Jacob Ettinger (anti-Semitism), 1993

Jacob Ettinger interview, 1993 (?)
Interviewers: Metta Spencer and Julia Kalinina (translator)

The increasing understanding of changes, the spreading understanding of its necessity, the social discontent were growing in the society. That discontent crept over layers of the Communist Party—the mostly educated and cultural persons. But that discontent could be satisfied with modifying the system in the way of the reforms and changes. Even Sakharov can’t deny the whole system but occupied position of the protection of human rights. In that time Sakharov proposed an idea of convergence of the two societies — socialist and capitalist. Now it’s evidently an absurd idea but Sakharov sincerely believed that it was possible to find some common points and a united society.

I was working in IMEMO during 33 years. I remember pretty sincere conversations and discussions when the employees put forward the questions of the necessity of reconstruction, reforms and changes but it was always implied that all the changes would occur in the frame of the old, existing system. Our Institution, its production certainly influenced such persons as Gorbachev, Yakovlev, who was a Director of the Institution for a year — but I would like to repeat once more that the directions were 1) to improve the relationship with the West and 2) sanitation of the society, its cosmetic repair. A question of the replacement an old system to a new one was not ever stated. Now when Gorbachev says that he wanted to eliminate totalitarianism and to establish another social system — it can impress only those who were absolutely unaware about his real intentions—the purpose was only one: cosmetic improvements, neither he nor Yakovlev and Shevardnadze had the clear program of their future actions. For example just now the documents of the CPSU Central Committee were published and we can see that in 1989 Gorbachev, Yakovlev, and Shevardnadze did everything to prevent the Interregional Deputy Group from publishing their own paper. One has to evaluate Gorbachev’s role in dynamical vision but not as a statical character. Gorbachev had opened the lock, the social discontent poured out and Gorbachev lost the control under the situation. The process of democratization started to develop with all its negative consequences. When Gorbachev says that it’s the Party who had prepared the changes — that is absolute nonsense. The changes were prepared by the time itself that had undermined the system.

Q. What were the mistakes that Gorbachev made?

I think his main mistake was that he didn’t have a well thought out strategy of the changes. He was behind the events; it confirms the fact that they didn’t have any plans.

Q. Could you advise a strategy that will allow success?

A: I’d say without any idealizing of the Chinese experiment that the Chinese government had at least clear tactics and strategy. Though I support all the ideological and political changes (you know I’ve spent four years in jail and my family was arrested also) nevertheless I consider that they had to start changes in the economic sphere. In this country that was living under severe dictatorship during 75 years it was to transfer so rapidly to unlimited democracy. I think it was the main mistake of Gorbachev. The democratic ____, there are no social layers that can maintain them on a certain level. In the Baltic countries the democratic transition was much more stable and in the Central Asian republics practically absent. Gorbachev said several times that ____t like Greece. Portugal, Chile also shifted from totalitarian regime to democracy but it is not true because in that the regime was not totalitarian but authoritarian; there were market relations — it was easier for them to shift _____ of the USSR with these countries is absolutely illegal.

Q. I’m interested as a sociologist in groupings of were critical and I’d like to know example of the circles that existed in academia or in the theatre world. Maybe you can tell me about your own experience in your political activity.

A. It’s true that the considerable amount of the population was playing its own game. Certainly intelligentsia, academicians, writers, theatre circles. For example in IMEMO I was dealing with the problems of development, I was trying to give a certain picture of the situation in this or that country and call definite association . . .__aders like some features in that African country system strongly resembles the very well-known features of our Motherland (I didn’t write it directly, but was trying to insert appropriate hints in the text of my papers) We were also writing so-called surveys for the Government bodies and depicted the same associations there also. For example in the surveys on African countries I said that the process of liberalization is starting and we had to consider it in our plans as Africa is the richest continent and we should develop relations and trade ties.

