Novgorod, Siberia, the Volga and Urals regions, and in Petersburg and Moscow.
--Did you return to the "Josephite" IPTs of 1928?
--Pretty much so. But many former parishes did not come with us. The situation of IPTs parishes varies, from police repression to prosperity, as in Tatarstan.
--How did you become the head of IPTs?
--It would be better for someone else to answer that question. Perhaps at the election my comrades, bishops, thought that I was older than most of them. It is possible that they looked at my army experience and that I always was making peace among everybody as much as I recall. In childhood and youth I was not peaceful. But I have become convinced not to pick a fight by underhanded means nor to drink too much. In the army, in the exclusive world of military settlements somewhere in Transbaikal or the Caucasus, the commander of the brigade is often the last hope. I had to make peace there among married couples.
--On your way from the army to the church did you have any doubts, any losses?
--In 1990 RPTs did not respond to my suggestion to create an Orthodox medical treatment center; I was supported in the Russian IPTs. There they offered me the rank of deacon. But my wife did not want to be a priest’s wife and we separated.
--What will your church be doing further in the direction of unifying Orthodoxy?
--One shouldn’t move quickly in this matter. After all we have learned to listen to each other and after this we said: "The Lord is among us!" The task of unification is complex and it cannot be resolved sooner than three to five years. Not a "union" at first but something like the CIS. Everything depends on how soon the hierarchs and parishes renounce personal and jurisdictional pride. The Lord gave the command "Love one another" and even more "your enemy." But the Orthodox are not enemies. How many priests are devoted to Orthodoxy over there! They are not interested in what is being done "up top." They worship God and want to serve the Lord with their flock. We get along well with the Old Believers church. We have similar priestly vestments. We also cooperate with priests of RPTs; we have substituted for them secretly when they were sick in the Kaluga and Perm dioceses and in Tatarstan. But under the present leadership of ROTs unification is impossible. They must change so much that they wouldn’t recognize themselves. It is immodest to talk about one’s self, but this happened to me in the minefields of Lebanon.
--Some people now try to make us think that the church has become a state church.
--Access to power and to its budget is fatal for the church as a spiritual institution. Obviously the sad experience of the church in Byzantium and in tsarist Russia hasn’t taught anything. "Render to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s." It can participate in education, but not in the state curriculum. I do not see any place for the Law of God there. In literature, okay.
--What kinds of sources of income do you acknowledge for the church?
--It is impossible to do good by bad methods. The church should not be engaged in money lending, buying, selling, or gambling. We pray for those who in RPTs are trading in tobacco, alcohol, precious metals, and contraceptives. May the Lord forgive them their sin. We do not have anything against selling candles, icons, and liturgical texts, or payment for baptism and the voluntary "tithe" of our sponsors. The one who serves at the altar should be nourished from the altar.
--Why in Orthodoxy is there such tension in connection with the pope’s visit to Ukraine and wish to visit Russia?
--The constitution guarantees freedom and equality of religious confessions. But we are afraid that "they" will take away parishioners. Who is preventing us from going to the West and taking their parishioners? But we are belittling the Lord’s command, "Love one another" by the refusal.
--The fathers of the church say: Russians are Orthodox people. But according to statistics there now is a clear outflow from the churches and there is no Orthodox consciousness and morality, although nobody has been persecuting the church for more than ten years. Has the credit of trust in you been squandered?
--In the 1990s people came to the churches with pure intentions, with a desire to work for the glory of the Lord. And they did not find it there. It is a shame; it is medieval form of Christianity. And the intelligentsia and simple people did not accept it. So they went off to scientology and the Krishnaites. Not because they are exotic but because things are more comprehensible and useful there. It is also a shame, this seminary training and education in the ecclesiastical schools. They are not producing pastors but performers of rituals. They are not able to bear the gospel of Christ to the world. The late head of the Nizhny Novgorod diocese of RPTs, Metropolitan Nikolai, whom everybody respected, complained that he was not able to find anybody for good pastoral counseling. Hence, the catechetical illiteracy of Orthodox believers and their distortion of the doctrines and substitution of trust in rituals for understanding. We are not awaiting the judgment of God but the coming of the devil. We should be afraid that the Lord might turn away from us. If God is protecting us, what can the devil do?
