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July 21, 2019 10:11 am

Study: Across Former Soviet Union, Jews in Small Towns Suffer More Than in Cities

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The Londonskaya Hotel on Odessa’s Primorsky Bulvar is one of the city’s landmark buildings. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – Russian and Ukrainian Jews feel much safer in big cities, a new large poll finds.

First results of the extended study “Jews of the Post-Soviet Space” were presented yesterday at the ISGAP-Oxford Summer Institute 2019 for curriculum development in critical antisemitism studies by professor Ze’ev Khanin, the academic chairman of the Institute for Euro-Asian Jewish Studies (IEAJS).

Although 19 percent of Ukrainian Jews, and 7 percent of Russian and Belarussian Jews claim that the level of antisemitism has substantially grown in recent years, a significant gap exists between the estimated dynamics of antisemitism in small towns on one hand, and in capitals and big cities, such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Odessa and Minsk, on the other.

The trend is also observed for antisemitic attacks, as 15 percent to 26 percent of the respondents in capitals and big cities experienced them firsthand; for small communities, this indicator is estimated at 47 percent.

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Among the indications of recent years, the study observes a return to mass consciousness of a few old-style anti-Jewish stereotypes, such as the accusation against Jews of dual loyalty.

“The departure from the state antisemitism of Soviet times and a reduction of the level of violence motivated by antisemitic views do not mean that antisemitism as a cultural phenomenon has vanished in these countries,” noted Khanin, who lectures on Israel, Jewish and political studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and Ariel University in the West Bank.

The majority of xenophobic groups in FSU society feature “latent” or “sleeping” antisemitism, he said.

According to the polls, about half of the Russian citizens believe that Jews are mostly loyal to their own interests, rather than the interests of the country they live in.

However, the IEAJS study shows that 70 percent to 85 percent of the questioned FSU Jews see countries that they currently live in as “theirs” before all; 37 percent to 53 percent totally agree that Jews must be patriots of the country they live in; and 33 percent to 50 percent do not see any contradiction between local patriotism and strong solidarity with the State of Israel.

In the study conducted with the support of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, more than 2,000 respondents who met the criteria of Israel’s Law of Return were interviewed, including more than 900 in Russia, 890 in Ukraine, 250 in Belarus and 350 in Moldova.

According to the study’s findings, the most observed categories of antisemitism in the FSU region are crimes inspired by Judeophobia, incitement to hostility against Jews, media-sponsored public anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Although sociological assessments reveal a refusal to accept open declarations of ethnic inequality and hatred, this does not necessarily exclude potential feelings of xenophobia and ethnic or racial superiority on the part of a substantial part of society. This opens the way to relatively easy violations of the public ban on anti-Semitism and ethnic discrimination by various institutions in the public sphere.

“The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress is systematically monitoring anti-Semitic incidents and discourse in the FSU region. We consider this painful issue an essential problem of the modern world and call on leaders and influencers in the FSU region to confront and condemn antisemitism for what it is—disgusting, ignorant and extremely dangerous bigotry” said EAJC president Michael Mirilashvili.

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