I have in front of me a book in Russian titled “Russophobia” by I.E. Shafarevich and published first by a German publishing house and later in Soviet magazine “Nash Sovremennik” (“Our Contemporary”). It would not attract my attention if it weren’t for its author’s name. Igor Shafarevich is a well-known Soviet mathematician, an associate member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, a member of the US Academy of Sciences and of the London Royal Society. In the 1970s Shafarevich became well-known in wide circles of the Soviet intelligentsia when he became a dissident: he joined the unofficial Committee for Human Rights in the USSR, and, together with A. Solzhenitsyn, edited and contributed to the unofficial collection “From under the Rooks”. It has, therefore, come as a shock to read his newly published book with contents rather unexpected from a person of such background as Shafarevich’s. Shafarevich, due to his scientific and public standing, can definitely be considered a representative, spokesman, and even leader of a significant portion of the Russian intellectual elite.
The plan of Shafarevich’s book is as follows: 1) A review and rebuff of “Russophobic” views on Russian history. These are the views which describe Russia as a “nation of slaves loving cruelty and bowing to a strong hand; a nation which hates everything foreign and hostile to culture; Russia is an eternal nursery of despotism and totalitarianism, dangerous to the rest of the world”; 2) Revolutions in human societies are preceded and eventually caused by a relatively small circle of people called the “Small Nation,” whose own intellectual and spiritual culture is hostile to the majority, the “Big Nation”; 3) The Bolshevik Revolution and socialism were not the intrinsic part of Russian destiny, but were distortions resulting from foreign influences and brought upon Russia by such a “Small Nation”; 4) This “Small Nation” consisted mainly of Jews, who hated Russia; 5) After the revolution, Jewish elements in the Soviet leadership were mainly responsible for the destruction of Russian culture and of the Orthodox Church; 6) These actions of the Jews naturally followed from their intrinsic hatred of other nations, their voluntary isolation and their philosophy of the “Chosen People”; 7) The above “Russophobic” views are now promoted by the same “Small Nation,” and contemporary Russian youth is defenseless against their ideology; this “Small Nation,” which has been responsible for previous Russian catastrophes in this century, is now working to prepare the final holocaust after which the Russian people will cease to exist; 8) A way of defense against this “Small Nation” should be urgently devised to save the Big Russian Nation.
Shafarevich’s first assumption, with which we fully agree, is that the October 1917 Revolution was a catastrophe which caused a catastrophic seventy years of the history of Russia and affiliated nations; this assumption leads to either of two postulates. One is that the revolution (and the following years) have been an integral part of the one thousand years of Russian history and that they are based on this history. Acceptance of this point of view logically leads to critical evaluation of the past of Russia, of her entire history.
The second postulate is that the Revolution was completely alien to the Russian history and tradition. This would imply that they were brought about by some alien forces. But there was no foreign occupation at that time; therefore, the next logical step is to look for internal yet alien agents. You take a list of the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution and find among them a disproportionate number of non-Russians, especially Jews. Therefore, Jews are to blame for Russia’s troubles. Then you look at the names of modern “Russophobes” (i.e. those maintaining the first view) and see that among them there are also many Jews. Therefore, the enemy of Russia has been found.
Let us first consider the postulates themselves.Revolution —— Accident or Necessity?

In his book The Anatomy of Revolution, C.Brinton writes that there is some dispute among political writers about how revolutions are initiated. “Briefly, one set of disputants maintains that … first steps in a revolution are taken almost spontaneously by a united nation rising in its might and virtue to check its oppressors; another maintains that these first steps are the fruition of a series of interlocking plots initiated by small but determined groups of malcontents. By and large the first view is that taken by persons favorable to a given revolution, the second by persons hostile to it…” Shafarevich is hostile to the Russian Revolution and apparently to all revolutions and, naturally, he holds the second view. According to him, human society can be considered as either a “live organism” or a “dead mechanism.” If a society is an organism, then it changes slowly and by evolution, and every new step is based on its entire previous history. “The future is born from the past, from history, and not at all according to our plans.” As a new organ of an animal evolves not because the animal has first understood its utility, a society changes gradually and without a purposeful design.
On the other hand, adherents of the mechanism model believe in building a society according to a design. Traditions, the national character, old values–all these bear no significance in the design. The decisive role is played by leaders, the elite, the creators,” i.e. by “Small People,” for whom the nation (the ‘Big People”) is merely a material, like clay in the hands of a potter. Shafarevich decisively condemns this second attitude, declaring that it results in a society deprived of freedom, but he does not elaborate what he means by “freedom.” (As he later condemns democracy, this is not quite clear.) He compares the promoters of this view to a shrewd driver who jumps into a car-Russia, starts the engine and heads whenever he wishes.