Information from MN: In Russian Orthodoxy there are around thirty different churches and yet more independent dioceses and parishes. The process of splitting up has been going on to the present. In the so-called catacomb churches the doctrines, rules, liturgy, and holidays are the same as in Orthodoxy before 1917, as is the case also in RPTs MP. The catacomb Orthodox are distinguished by the "literalness" of their interpretation of the commandments of Christ and the brotherhood of parishioners. They do not commemorate Alexis II as the chief hierarch and they commemorate the government, armed forces, and country in their own way. Three churches are united in this society: the True Orthodox Church (IPTs), the Orthodox Catholic Church (PKTs), and the Russian Orthodox Catholic Church (RPSTs, which before 1999 was the Russian IPTs) and independent dioceses of Belorussia, Ukraine, and Russian, including the Russian Catacomb Church (RKTs). The new church took the name True Orthodox Church. There are around 50 parishes and 40 churches of the new IPTs. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 June 2002)
Russia Religion News Current News Items
Leaders of Eurasianism are wishing to get a contract for building the iron curtain.
On 30 May Alexander Durkin’s "Eurasia" public political movement became a party. This is now the second "Eurasia" of the current spring—not to be confused with a similar formation under the leadership of Abdul-Vahked Niyazov. Our newspaper has already written about how this spring the activism of the Eurasianists has been growing. Last year two movements were formed, and now both have been transformed into parties. Both are conducting an informational struggle with each other and are claiming preeminence in Eurasianism and access to the administration.
It is simple. We have space and population, the two foundation stones of a national ideology. What kind of government is not so important now. That’s how the first Russian Eurasianists of the 1920’s thought in the grief of emigration. The NKVD exploited their nostalgia for their motherland. Eurasianists returned and rotted in the camps.
In present-day Russia no idea is left--only space and population. Dugin heartily wisheS to fill the vacuum and offers the authorities a revived Eurasianism.
People and methods
Dugin’s Eurasianism is a fantastic mixture of strivings for party dominance that has a complex life story. In the 1980s Alexander Gelievich was a convinced fascist and he translated the "new rules" into Russian, studied the science of geopolitics about the radical conflict between "dry land" and "sea," and professed extreme Judeophobe views. Then he joined the "Pamiat" society, whose main theme was overt antisemitism. The search for a young audience led him to the National Bolshevik party of Eduard Limonov.
With the arrival of the new era, Dugin distanced himself from his earlier attractions to fascism, national socialism, and antisemetism and in an amazing way transformed himself into an ally of the most radical Jewish organizations, that even in Israel provoke ambivalence. The political council of his organization includes people of extremist Zionist organizations, Abrom Shmulevich and Avigdor Eskind. In their homeland they are known for throwing pigs’ heads on graves of Palestinians, calls for destroying the Palestinian Authority, and demands to expel Chechen children who were invited to Israel for treatment. The chief coworker of the Orthodox Dugin in "Eurasia" is the notorious figure in the Islamic world of Russia, the "supreme mufti of Russia," Talgat Tajuddin, who is based in Ufa. He addressed the congress as Dugin’s right hand. Tajuddin himself has provoked a whole wave of discontent in the Muslim community of our country. A congress of muftis, imams and Islamic scholars was even convoked; they resolved that his moral character, acts, and conduct violate the standards of Islam and consequently he cannot represent the Russian umma either within the country or in the world. However Tajuddin did not agree with this decision and continues to call himself "supreme." The majority of believers of the Volga region, Siberia, and the European part of Russia have broken with him. In Tatarstan not a single society has remained with him and believers have often barred him when he has attempted to enter a mosque. He has placed his people in the mosques of Ufa, Perm, and several other places, who intensively play along with the authorities in searching for imaginary "terrorists." After 11 September Tajuddin was seriously involved in the campaign of the "witchhunt for wahhabites." He accused all of his opponents, including the imams of the Moscow mosques, of being adherents of wahhabism and terrorism, effectively breaking up the meeting of the Supreme Coordinating Council scheduled for 29 May; that was the harmony commission that Muslims of Russia had created and in whose work the administration of the president showed interest. Influential persons of the Russian umma who were offended by the indiscriminate accusation simply did not show up.