Q. Did you have any trouble traveling? Did you have an opportunity to go to South Africa?

A. I’d like to go to South Africa and I’ve never been there.

Q. Is it because you were critical or is it because you’re Jewish?

A Because of a number of facts. I was arrested in ’54 in connection with the “Physicians’ matter”. My father died in prison. I was rehabilitated when I started to work in IMEMO and it played a considerable role in my status. The second factor — I wasn’t a member of the Communist Party. I was the only Doctor of History in that Institution that wasn’t a member of the Party. I felt definite pressure but only an idiot could join the Communist Party after the Stalinist jail. My nationalism also played some role but only in combination with the above factors but it didn’t play the crucial role. Some problems at all. For example, the man who was my chief for 15 years, Grigoriy Morozov. Do you know him?

Q. Yes, though not personally.

Ettinger: Morozov had been Stalin’s son-in-law for some time. Morozov is a Jew. Yet he had no problems taking trips abroad. During the most difficult years of the Brezhnev period Morozov went abroad 6-7 times a year. Every year, Morozov performed certain functions. He was an advocate of Brezhnev’s regime. He was a clever, very able man, well educated, he had a professor, he was a member of the Party, he wrote books and he was eager to defend Brezhnev’s policies. In one Morozov justified and advocated invasion of Czechoslovakia. And, finally, he was a Jew. This combination of factors made his travel convenient and effective, for he publicly defended Brezhnev’s policies during his trips abroad.

Q: What was his position in lMEMO ?

Ettinger: He was a chief of department (zavotdelom).The nationality didn’t hinder this particular person as much as many other Jews. Sure, he hardly could expect to be promoted to the the Institute’s deputy director, to say nothing about the position of director. In this respect his nationality _____ insurmountable obstacle. But as regards scientific contacts abroad the nationality didn’t play crucial role. Morozov _____… of international organizations’ department. Now he is 73 years old and he still works as a consultant in ____. And I can count 7 or 8 similar persons who flourished despite their nationality. They were Jews, doctors, professed quite well, travelled abroad, wrote and published their writings, were permanent participants of all international gatherings because [they were used] by the Soviet propaganda machine for proving the absence of antisemitism in this country. They were what I call the “exhibit Jews”.

One more example of such people: Solomon Zivs. Professor Zivs, the chairman of the Anti-zionist committee. He travelled widely, he travelled all over the world many times and always performed the role of an ardent advocate of the Soviet regime. He wrote dirty against Sakharov, Zionism, Israel etc. Nowadays he seems to fare well too. By the way, he has contacts with Canadian industrialist Reichmann or Reihel. A year ago, when Reihel was in Moscow and was received by Gorbachev, I saw a program and saw Zivs side by side with Reihel and Gorbachev. Probably, Zivs is Reihel’s co_______.

Metta: I know this man lost his money recently. He went bankrupt. Reichmann was big real estate dealer, but his company just collapsed.

Ettinger: ____ kind of business here.

Let’s come back to the issue we discussed earlier. If we take the Jewish population as a whole, it’s obvious that for them contacts with foreigners were hampered. Yet many of them could go abroad as tourists or interpreters. Thus the overall assessment has to be balanced and differentiated. It’s true, there was a state antisemitism. It manifested itself in banning employment of Jews on certain (within the structures of Ministry of defense, for example ). Moreover, Jews were discouraged to choose some professions. It was practically impossible for a Jew to be admitted to some institutes or departments as, for example, Moscow’s Institute of International Relations.This discrimination of Jews is well known fact of Soviet life.

There were exclusions from this rule. Not numerous but impressive to the extent which made it possible to the regime to _____ itself from anti-semitic policies and practice.

(Addressing Julia): Your last name is Schuman. What institute did you graduate from? Pedagogy?

Julia: Archivist institute.

Ettinger: You know how this system worked. They discriminated against people with Jewish names. It was enough. Usually ambitious Jews couldn’t get good marks at the entrance exams.

