RFE/RL: Attack on Jewish Sunday School in Ryazan

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Subject: RFE/RL: Attack on Jewish Sunday School in Ryazan

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RFE/RL: Attack on Jewish Sunday School in Ryazan

RFE/RL Russian Federation Report
Vol. 2, No. 35, 27 September 2000
A Survey of Developments in the Regions Outside Moscow
Prepared by the Staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

******************Note to Readers*****************
A weekly supplement to "RFE/RL Newsline," the "RFE/RL
Russian Federation Report" features news about the
Russian Federation outside Moscow and the North
Caucasus. Those interested in Russia's regions might
also want to look at Russian-language transcripts of
RFE/RL's weekly "Korrespondentskii Chas" at


By Paul Goble
A group of toughs broke up a Jewish Sunday school last week in the
central Russian city of Ryazan and intimidated a local official into
denying that city's Jewish community any further use of school
facilities there.

The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, which released the first
reports detailing these events, said that 15 men armed with metal
chains burst into the Jewish Sunday school on 17 September, smashed
windows and furniture, and shouted fascist slogans and death threats
at the 25 Jewish children and teachers there. The children and their
teachers fled and thus avoided injury.

But the next day, the UCSJ reports, two neo-Nazis attacked the local
school director, beating her on the legs and demanding to know why she
"deals with Jews."  She then told the city's Jewish community that she
would no longer rent it a room for Sunday classes because she fears
for her life.

Local police announced earlier this week that they have identified
four of the people involved in the attack. But sources at the oblast
Interior Department were quoted as saying that even though those
identified pose "some social danger, there is no need to take them
into custody."

Andrei  Blinushov, a Ryazan human rights activist, told UCSJ that "we
feel shame and hurt on behalf of our town. Once again, as it was 50
years ago, fascist scum, having taken up arms, have let loose a

Moreover, he said, some media outlets there have "inflated the themes
of 'the uniqueness of the Russian people,' 'zionist violence' and
similar topics," while others have even issued calls for "violent
actions against members of various ethnic groups."

At the very time these events were taking place in Ryazan, Russian
President Vladimir Putin spoke at the opening of a new Jewish
community center in Moscow, a widely-covered event that some Jewish
leaders there suggested "herald a new era for religious democracy in

The events in Ryazan are far from unique. Elsewhere in Russia and in
other post-communist countries, including the eastern regions of
Germany, extreme nationalist, anti-Semitic and even explicitly
neo-Nazi groups have emerged and sought to use violence to harass and
intimidate those whom they have identified as "enemies" of their own

Most senior officials in these countries have denounced such groups,
with  Russian leaders like Boris Yeltsin and now Vladimir Putin
condemning their activities as incompatible with the building of
Russian democracy. But for three reasons, such statements have failed
as yet to stem the growth of these groups. Indeed, some observers have
suggested that the gap between what these leaders say and what is
happening may help to prepare the ground for further outrages.

First, despite their repeated denunciations of such actions, officials
in this region often have been unable - or unwilling - to bring those
responsible to justice. That failure primarily reflects the weaknesses
of the law enforcement agencies in these states. But the lack of
successful prosecutions has encouraged some hate groups to conclude
that they can act with impunity.

Second, many officials and even more writers in this region have
increasingly sounded a nationalist theme, praising the dominant group
and condemning its presumed enemies at home and abroad. Few of these
statements have been anti-Semitic, but they have helped to create a
climate in which some are prepared to act against those they believe
are to blame for their problems.

And third, officials in some of the countries of this region have
demonized non-Jewish minorities, thus opening the way to the
demonization of Jews as well. In the Russian Federation, Russian
officials have repeatedly attacked "persons of Caucasus nationality"
and even sought to expel them from some Russian cities. These actions,
in turn, have led some officials, such as the governors of certain
southern Russian regions, to attack Jews as well as North Caucasians.

Concerned about  the possibilities of such developments, Russian
officials, including Putin, have explicitly warned against holding the
entire Chechen nation responsible for the actions of only some of its
members or blaming any other people as a whole.  And they have
criticized those who have gone further and attacked other groups,
including Jews.

But unless the authorities move quickly and arrest those responsible
for events like those in Ryazan last week, the history of this region
suggests there are likely to be more such outrages in the future, a
development that could threaten not only the Jewish community but the
prospects for democracy as a whole.
Copyright (c) 2000. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
"RFE/RL Russian Federation Report" is prepared by Julie A. Corwin
(JAC) on the basis of a variety of sources, including reporting by
"RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. Regular
contributors are Jan Cleave (JC), Liz Fuller (LF), and Paul Goble
(PG). It is distributed every Wednesday.
Direct comments to Julie A. Corwin at corwinj@rferl.org.
For information on subscriptions or reprints, contact Paul Goble in
Washington at (202) 457-6947 or at goblep@rferl.org. Back issues are
online at http://www.rferl.org/russianreport
Technical queries should be emailed to:
For information on subscriptions or reprints, contact Paul Goble in
Washington at (202) 457-6947 or at goblep@rferl.org. Back issues are
online at http://www.rferl.org/russianreport
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