Meanwhile the "supreme mufti" himself, who was casting terrible accusations against his brethren in faith, at the beginning of the nineties had the closest relations with none other than the bin Laden family itself, specifically with his brother Tarik bin Laden, who collected substantial sums of money for the restoration of Islam. Several experts suggest that part of these sums were "washed" in Chechnia in the period of Dudaev with the help of Khozha Akhmed Nukhaev, who was a part of the general’s inner circle. According to rumors, last year Nukhaev, who was still the subject of a national search, not only freely attended a Eurasian congress in Moscow but was even photographed with its participants.
Ideas within boundaries
Dugin is the master of stinging phrases with which he hopes to curry the favor of the authorities. The mythmaker who is eager to access the new political high society describes his meeting with Vladimir Kirillovich Romanov, who supposedly confesses to Eurasianism. He stresses that Ziuganov’s successes with the electorate are connected with his taking much from Dugin. He swears that he has the complete and unqualified support of Putin despite the latter’s "liberal economics," pro-American stance, and even desire to join NATO.
Dugin has marked out the "path" of Eurasia. It is Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, plus Bulgaria and Mongolia. This formation is supposed to be separated from the rest by an "iron fence." In Dugin’s thought, it is much simpler for Russia to be a great world power than a regional power, and his party will be needed for the construction of the new state, Eurasia.
For this it is necessary to work out three or four simple formulas "comprehensible for the people," and begin resettlement of these people to the village, since "evil" is concentrated in the maga-cities. It seems that it was just such a plan that already was tried in life by Pol Pot. This is the compote that is being cooked up in the "Eurasian" kettle in the "Daniel’s" hotel complex next to the Saint Daniel’s monastery, the heart of the Moscow patriarchate.
P.S. Dugin’s enemies also have not lost time. The Eurasianists of Abdul Vakhed Niyazov assembled in the House of Journalists and transformed their cell into a party. Pavel Borodin, who had been there, turned to the press which, in his words, had characterized his speech at the congress a month ago as "inarticulate:" "Am I speaking articulately now?" And he said that for him Eurasia is the restoration of the space of USSR, which he intends to restore as a "great Kremlin," on the model of the Moscow Kremlin that was restored under his leadership. "If I were a rich man, I would buy up all of the press, but I don’t have the money," Pal Palych joked, who is ready to lead this "Eurasia." (tr. by PDS, posted 3 June 2002)
Russia Religion News Current News Items
The head of Catholics of western Siberia, Bishop Joseph Werth, most likely will not meet with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski during his stops in Novosibirsk on his way to the republic of Korea and back. "If such a meeting had been planned, persons responsible for protocol would have told me about it earlier," Werth noted in an interview with the Interfax-Eurasia agency.
At the same time, the bishop does not rule out that the topic of relations between the Catholic and Orthodox churches will be touched upon during meetings of Aleksander Kwasniewski with Russian officials in Novosibirsk and Moscow.
The bishop also mentioned that during his visits to Russian cities the Polish president finds time to stop in at a Catholic church and meet with the Catholic community, as he did in Moscow and Irkutsk. "However in this case we are not talking about a formal stop, and I do not think that such events were planned," Joseph Werth noted.
Besides, in his opinion, during Kwasniewski’s meetings in Novosibirsk and in Moscow the topic of the return of Russian Poles to their historical motherland may be dealt with. "This is talked about much less than, for example, the problems of Russian Germans, but the process is underway," Werth noted.
Characterizing the interconfessional relations in western Siberia, the bishop emphasized that during his visit to Novosibirsk Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus spoke of the absence of tensions between Catholics and Orthodox. "So far this is the only positive accomplishment," Werth thinks. He said that hitherto Orthodox hierarchs have made no attempts to establish a dialogue in either Novosibirsk province or western Siberia as a whole.
Aleksander Kwasniewski will make stops in Novosibirsk on his way to the republic of Korea and back. A one-hour stop of the president’s plane at the Novosibirsk airport is planned for Monday night for refueling. On the return trip from Korea, in the evening of 5 June, Kwasniewski also will make a stop in Novosibirsk. On the next morning he will fly to Moscow. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 June 2002)
Russia Religion News Current News Items
The president of the Kaliningrad provincial duma, Vladimir Nikitin, appealed to provincial Prosecutor Viacheslav Chulkov for opening a criminal case and conducting a careful investigation to determine those guilty in incitement of interethnic hostility in the region.