Russian Revolution —- Accident or Necessity?

It is typical for nationalistic Russian writers to accuse foreign elements of deflecting Russia from its pure and straight historical course. Continuing Shafarevich’s “automotive” terminology, I would say that they see Russian history as a car on a straight highway, but some evil foreigners constantly jump into the driver’s seat and turn the historical car off the highway to a muddy side road.
A hundred years ago nationalistic Russians blamed Tartar-Mongols for ruining their history, spirit and soul. But this invasion was in the period when Russia did not exist as one state, and Russian culture was in its cradle. The famous Russian historian Klyuchevsky wrote that, “first of all, Tartars put themselves in a position in relation to the enslaved Russia that removed or eased many problems created by North-Russian princes for themselves and for their country. The Orda khans did not force their customs upon Russia and were satisfied with reparations; they even hardly knew the customs because it was impossible to find any order or custom in relations between the princes”. Tartars invaded Russia in 1236; during the 13th century they also conquered China. It is interesting that they did not destroy the Chinese culture: “The Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan fully recognized the superiority of the Chinese culture, and sincerely attempted to preserve and encourage it, but was met with the resistance of Chinese intellectuals.” (D.M. Field, Great Masterpieces of World Art, p.180, Hymlyn, 1979). So why did not the same conquerors encourage the Russian culture? Apparently there was not too much of it around to preserve in those times. I think that the story of the destruction of Russian civilization by the Tartar invasion is to a significant degree a legend, although this invasion, separating Russia from the West, did delay her development.
Let us return to the Russian Revolution. For Shafarevich the causes of this event are crystal-clear: it was all the work of the “Small Nation.” About half the book is devoted to a catalog of quotations showing their lack of respect for the Russian tradition, peasantry, and nation. It is not before p.69 that Shafarevich at last explains to his readers who comprise the major part of the “Small Nation”: they are the Jews. And then follows the question printed in all capital letters: WHAT EFFECT UPON THE FATE OF THIS COUNTRY HAS RESULTED FROM THE UNPRECEDENTED INFLOW OF JEWISH NATIONAL FORCES INTO POLITICAL LIFE – JUST DURING THE PERIOD OF GREATEST CRISIS IN ITS HISTORY?” Shafarevich states that this is a very painful question for Jews, because never before had Jewish members of the population had such a great influence on the life of any country. In passing, Shafarevich is happy to dispense free advice to the AmErican nation and government to beware of Jewish influences, and to be led by American and not Jewish and Israeli interests: look what the Jews have made out of Russia!
First, he is wrong that the Jews have never before had such a great influence upon other nations. They introduced monotheism, and a “Small Nation” consisting of Christians – all of whom were Jews in the beginning – was probably responsible for the eventual fall of the Roman Empire and its transformation into the modern Europe. Shafarevich calls himself a Christian – so would he blame the Jews for the creation of Christianity, an event which follows exactly his scheme of the “Small Nation’ that was so hostile to the “Big Nation’ that some of the predecessors of Christianity (essens, e.g.) even lived in separate communes?
Shafarevich lives in the country that traditionally has not been able to deal with its own problems, had a greatest crisis then, in 1917, a continuous crisis later, and another great crisis now. In such a situation it would be wiser for him to deal only with problems of his own country and avoid giving advice to much more successful nations like the United States.
And second – the answer to his capital-lettered question: the role of Jews in the Russian Revolution and its creation. My answer is that this role was ZERO.
I realize that this is a highly unexpected reply even for Jewish circles. I am well aware how many Jews were among the Bolshevik leadership and in the first Soviet governments. Some defenders of Jews question whether such people as Trotsky, Zinoviev and others, who were atheists hostile to the Jewish heritage, could be considered Jews. I am not interested in this question. They were definitely not nationalistic Jews, but still they were Jews: anti-Jewish Jews are a phenomenon fairly typical for crisis periods. And I am not interested in defending the views cited and ridiculed by Shafarevich, such as: “Not only Jews made the revolution,” or “Jews constitued 14% of the participants of the revolution – so they have no more than 14% of the responsibility.” (I take these statements from Shafarevich’s book without checking them, although Shafarevich often selects quotations out of context).
As a Jewish emigrant from Russia, whose family was broken in the Stalin years, I would certainly be happier if fewer Jews took an active part in the Revolution. And still I claim that the Russian Revolution and the 20th century history of the Soviet Union were entirely Russian affairs.
As early as in 1833, the French Marquis de Custin noted the absence of an influential middle class in Russia and wrote that that country “will experience a revolution more horrible than the (French) revolutions, the consequences of which are still felt by Western Europe.” This was also well-understood by Russian writers of the 19th century, and best of all – by Dostoevsky, whom Russian nationalists consider as their mentor. In his book “The Possessed” Dostoyevsky showed the very basis of the future catastrophe in the Russian society fifty years before it took place.
There are almost no Jews in “The Possessed”, as there were no Jews among the theoreticians of the Revolution: Chernyshevsky, Kropotkin, Bakunin, Plekhanov, Lenin were not Jews. Dostoyevsky writes with a good knowledge of the subject: in his youth he belonged to a secret socialist society and even served some time doing hard labor in Siberia, but later he completely rejected socialism, and became a conservative.
Dostoyevsky describes a weak and decadent society unable or unwilling to resist revolutionaries long before there was serious Jewish influence in revolutionary circles. This society is fickle, always ready to conform, on the brink of complete chaos, and indeed Dostoevsky creates an impression that something terrible is about to erupt.