Well, since we have touched this issue I should like to emphasize that though there is no state antisemitism now, there being wild antisemitism of certain political forces. The recent events in Ostankino provide fresh and _____. It’s really a disturbing trend. And the West has to take it into account seriously. In fact, the threat of the Great Russian chauvinism is increasing. The ultranationalists act quickly and in a well organized way and the process of formation of the Russia . . .well under way.

And this Russian national socialism will pose a threat to the West. This threat seems to be not like the Communist threat. I think this threat will be even greater than the Communist one.

And the attitude of authorities toward these eruptions of antisemitism is strange and disturbing. The authorities did practically nothing. They could not ___ against all participants of rallies in Ostankino. In strict accordance with the article 74 of the Penal Code which provides sanctions against those who stir up national hatred and animosity. But it was not done!

You know, last Thursday the All-Russian Centre of public opinion studies (its director is Professor Yuri Levada) made a press-conference where the scientists of the Centre revealed data of surveys which had been done in ten regions of Russia. The aim of the survey was to ascertain the attitude to Jews. And the sociologists have come to the conclusion that antisemitism was stronger. The conclusion was based mainly on quantitative indices. But the validity of such surveys and conclusions is relative. As the experience of the Nazism shows, malignant nationalism may gain support and _________ unexpectedly. At first the Nazi party was very weak. The number of its members was negligible. But when the circumstances were propitious for Nazist propaganda, the Nazi party gained mass support astonishingly easy and quickly.

Thus, the Russian sociologists are wrong when they assess the situation as stable. In reality, it’s unstable because the masses can be easily manipulated; they can be moved at any direction.

For the time being there are at least one hundred antisemitic fascist newspapers…

Metta: Amazing!

Ettinger: And there are four hundred fascist organizations. Here is an issue of such newspaper. It’s “Russian Revival”. Look, it’s Nazi swastika.

And this is a picture where Yeltsin and Gorbachev are portrayed as Jews or, rather, [caricatures of?] Jews. Significantly, the newspapers doesn’t use the word “Jews”. Instead, the [Russian word which translates as] “kikes” is used. And here you can read glorification of Hitler, who is praised for his high morality, his exemplary integrity. And this newspaper was in the streets of Moscow and everybody could buy it. This issue had circulation about 40-45 thousand copies and could be bought easily and freely in Moscow and other cities.

Metta: Oh yes, I saw such newspapers [in] Izmailovo. What was depressing, nobody condemned them or paid any attention to them.

Ettinger: But you have to agree the situation is unique. In the last years I have visited many countries and haven’t seen fascist newspapers in open display. No doubt, there are fascist leaflets and tabloids in other countries but you cannot see open sale of such stuff on the streets. And I take occasion of our meeting to pass over through Professor Spencer to the academic community of ____ warning about this danger of fascism here. The Western intellectuals have to raise this question permanently because one wonderful day this will turn into a massacre in Russia. I have to point out that these extremist fascist organizations (I mean those to the right of the Pamyat society, for now Pamyat seems to be rather moderate group) have intimate connections with the militia. A people’s deputy of Russia told me that these organizations had lists of Jews in every district of Moscow. They got necessary data through the militia which had the lists of residents. Characteristically, according to the newspapers reports, a considerable part of militia manifested its sympathy to the picket-people in Ostankino.I wish to be wrong but I believe that the threat of a fascist coup is increasing. The people in Ostankino are just the first line, assault troops of the Russian fascism. Its main forces are still invisible, still in disguise or in shadow. They rally around “The Day” newspaper which claims to be the newspaper of the spiritual opposition. This newspaper is the organ of the Russian National Council (Russkiy Natsional’nyi Sobor). Among the members of this organization which was created no more than ____ years ago are Gen (ret.) of KGB Alexander Sterligov, well known Russian writer Valentin Rasputin and others. To my regret _____ and Stanislav Govorukhin are members of this organization too. One has to admit that RNC succeeded in gathering influential persons under its banner. “The Day” is the spiritual and intellectual core of RNC, its headquarters if you will.