The speaker demanded they be held responsible as provided by legislation. BNS was told at the press service of the duma that in the recent past provocational materials of antisemitic contents were deposited in the mail boxes of many Kaliningraders, including "Jewish Catechesis in USSR," and "Jewish Government of Kaliningrad Province." "By their actions, the writers and distributors of these things clearly pursue a goal of sowing interethnic discord in our multinational province and of inciting hostility among the people inhabiting it and they want to provoke distrust in the leadership of the province and thereby destabilize conditions in the region. This evokes special concern in view of the complex situation Kaliningrad province finds itself in, in connection with the advance of the European Union on the East," the press service reports.
Those guilty of actions that are intended to arouse national, racial, or religious hostility, or offend national dignity, as well as for propaganda of exclusivity and suprematism, or devaluing citizens on the basis of religious, national, or racial identity are subject to either a fine of 500-800 times minimum wage or imprisonment of from two to four years. Under aggravating circumstances the term is from three to five years. Actions directed to inciting national discord and hostility fall under article 282 of the criminal code of the Russian federation, "Incitement of national, racial, and religious hostility." (tr. by PDS, posted 3 June 2002)
Russia Religion News Current News Items
Law enforcement agencies of Moscow and suburbs are continuing an all-hands investigation of the explosion at the 32 kilometer post on Kiev highway, as a result of which a twenty-seven-year-old Muscovite, Tatiana Sapunova, was injured. The crime is still categorized as "intentional cause of serious harm to health by a dangerous device motivated by national enmity" (art. 111, criminal code of RF), although in the near future it may be recategorized as "terrorism."
The prosecutor’s office of Moscow province is engaged in the investigation and it faces a difficult task. In fact it is necessary to answer several questions. First, who set up and booby-trapped the sign with the inscription "Death to Zhids"? Second, did any police officers see the offensive placard? If the answer to the second question is affirmative, a third question automatically arises which is most unpleasant: whether in the police officers’ actions there is criminal responsibility.
"All possible variants without exception are being followed out. We do not rule out either a well planned political provocation on the part of serious extremist organizations or a prank by an abnormal individual," the press secretary of the prosecutor’s office, Leonid Troshin, told Izvestiia. "A mass of witnesses are being questioned, who passed by at that time along Kiev highway. We are placing special hope on explosives experts. It is possible that the investigation can make some preliminary conclusions about who is behind this amazing crime on the basis of the type of explosive device."
Leonid Troshin refused to comment on the possibility of holding police officers legally accountable. "We shouldn’t go to extremes now but search for those who designed and carried out the crime," he thinks.
Meanwhile agents from UVD of the Lenin district, within which the explosion occurred, have already explained that the sign with an antisemitic slogan stood at the curbside for more than a day. A woman has been found who saw it back on Sunday morning. Nevertheless, in that time law enforcement agencies paid no attention to it.
The chief of UVD, Lt. Nikolay Vagin, does not think that his subordinates did anything negligent. "Not a single report came to us from citizens that such a sign had been placed there. We did not know about its existence until the moment that the bomb exploded. Thus I had no basis for sending officers in search of the placard," Nikolay Vatin told Izvestiia. "Besides it’s a difficult question: is setting up such a sign a violation of law. I think that from a formal point of view the slogan ‘Death to Zhids’ is not a call to incitement of interethnic discord. In our country anybody could be called ‘Zhids.’"
A different opinion is maintained at suburban Moscow GUVD headquarters.
"There is no doubt that the very setting up of the sign with the slogan ‘Death to Zhids’ is a crime and in this case such actions must be categorized precisely as ‘call to incitement of interethnic discord,’" the chief of staff of GUVD for Moscow province, General Major Tatiana Aleshina, told Izvestiia. "By law the first law enforcement worker who saw such a placard was obligated to remove it. It does not matter whether it be workers of FSB, the prosecutor’s office, or police. I do not doubt that if the sign had been noticed by our workers, they would have removed it. But there are so many signs along the road that a majority of drivers don’t pay any attention to them."
The situation is complicated for the police by another circumstance: the sign with antisemitic slogan was located 100 meters from the permanent outpost of the ninth special battalion of UGIBDD of Moscow province, whose workers also did not notice the placard during the course of twenty-four hours. Comment on the situation was absolutely refused at the battalion itself and the Izvestiia reporter was directed to the press service of UGIBDD of the suburbs of Moscow. However this did not make any sense. The deputy director of the press service, Anatoly Denisov, for some reason acted as if he did not even know about the explosion.