Descriptions of the revolutionaries in “The Possessed” are masterpieces within the masterpiece. The main character, the cynical revolutionary Verhovensky does not care for socialism or for progress but knows how to take advantage of those who do in order to obtain and retain power. He controls his fellow-revolutionaries, and keeps constant watch over them: “Don’t worry, gentlemen, I know your every step” long before the creation of the KGB. He defines the goals of the upcoming revolution in such words: “We are going to make such an upheaval that everything will be uprooted from its foundation.’ And then, when the land is full of chaos and there is nothing to hold on to, he plans to put forth a new, legendary loader, who would be in hiding, whom only a few would see, but who would be “as beautiful and proud as a god.’ Read those words and understand what a deeply Russian phenomenon was Stalin! Were these words really written sixty or seventy years before his takeover?
So despite Shafarevich’s statements, Russian socialism was not an alien phenomenon brought from the West but rather a result of organic convergence of Western ideas with deep Russian traditions. It is not accidental that these Western ideas have not found a deep realization in the West itself. The Russian revolution was born and bred entirely on Russian soil, history, and tradition.
Many people inside the government circles realized this. Grand Duke Alexander, brother-in-law of Nicholas II, wrote that the previous Czar, Alexander III, spent his life “in one continuous effort to prevent the revolution from following its merciless course.” The same Grand Duke left an interesting testimony on how the richest and most influential Russian industrialists Batolin, Putiloff, Yaroshinsky and Morozoff (all non-Jews) financed the Bolshevik press and the “school of revolutionary agitators” created by writer Maxim Gorky in Capri in Italy. They hoped to be safe after the revolution which they considered unavoidable. Morosoff financed Lenin’s paper “The Spark” which advocated strikes at his own textile factories; he cynically remarked that “he is sufficiently rich to afford the luxury of supporting his enemies”! Where can one see the Jewish influence in these stupidities?
The February 1917 Revolution came unexpectedly to Lenin and his comrades. Not so to Grand Duke Alexander, who wrote to his Imperial brother-in-law on December 25, 1916: “Strange as it may sound, Nicky, we are witnessing the unbelievable spectacle of a revolution being promoted by the Government. Nobody else wants a revolution. Everybody realizes that the moment is too dangerous to afford the luxury of internal troubles…, everybody with the exception of your ministers. Their criminal actions, their indifference to the sufferings of the people and their continuous lies will force the people to revolt… I want you to understand that the coming Russian Revolution of 1917 is a pure product of the efforts of your Government.” Not bad for a member of the inner circle of the Imperial house!
Now – about the so-called “destruction” of the Russian culture after the Revolution. The denial of Christianity was a result of the weak moral authority of the church before the revolution. Marquis de Custin “observed the Christian chruch in Russia, which nobody attacks, everybody respects, at least it seems so; where everything favors its moral influence, and where still the Church has not the slightest authority over the hearts.” About half a century later, in 1879, Dostoyevsky wrote to the minister K.P.Pobedonostsev that blasphemy “is now intrinsic to the entire (almost) upper class in our Russia, especially to the youth… God’s creation, God’s world and its meaning are denied fiercely” (emphasis of Dostoyevsky). This is about the upper class. About the peasantry Dostoevsky wrote in a paper published in “The Writer’s Diary” in 1876: “A village caught fire, and there was a church in the village. A tapster went out and shouted to the people that he would roll out a barrel for them, if they stop defending the church and defend the pub instead. The church burned, but the pub was saved.” And he adds: “Such examples are yet negligible compared with the innumerable future horrors.” Can one not see here a prediction of the barbarian demolition of the majestic Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow in the 1930s?
Collectivization of agriculture was a return to serfdom in its worst form; the peasants were even deprived of the freedom to move. Centralized planning was introduced as it was advised in the 17th century (!) by the Slavic patriot Yury Krizhanich to Czar Alexei (again – to refute Shafarevich’s statement that socialism was not intrinsic to the Russian soil). And Soviet Russia resumed an active policy designed to expand its sphere of influence.
Some of the participants of the White movement saw very early that the Russian revolution was really intrinsic to Russia. Nikolai Ustryalov, a White officer, wrote as early as in 1920:
“Even if it were mathematically proven that 90 percent of the Russian revolutionaries were foreigners, mainly Jews, that would not in the least disprove the purely Russian character of the movement. Even if alien hands lent themselves to the cause, the soul of the revolution, its inner nature, for better or for worse, remains authentically Russian, proceeding from the ideas of the intelligentsia and refracted through the psyche of the people.” Out of the 72 years after the Revolution, there were 20-25 years without official anti-Semitism, when many Jews occupied high positions. This has not been the case during the last fifty years, and still Russia has not solved her problems, many of which are reminiscent of her problems throughout her history. Shafarevich’s notion that Jews have hidden themselves at the lower levels and continued their harmful activities is a piece of nonsense which serves no other purpose than to justify rejections of Jewish students in universities and other forms of discrimination. I think that now one cannot find even one Jew leading any local district party committee, except in the artificial Jewish Autonomous Region, where Jews are especially selected as nominal leaders for propaganda goals.
I conclude this section: although I’d prefer to see Jews less active in the Russian Revolution, it is your revolution, Professor Shafarevich, your history, your tradition, your problems. Or our common history, tradition, and problems, if you were able to sincerely admit and respect Jews and other Soviet nations as a part of the multinational community. As long as the Russians are looking for a scapegoat for their own troubles, there is no hope that they will ever get rid of them.

