Kremlin Attack on Russian Website for ‘Nazi’ List of Wealthy Jews Meets Skeptical Response
A Kremlin-backed human rights body has assailed a Russian website as “Nazi” and “racist” for claiming that nearly one quarter of Russia’s billionaires are Jewish – but the response from one Jewish leader was more composed.
Nikolai Svanidze of the Russian Human Rights Council – a Kremlin-affiliated body with no executive powers – condemned Lenta.ru, which covers the banking sector, for publishing a report that broke down by faith and ethnicity those Russian citizens appearing in Forbes Magazine’s 2014 list of the world’s wealthiest individuals. According to lenta.ru, 48 of the top 200 wealthy Russians are Jews, with a combined net worth of $132.9 billion. Mikhail Fridman, with a net worth of $17.6 billion, tops the list and is Russia’s second richest man
“It’s a Nazi and racist approach,” Svandiza was quoted as saying by the Slon.ru news site.
But , as JTA reported, Yuri Kanner, president of the Russian Jewish Congress, defended the decision to publish the study.
“If you cannot compare the proportion of representatives of various nationalities in the general ethnic composition of the country, it is impossible to understand who is really successful and who is not,” he told the currsorinfo.co.il news website on Oct. 29.
He said, however, that he doubted the authenticity of the research.
“The proportion of Jews in the population of the Russian Federation is calculated incorrectly. Besides, to compare the Jewish population, which is mainly concentrated in the major cities and has a university degree, with a total mass of Russian citizens, it is not accurate,” Kanner said.
Of the Jews who made the list, 42 are of Ashkenazi origin, and together have a net worth of $122.3 billion.
Six Kavkazi Jews (a group also known as “Mountain Jews”) appear on the list, with a combined net worth of $10.6 billion. There are only 762 Russian citizens classified as Kavkazi Jews, according to the Russian Bureau of Statistics and they represent just 0.00035% percent of the population.
A leading Russian affairs analyst was skeptical of the Kremlin’s motivations in condemning the website, arguing that false claims of Ukrainian anti-Semitism had been advanced in partial justification of the Russian invasion of Crimea – claims that were both condemned and ridiculed by Jewish leaders in Ukraine.
Michael Weiss, editor-in-chief of The Interpreter, a magazine covering Russian affairs, told The Algemeiner: “Russian ultra-nationalists and the far right seize on the theme of wealthy, bloodsucking Jewish oligarchs a great deal, but what nobody bothers to say is that the chief enabler of Russian nationalism is Vladimir Putin.”
Weiss pointed out that in spite of stringent laws against extremism, neo-Nazis marched openly in St. Petersburg earlier this year, while later this week, a full array of extremists is expected at the annual Russian March.
“Putin is aligned with fascist parties in Europe like Jobbik in Hungary and Front National in France,” Weiss added. “He’s looking to create fifth columnists in Europe, drawn from racist and xenophobic parties with the occasional communist thrown in. So it’s a bit rich for the regime to be calling out antisemitism.”