* * *
"They came up, said ‘zhid,’ and struck me in the face."
Yesterday not far from the Moscow Choral Synagogue a citizen of USA was attacked; he is Yakov Vershubsky, the son of the Voronezh Rabbi. His father is also an American citizen and works in Russia on contract. The youth, who looks much older than his age (20-22 years), was walking to morning prayers at the synagogue when two young people chased him down. "They were skinheads, or they wanted to be like them," Yakov Vershubsky told Izvestiia. "In typical jackets, one had a tatoo on his head, but I was not able to make it out. They came up, said ‘zhid,’ and struck me in the face. They tried to hit me again. But I put my hand into my bag where I had a knife, and they ran off."
Yakov’s nose was broken and he had to be taken to the hospital.
Neither in USA, where Yakov was born and grew up, nor in England, where he lived, had anything like this ever happened, Vershubsky said. But in Russia, where he had come for the summer ‘for personal reason,’ this was a third time already.
"The first time I was attacked right in the airport. But these were not antisemites. They simply called me over and tried to take my bag. Later there was another minor incident.
Yakov explains that he began carrying the knife in his bag last week. "I was told that if I were going to Chistye ponds I had to have something with me for self-defense."
On Chistye ponds boulevard, besides the synagogue, a Jewish school, institute, and children’s home are located. How could an American youth provoke Russian scoundrels?
"Yakov was wearing a yarmulke and a black suit. If a man with a large nose and black suit is walking near the synagogue, it is not difficult to identify him," the director of the Jewish community of Moscow, Dmitry Zagranichny, explained to Izvestiia. Representatives of the community have taken up Yakov’s care. They helped him compose a statement (his Russian is weak) for the police and gathered all necessary documents, including from the American embassy.
"We are very cautious because literally in the last two days two such incidents have occurred," Dmitry Zagranichny says. "The woman was blown up removing the antisemitic placard and Yakov was beaten. We will help the woman with medicines; the best physicians we could get have been retained. There was the suggestion to take her to Israel for treatment, but we decided that so long as she is in critical condition it is better not to disturb her.
Yakov Vershubsky, who will have additional plastic surgery on his face, told Izvestiia that now he intends to arm himself more substantially: "How about a Kalashnikov. That’s a joke, of course. But I am going to have to carry something more substantial than a small knife."
* * *
Tatiana Sapunov suspected of preparing the explosion on Kiev highway
The unpleasantness that began for Tanya Sapunova on Monday has still not concluded. She is lying in a two-bed room in the trauma warn in the first city hospital, and from time to time she is visited not only by relatives and friends but also by investigators from the prosecutor’s office of suburban Vidnoe. Tatiana Sapunova and her mother, Elena Grigorievna, agreed to answer questions of a special correspondent for Izvestiia, Elena Loria.
"Do you already know any details about the investigation of the explosion?"
Elena Grigorievna: "I do not know what is going on at the investigators’, but on the Internet there immediately appeared some wild account to the effect that Tanechka herself tried to set up the explosive device."
Tatiana: "It seems to me that they really are reviewing this account. An investigator came to my room and interrogated me. Mama even threw him out of the room.
E.G. "What kind of madness is that! She was riding with me and the baby. That needs to be taken into account."
"And why have you not been permitted to be with your daughter?"
"They told me that I am a witness and therefore I should not hear what kind of evidence Tanyusha gives."
"Have investigators taken any other actions besides the conversation with you?"
Tatiana: "My husband has already been called to the police station three times for examination. Obviously the investigators are trying to find traces of explosives in the room or in the bags. But something else is bothering me now, my eyes. The idea that my face was cut up by shrapnel is all a bunch of rubbish. Only my vision has been damaged. I cannot see anything with my left eye, and with the right, only the doctor’s face; I cannot make out even the big letters on the tablet."
"Did you understand right away what had happened?"
Tatiana: "I did not even feel pain the first minutes. Probably I was in shock."