Judophobia of Professor Shafarevich

Slowly Shafarevich develops his ideas of how the Jew has ruined Russia, and, following him, I felt obliged to discuss this topic before coming to his Chapter 9 titled: “Past and Present,” the climax, showing that hatred to Jews is the real goal and topic of his book. In one of the previous chapters the author wrote that he does not seek condemnations and answers to the question “Who is to blame?” Later he definitely stated that Jews are to blame. Now in chapter 9 he tries to explain why the Jews behave in this way. His purpose here is to show the evil character of all Jewish heritage and culture.
Shafarevich declares several times that he is a Christian, so the reader will not be surprised to find some Biblical quotes in his book. He states that Jews, seeing themselves as “the Chosen People,” believe in their power over the world (how familiar it sounds—“The Jewish Plot”), and asks: ‘What other nation has been bred from generation to generation on such a legacy?”:
“And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not…” (Deuteronomy, 6/10-11).
“And this is all that Shafarevich saw in the Bible?” the reader will ask. Apparently so. He, who lives in the midst of the nation, which in the 20th century permitted the officers and soldiers of her victorious army in Germany to send home monthly parcels consisting of property taken from ordinary Germans, dares to rebuke the Jews that three or four thousand years ago their writers formulated God’s rewards for fulfilling his wills in terms, which were then customary for all nations! Probably this Christian person has never read or heard about the Ten Commandments – something really unique in those times–which have educated every Jew, from generation to generation, for four thousand years and every Christian for two thousand years:
“Honour thy father and thy mother…
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal,” etc.
(Exodus, 21/12-15)
Or probably this Christian author could benefit from reading this: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus, 19/8).
Shafarevich definitely was not that non-Jew who, according to the Talmud (tractate “Shabbot,” 30-31), came in te Roman times to the Jewish sage Hillel and said: “I’ll convert to your faith, if you teach me the whole Torah while I am standing on one foot.’ Hillel replied: “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you -this is all the Torah; all the rest is commentary. Now go and study.”
So much for the Jewish education from generation to generation and for Shafarevich’s forgetfulness that the Christian morality is based on the Hebrew Bible. The great Russian philosopher, nationalist and patriot Vladimir Soloviev, revered by Shafarevich, wrote a hundred years ago that “Christianity and Judaism have a common theocratical goal – the creation of a righteous society.” Calling God as a witness of Jewish vice, Shafarevich forgets: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus, 12/7).
There are many similar passages taken out of context in Chapter 9 (and probably in other chapters as well; I could not check all quotations). It is amazing to read Shafarevich’s evaluation of the book “The Cavalry Guard” by the Soviet writer of Jewish origin Isaac Babel. As a sign of the “usual” Jewish hatred to Russians and Ukrainians, Shafarevich states that Babel “describes, with unhidden disgust, how a Russian father kills his son, and then the second son kills the father.. .or how a Ukrainian admits that he does not like to kill by shooting, but prefers to trample to death.” But how would Shafarevich suggest that one treat such events – with an unhidden pleasure? He is not interested at all whether events similar to these really took place in the Red Army.
Shafarevich does not care about Jewish sufferings in Russian hands and mentions them with scorn if at all. Nowhere in Shafarevich’s book one can find a single mention of the Holocaust. Shafarevich, throughout his book, mentions many Russian and Soviet authors of Jewish origin – always in a negative sense; he never mentions their enormous contribution to the Russian culture of the 20th century. He quotes convenient verses from some third-rate or fifth-rate Russian poets of Jewish origin like Bagritsky or Besymensky as Jewish representatives, but fails to mention that out of the five great Russian poets of this century – Blok, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Mandelstam, and Pasternak – the latter two were Jewish.