Ostankino [activists] are just executioners of the leaders’ will. Now a coalition is in making here in Russia. This coalition co_________ the partocrats, that is the former CPSU officials and of the Russian national-socialists. This coalition is support of the military and by the military-industrial complex as well as by some part of intelligentsia. These are five forces that are creating the coalition and trying to influence public opinion. To be more specific, I mean some part of the KGB, some part of the generals, former party officials, the representatives of the military-industrial complex and the national-socialists.

Metta: How do you know about all this?

Ettinger: You see, I read attentively all their newspapers and I analyze the composition of the highest political [echelons] of these organisations. Moreover, I pay attention to some telling details as, for example, the halls where their meetings are held. They manage to hold their gatherings in the best halls of Moscow. It means that there are serious forces behind them.

Julia: But it is not convincing evidence.

Ettinger: Yes, I agree. But this is a proof, and a very strong one, of the regime’s ability to adjust to and to absorb any ideology. And this fact is both remarkable and dangerous. And we aware of the virulence and malignancy of this phenomenon, its destructive nature. The Great Russian chauvinism is anti-Caucasian, anti-Tartar. It is not just antisemitic. It is intensely xenophobic. It is directed against all non-Russians.

Metta: He has asked me to pay attention to this as an academic. Is there some way I can contribute to solving this problem?

Ettinger: The key figures of this coalition are General Albert Makashov, who obviously claims to the role of the Fuhrer, General Alexander Sterligov, who serves ____. The roles of the ideologists of this coalition are performed by Academician Igor Shafarevich, writers Vasiliy Belov and Valentin Rasputin. They form the leading five of the movement. Vladimir Zhirinovsky is apart, he is not a serious figure. I suspect leaders deliberately try to focus public attention on Zhirinovsky who provides them the necessary disguise. The [real leaders are] the people I have just mentioned

Julia: Well, but how can foreigners help us from within this country ?

Ettinger: Well, I’ll tell you how they can help us. First of all, they have to draw attention of the Russian authorities to this problem, to raise the issue constantly — during the meetings or conversations with the representatives of Russian ____ politicians, intellectuals. They have to demonstrate against that and to picket the gates of embassies of Russia. Probably, _____ members of the Western academic community have to issue a statement denouncing the antisemitism in Russia. ___ could be enhanced by the warning about possible break of the scientific contacts with Russia if the antisemitic [campaign] is going unabated and the Russian authorities don’t take decisive measures against this gang. And Russia is very much in these contacts and the warning will be effective incentive for the Russian authorities to take measures.

Metta: Demonstrate in front of the Russian Embassy in Canada? It’s possible. I did such things and I worked on that.

Ettinger: Russia is very much interested in development of the economic relations with Canada. Raising the issue of anti-semitism in Russia in Canadian media, the academic community may organize the public pressure on the Canadian government on the basis of sheer impossibility to have commercial relations with (or to provide the aid to the country gripped by such feelings and the authorities of which connive at the chauvinism and condone it without taking due measures against the forces of fascism. Well, there was the apartheid in South Africa, but they imposed sanctions against [that regime]. Why do they do nothing in respect of Russia? These are my specific proposals. I hope they will be considered seriously and maybe implemented. It will be the genuine help to us.

Metta: Well, I’m prepared to do what I can. I’m not sure that I’m the best person. Maybe some academic people who speak Russian and watch the development here more closely. I don’t speak Russian and hardly can be accurate in assessments. Somebody else can be helpful. I’ll take these newspapers with me back to Canada and I’ll write about this problem, but I know the limits of my effectiveness in this respect.

Ettinger utters exclamations of joy and says: Here they are, the [cop?] fascist Russian newspapers. Take them. Take them all. This is the classical example and quite convincing proof. This has circulation of 40,000 copies. It is published in Moscow and, though there is no mentioning of the fact, it ___ Ministry of defense printing houses.

Metta: Ministry of defense?!!

Ettinger: Yes, are you astonished? I’m not.

Audio file

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The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books