E.G.: "Tanya lay on the ground and cried ‘Help!’ I didn’t even know where she had gone. She suddenly stopped the car and said, ‘Mom, I’ll be a minute; I’ll be right back.’ And she went into the woods. Manechka, my granddaughter, and I were sitting in the back seat. I only saw behind the trees some little blue thing; and suddenly, the explosion. I grabbed Manechka in my arms and ran to the trees. The first thing I saw were torn jeans and blood."
"Does Masha know what has happened to her mother?"
E.G.: "It seems she doesn’t understand anything. She just repeats all the time, ‘why is mama’s face so red?’ We told her that Tanya has gotten sick. But every day, when I put her to bed, she asks, ‘When will mama come back?’ She has somehow quieted down; no games; just setting out her dolls. She will be four on Friday."
"Tanya, why did you go up to that sign?"
Tatiana: "I do not know. I just was crazy. If the slogan had said ‘Death to Azeris,’ I wouldn’t care. The doctor at reception said to me, ‘You were born under a lucky star! Why were you sticking your neck out?’ But then he added, ‘I also would have gone to remove it. Only I wouldn’t pull it out with my hands; I would break it up with a stone.’ But that would not likely have worked. It was set very deep into the ground. I could barely pull out the sign. I had just begun to shake it when everything blew up."
"Elena Grigorievna, it seemed to me that you are not just concerned with Tanya’s health?"
"Yes. I am very much afraid that they will find the culprits and they will begin to take revenge on us. I am afraid of antisemites. Especially after such vigorous help from the Jewish diaspora."
"And what do the physicians say; how long will treatment last?"
"They say, a long time, but they do not specify."
(tr. by PDS, posted 1 June 2002)
SAKHAROV VICTIM OF ANTISEMITES
Rossisskaia gazeta, 1 June 2002
Yesterday unidentified vandals defaced a panel with a portrait of Andrei Sakharov located on the wall of the museum and community center named for him. The criminals scribbled on the panel obscene expressions and antisemitic statements. The leadership of the museum did not report the incident to the police and they called for help from the painter of the panel, the famous artist Dmitry Vrubel.
In their turn the Russian Jewish Congress and the Jewish community of Moscow demanded that the chief of UVD of Lenin district, Lt. Nikolai Vagin, be removed from his position "for attempting to justify or minimize the danger of the activity of neonazi antisemitic organizations." The occasion for this was Vagin’s interview in which he spoke out with respect to the terrorist act on Kiev highway. (tr. by PDS, posted 1 June 2002)
BOMB ATTACK SHOWS THAT RUSSIA HASN'T ROOTED OUT ANTI-SEMITISM
by Sabrina Tavernise,
New York Times, 1 June 2002
The sign was the size of a large poster, pounded into a green roadside about 20 miles southwest of here. It stated its ugly message in thick, block letters: "Death to Yids."
Although commuters streamed past it for a day, it was Tatyana Sapunova, a 27-year-old Muscovite, who stopped her tiny car to tear it down. But when she gave it a tug, it exploded, ripping wounds in her legs, hands and face. Anti-Semitism has deep roots in Russian history and is still present among ordinary people and local authorities, far beyond any attempts by President Vladimir V. Putin to control or curb it. On Monday morning, that anti-Semitism lashed out at Ms. Sapunova, who was baptized as a Christian.
Doctors say she may not regain her sight in her left eye. Jewish organizations here, touched by a display of courage and civic concern all too rare in Russia, are offering to pay for treatment in Israel. Her family will probably agree but is firmly resisting any attempt to paint her act as extraordinary.
"My daughter is not a hero," said her mother, Yelena, who agreed to speak for her ailing daughter outside her hospital ward. "She is just an ordinary person. Anyone would have done the same in her place."
After suffering state-sponsored oppression for decades under the Soviets and before that under the czars, Judaism in Russia is enjoying a rebirth.
Not since the early days of the Bolshevik Revolution have there been so many prominent Jews in public life. Since 1990, seven Jewish day schools, three universities, two rabbinical schools and about 150 Jewish organizations have sprung up in Moscow.
Even the state has softened. Mr. Putin has aggressively courted Jewish community groups, reassuring people here that they are safe to practice their faith. But Mr. Putin's words do not mean that anti-Semitism has been eliminated.
"Today anti-Semitism is not coming from the very top," said Alexander Gelman, a Jewish playwright and social critic. "That does not mean it does not exist. A Jew can't be as relaxed as a Russian. He expects insults and attacks more than a Russian does. That's a fact."