It is outrageous how Shafarevich attacks respected Russian authors of Jewish origin for their not being heroes in Stalin’s times. Reading his words about several of these writers, I’d like to ask a question which otherwise I would never have asked: what was Shafarevich himself doing in those dangerous times? We know that he became a full professor in 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, and received the Lenin prize in 1959. He was bright and apparently deserved all these perks, but there were many bright people who were not so lucky, who were arrested or killed in the war; there were brilliant biologists who at best lost jobs and at worst were imprisoned or killed for their defense of the right direction of biological sciences. Shafarevich’s science also had a related field where he had all the opportunities to show courage: his career had been formed during the period when cybernetics (the computer science) was declared a bourgeois false science – the policy which resulted in the great Soviet lag in the computer technology. Did he protest and threaten his career? He became a dissident during the Brezhnev times, when his position was already secure. So it would be better if he, a Christian, remembered Jesus’ words: “Judge not, that ye be not judged…” (Matthew, 7/1) and “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…’ (John, 8/7).
Discussing solutions of the Jewish problem in Russia, Shafarevich considers two possibilities: either the status of foreigners without political rights, or Russian citizenship based on love of the Motherland. Offering this alternative is completely hypocritical: after the revolution, Jews took mainly the second course, a course of assimilation. The majority of Jews of the younger generation living at least in such cultural centers as Moscow and Leningrad knew nothing about either the Jewish language (Hebrew or Yiddish), or Jewish religion and culture, but they could recite by heart whole pages from Pushkin, Lermontov and other Russian poets and actively participated in Russia’s cultural, economic, and social life, and in the war as well (does Shafarevich need a better proof of love for the Motherland?). Nevertheless they were labeled as Jews in their internal passports, a label which was a significant obstacle for entering a university or receiving a proper job or promotion. There are many prestigious institutions of higher education which for years accepted almost no Jews: The Bauman High Technical School, Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute, Moscow Physical-Technical Institute, and several others. In August 1952 a group of Jewish writers and actors was shot, and the so-called “Doctors’ Plot” (1952-3) was fabricated. Those were the events that Stalin apparently meant to follow by the complete exile of Jews to the Siberia, as it had been done with several other nations. Fortunately, Stalin died before this plan could be accomplished. After that the official anti-Semitism slightly weakened but never disappeared. Shafarevich, a university professor, should know all this well.
The rise of Jewish nationalism in Russia in the 1970. was caused by a need for the young Jews to find their identity. They were Jews in name only, and they felt unsatisfied by such definitions of Jews as: “A Jew is a person recorded as a Jew,” or “A Jew is an object of anti-Semitism.” Their search for a national identity has never been directed against the Russians and had nothing to do with any superiority of the “Chosen People.” There have been two directions of Jewish nationalism. One is Zionism and the desire to emigrate to Israel. The reaction of Russian anti-Semites to Zionism has always been extremely negative, as has been and remains their attitude to Israel. Shafarevich shares these negative reactions. This is very illogical: one would think that Russian nationalists and especially anti-Semites should be happy about Jews wishing to part with them and should give them a green light. Their strong objection to Zionism is a clear proof that they are not really interested in settling their Russian affairs without Jews but simply hate the Jews and hate any positive solution that the Jews can figure out for themselves. Soviet policy toward Israel has been so entirely negative and unjust that it could not even be explained by reasonable considerations of global policy -it has been largely based upon sheer anti-Semitism.
The second direction of Jewish nationalism was aimed at the restoration of a moderate amount of Jewish culture in the USSR for the Jews who consider Russia their motherland and do not want to leave: permission to teach Hebrew (forbidden until recently), to have a Jewish theater and a cultural and religious life; all things which have been considered natural for other nations. Is there a danger to love for the motherland in these activities? I insist that such a thing as Jewish Russophobia simply does not exist.