The local police are particularly problematic. A study of extremist groups conducted in 1999 by the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews found that in three cities, Bryansk, Voronezh and Yaroslavl, a fascist organization, Russian National Unity, was allowed to patrol train stations and local streets with the police to keep order.
As a result, few trust that they will be protected. For example, an American teenager, Yakov Vershubsky, the son of a rabbi currently working in central Russia, carries Mace and even a knife on the advice of his brother, who was attacked in Russia. Yakov has been attacked three times since first coming to Russia, most recently this week.
In another anti-Semitic attack in Moscow, slogans were spray-painted over a mural of the Soviet dissident and Nobel laureate Andrei D. Sakharov at a human rights museum, its director, Yuri Samodurov, told The Associated Press today.
"These acts always go unpunished," said Lyudmila Alekseyeva, chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group. "They have the quiet support of the law enforcement authorities. Police say to themselves, 'Those Jews -- we've also had it with them.' "
The offending sign had been up for at least a day and, the Russian daily Izvestia reported, was planted about 100 yards from a traffic police post. The newspaper quoted a local policeman, Nikolai Vagin, as saying the sign did not represent a call to ethnic violence, because "everyone under the sun these days is called Jew."
Despite that attitude, this incident shocked many Russians, gained broad publicity and is being actively investigated by the authorities, although so far they have not identified any suspects.
For more than a century, under the czars, most Jews were forced to live in a territory in what is now Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus. An aging Stalin had plans to deport the entire Jewish population to a distant patch of land north of China, still referred to as the Jewish Autonomous Region.
Not even Yelena Sapunova, a passenger in the car that morning, knew why her daughter stopped the car. Tatyana does have Jewish roots, but they were never part of her life.
Her grandfather was a Jew from Belarus, whose first language was Yiddish. A doctor, he was jailed in the late 1930's. He survived, only to be sent to war. He was always restless, and moved his young family -- Yelena and her mother -- from Kiev to the Ural mountains, and finally to Tomsk, in Siberia.
"My father was a very contrarian man, always fighting for what was right," Mrs. Sapunova said. "I think Tatyana has his character."
Mrs. Sapunova said she had not felt her Jewishness for much of her life. She married a Russian atheist, and describes her daughter as a "christened Russian girl."
But several years ago Mrs. Sapunova began volunteering at a program for the blind at a synagogue in Moscow. She recalled borrowing books of songs from its library and being frustrated because she could not read them. Tatyana, she said, had no such regrets. But the sign bothered her.
"Tatyana said that when she saw that sign, she felt as if it had attacked her," said Rabbi Berl Lazar, a Moscow-based Lubavitcher who is one of Russia's two chief rabbis. "It was an insult in her world, not just in the Jewish world."
Many here say anti-Semitism has recently been eclipsed by a broader phenomenon: xenophobia and hatred of people from the Caucasus region.
The governor of the Krasnodar region in southern Russia has threatened to deport the region's Turks, Kurds and Armenians. Last November, Russian nationalist youths killed three people at a market in Moscow staffed mainly by Caucasians, Indians and Afghans.
This nationalism emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union, and, social workers and other experts say, it is particularly directed at the streams of migrants and refugees who have fled from the edges of empire to a marginal existence in Russia's cities.
Poor working-class Russians who mingle with these new arrivals "feel inferior," said Andrei Babushkin, who runs a legal aid organization for Moscow's poor. "They desperately need to know that there is someone else who is beneath them in the social order. At first it was Jews. Now it is Caucasians."
Mr. Gelman dismisses the nationalism as politically marginal. Still, Mr. Putin seems to be concerned. In his address to the nation in April he called extremists "a serious threat to the stability and public security."
But Rabbi Lazar sees some changes for the better.
"A few years ago," he said, "people would have said that Tatyana was crazy. Why would she do it, when it's a problem that will never be solved?
"Today there's a feeling that there is a reason to fight it, that we can get to the bottom of this."
Mr. Gelman has his doubts.
"Even very little anti-Semitism -- in world measurements that still means a lot," he said. "Less here means more than enough." (Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company, posted 3 June 2002)
Russia Religion News Current News Items
If material is quoted, please give credit to the publication from which it came.
It is not necessary to credit this Web page. If material is transmitted electronically, please include reference to the URL, http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/.