But if Russia, with Shafarevich as her spokesman, requires love, does she in turn exhibit love to other nations? No, I would say that the entire Soviet ethinic policy is a failure, and a failure which has deep traditions. The already quoted Grand Duke Alexander wrote about the education of the Russian aristocracy at the end of the 19th century: “It was not my fault that I hated the Jews, the Poles, the Swedes, the Germans, the British, and the French. I blamed the Greek Orthodox Church and the monstrous doctrine of official patriotism – beaten into me by twelve years of study – for my inability to treat with friendliness all these nations that had never committed a crime against me personally.”
Every Russian child reads in his early years of school the great Russian writer Nikolai Gogol’. masterpiece “Taras Bulba”. How do the definitely positive folk hero Taras and his Cossacks behave? Toward Jews: In this passage, Cossacks want to drown Jews in the Dnieper, and the Jews try to save themselves:
“We have never had any dealings with the enemy,” the tall Jew went on, “and we don’t want to know anything of the Catholics: may they dream of the devil! We have been like brothers with you…”
“What? The Dnieper Cossacks are your brothers?” one of the crowd shouted. “You’ll never see that, you damned Jews! Into the Dnieper with them, comrades, drown all the heatherns!”
These words were the signal. They seized the Jews by their arms and began flinging them into the water. Pitiful cries rang out on all sides, but the hardhearted Cossacks only laughed at the sight of the Jews’ legs in slippers and stockings kicking in the air.”Are they cruel only to Jews? What about Poles?
“Taras marched all over Poland with his regimen, burned eighteen villages and nearly forty churches, and arrived as far as Cracow. He slaughtered numbers of Poles of all sorts, and sacked the finest and wealthiest castles… “Spare nothing!” was all that Taras said. The Cossacks did not spare the black-browed damsels, the white-bosomed, fair-faced maidens; even at the altar they could find no safety; Taras burned them together with the altars. More than once snow-white arms were raised from the flames to the heavens accompanied with pitiful cries which would have moved the very earth and set the grass of the steppes shuddering with pity. But the cruel Cossacks heeded nothing; picking up the babes from the streets on their lances, they flung them too into the flames.”

Are these passages, written by Gogol without any hidden or unhidden disgust, good texts to educate young Russians in the spirit of internationalism or Christianity?
Shafarevich says that the Jewish question overshadowed problems of Ukrainians, Estonians, Armenians, and Crimean Tartars. In another passage, he complains that “the fate of Crimean Tartars attracts much more attention than the fate of Ukrainians.” I do not intend to compare the sufferings of the Jews with those of the Crimean Tartars, but I can compare the sufferings of the Crimean Tartars with those of the Ukrainians. The entire Tartar ethnic group was groundlessly accused of collaboration with Germans after the Second World War, and the entire nation was exiled out of Crimea; the exiles included even returning Tartar soldiers decorated for their actions during the same war. Their homes were given to Ukrainians (who got “cities, which thou buildest not, and houses… which thou filledst not”), and Crimea was made a part of the Ukrainian republic. This injustice has never been corrected. Isn’t it just that the problems of the Crimean Tartars occupy more attention than the problems of the Ukrainians?
Like Russian nationalistic authors known as Slavophiles a hundred years ago, Shafarevioh insists that Russia has her own unique way of development to which the “Small Nation” is an obstacle. We do not hear about any special way for France, Britain, Italy, we simply see their humanitarian and cultural achievements. The expression “the American way of life” appeared after this way of life was already well-established. But Russia has been talking about her unique way during several centuries, and humanity and the Russians themselves are still waiting to benefit from this way. A Russian poet, Count Alexey K. Tolstoy, more than a hundred years ago ridiculed this eternal expectation of the Russian special way and Russian xenophobia in such a speech of a minister:
We mustn’t look for new social beginning.
Or, God forbid, start seeking our ideal
Out in the West. America fell backward–
Capitalism has marked it with its seal.
Britain has stained its way of life by dullest
Legality; indeed I won’t conceal
My deep belief that all legality
Is a criminal infringement of liberty.

No, gentlemen! Russia is hereby fated
To make the future and the past unite
Thus building, if I may say so, a structure
Which those of philosophical mind might
Call common to all ages; standing firm
On its own ground, our Russia will light
The way of work for rich and for poor men.
I hope you understand me, gentlemen?

Everyone will be happy if Russia finally finds its way, but a way without phobias and threats to other nations living inside and outside the Soviet Union.

Conclusion —— “Kill the Jews, Save Russia”?

So what are Shafarevich’s conclusions? He states that the contemporary Russian, Ukrainian, and White Russian youth (the 3 major Slavic nations comprising the majority of the population of the USSR–about 190 mln) receives, as the only possible view, “the ideology of the ‘Small Nation’: haughtily-ironic, scoffing relation to everything Russian, even to Russian names; the concept that “it has always been this way, and nothing good can be,” the image of Russia as “the country of fools.”’
I am happy that Shafarevich formulated the hostile ideology in such a clear way, because now I can state with confidence that such an ideology does not exist – neither among Jews, nor among any other nations: this is purely a fruit of his ill imagination.
Of ill imagination or of evil intentions. The next sentence states that the youth is ABSOLUTELY DEFENCELESS before this ideology. What does this impliy? Is this youth really from “the country of fools”? Is it uneducated? Is it unable to lead a serious discussion of the fate of its motherland based on logic, consideration of all points of view, and respect of the opponents? Isn’t this statement about the absolutely defenseless” youth the most Russophobic statement that can be found in Shafarevich’s book? But he goes further and states that the “Small Nation” (read: two million Jews deprived of their own culture) has a goal of “final destruction of the religious and national basis of life” (again–in all capitals), of “a new and final catastrophe, after which probably nothing will remain of our nation” (of 190 million?). So again and again he takes out of the closet the old scarecrow of the Jewish plot. Doesn’t this mean that the Russians are weak and unable to appreciate even their own culture, while Jews are spiritually enormously strong? Don’t attribute these statements to me, they follow logically from Shafarevich’s alarm.
And his final masterpiece: the creation of a weapon for the spiritual defense from the “Small Nation” is a question of national survival. But what kind of weapon? We do not know any more useful spiritual weapon than free discussion, where only logic and arguments count but not the shape of a scalp or form of a name. However, Shafarevich apparently does not believe in such abilities of his nation. He himself rarely seriously argues with his opponents, preferring to prove them wrong by the mere fact of their Jewishness. And because Russia is in mortal danger from Jews, his logic leads to the old slogan of the Black Hundred of the Czarist times: “Kill the Jews, save Russia!”
There is no such call in the book, and, of course, Shafarevich will deny these accusations. He claims that his only purpose is “TO TELL THE TRUTH.” Well, this kind of “truth” is not new: it has already been told many times in many books, including “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and “Mein Kampf.” A lie does not turn into a truth if the words are written in capital letters. This book confirms rumors coming from the USSR that anti-Semitism has now become fashionable among some of Russian professors and academicians. Shame on them.
Shafarevich’s book is one more primitive and pseudo-scientific but extremely dangerous piece of anti-Semitic propaganda. As very similar statements of Russian anti-Semites a hundred years ago eventually triggered pogroms supported by the government, now again the Soviet Jews smell a pogrom. The ethnic war between Armenians and Azebaijanians and the slaughter of Turks in Uzbekistan show that the government is unable to protect its citizens against extremism and bigotry.
Shafarevich has provided the simple folk and the half-educated people a theoretical basis for hatred of Jews and for pogroms. The book looks like a work of a famous scientist for people unable to think for themselves or wishing to believe. If a pogrom happens, of course, no court will convict Shafarevich of murder or even of instigation to murder. That is, no human court. God’s court is another matter.
What kind of Russia does Shafarevich want to see? He states explicitly that it should not be a Western-style democracy. It should be a strict authoritarian state with a strong influence of the church. There will be no music of Schoenberg, pictures of Picasso, no movies which are not apologetic to the Russian past (all these are not to Shafarevich’s taste), any free criticism will be labeled Russophobia and will be censored. Russians will be again “the first among equals” in relation to other nations of the empire. In other words, Shafarevich’s ideal is… a new Soviet state ready to produce new rulers like Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, or Stalin. If so, I do not understand why he is not happy with the Revolution and the old Soviet state and why he considers them to be distortions. Who cannot critically evaluate the past, will repeat it again and again.
I hope that the way of thought represented by Shafarevich will fail in Russia. However, there are strong indications for its success as well. If the economic reforms fail, and the probability of the failure is real, then a return to strong administration and to repressions is the simplest temporary way out of the crisis. In this case it is not improbable that Judophobic nationalists will replace communists and restore dictatorship. They will eventually fail, because they have no good economic program either and they have nothing to offer to other Soviet nations, but they may keep real power for years. Today’s Russia is very unstable and resembles Russia under the Provisional Government or Germany under the Weimar Republic.
The problem of anti-Semitism has two faces. One is purely humanitarian: it is unjust and cruel (as is any form of racism) that Jews since kindergarten learn humiliation and insults and grow up always remembering that they will be discriminated against and threatened during their entire lives. But there is another, quite different face of the same problem, which is more important to the Russians than to the Jews. As an elevated body temperature is a symptom of decease, anti-Semitism (as any form of racism) is a sign of deep troubles in the Russian spirit and soul. Here I’d like to quote Vladimir Solov’ev again: “Increased excitation of national and religious hostilities, which are strongly contrary to the spirit of Christianity, suppress instincts of justice and love of the mankind, deeply corrupt the society and can result in moral wildness, especially during the current decline of humanitarian ideas and due to the weakness of the legal foundations of our life. This is why, even solely from an instinct of national self-preservation (emphasis mine–E.R.) we should decisively condemn the anti-Semitic movement as not only immoral in its essence, but as an extremely dangerous phenomenon for the future of Russia as well.” These prophetic words of the great Russian thinker and humanist, written a hundred years ago, are as valid today.
I do not know why Shafarevich decided, at an age of over sixty, to soil his life by making a bid for the spiritual leadership of Russian fascism, and I am not very interested in his reasons. But if I could address him with a kind of personal appeal, I’d like to retell an old Hasidic story.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman was jailed in Petersburg after a false accusation. Once the Chief of Gendarmes entered his cell. He began to converse with the sage and asked him a number of questions about the Bible. One of them related to God’s question to Adam after the latter ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree and hid himself. The Chief asked: “How are we to understand that God, the all-knowing, asked Adam: ‘Where art thou?’” The rabbi answered: “In every era, God calls to every man: ‘Where are you in your world? How far have you gotten in your world?”
So, where art thou, Igor Shafarevich?


  1. From the intellectual standpoint Shafarevich justifies restrictions which Soviet Union, as a state, imposed on Jews by their disproportional role in the organs that control this state (finance, economy, science, culture…) Yes, Jewish population was about 2%, but their role in all the above spheres of activity was significantly greater. Shafarevich mentioned many times statistical data confirming this, it’s hard to disagree.

    What we can derive from this is that Jewish achievements were significantly greater than their “equal share” based on their numbers.

    On a similar note Shafarevich also mentioned in one of his political commentaries that if the state does not restrict Jews, they will achieve a disproportional role among other people.

    I’d like to clarify position of Shafarevich in a short paragraph. A simple logical conclusion is that, provided equal rights, Jews will achieve more than other ethnic groups of people in some measure based on per capita amount of achievements. What, therefore, Shafarevich considers as the right way to “resolve” this situation is to restrict the rights of Jews to equalize their achievements with other groups of people. Therefore, let’s call things with their proper names, Shafarevich suggests to apportion the rights according to ethnicity. It means Jewish quotas in every major activity within a society. The Jews did live under these quota in Middle Ages. That’s the model Shafarevich considers as the right way to establish social stability and some kind of ethnic equilibrium in the country.

    Whether one likes it or not is a personal issue, but contemporary political views in a civilized world are based on equality of the rights of different groups of people, not equality of their achievements as the most important social goal.

    • Dear Zor,

      Your description is reasonably accurate, but I do not agree with the last paragraph at all. In United States for example, there is a movement towards helping underrepresented group and there is certainly a danger that if this is not done correctly, one of the results will be restrictions on “overrepresented” groups. But we are certainly not there yet. We are certainly a long away away from the racist system that Shafarevich advocates. The statement that whether one “likes it or not”, as you put it, is much too cynical for my taste. If you are pointing out that the current trends in the West are not as far from Shafarevich’s model of thinking as one would like, that is one thing. But clumping ideas together without any attempt to quantify the differences makes no sense and has no predictive value. Taking everything into account, Shafarevich’s point of view is still very extreme and exposing it is very important.

      In the future posts I plan to go a step further and describe the system of discrimination against the Jewish people in the Soviet academia. Many prominent people who are still alive today participated in this web of discrimination. Most of them blame everything on the “system” and by-pass the discussion of their own role in the process. This remind me of post-war Germany and (especially) Austria to a significant extent.

      • Yes, you are right, we do have in the United States such policies as affirmative actions. I am sure, there are good examples of people from “underrepresented” groups to go to the top using somewhere on their way the help of such policies. At the same time, this caused a lot of damage in such industries as education. So, it’s not a simple issue.
        You rightly mentioned a danger if “this is not done correctly”. Do you think it’s done correctly? I don’t. And doubt it can be.
        My credo, however, is: if you want equality among people they must be treated equally. Granted, some will have difficulties and will not achieve the maximum. It is never perfect. But denying equality under any pretense would be deteriorating for a society in general. Equality and liberty are not empty phrases. They are the basis for progress.
        I do realize that without such support as affirmative actions the differentiation among people of different background might grow. I don’t like it. Nobody does. But any kind of artificial quotas are slowing down the progress. I still prefer a society to move forward, albeit with different speed for different groups of people, than to stand still and, eventually, deteriorate, as our educational system does in front of our eyes.

  2. This puts us in the realm of complicated technical issues instead of pure ideology and I like that better. To answer your question, Zor, I do not believe that on the whole affirmative action is implemented very efficiently in the U.S.. I am a bit hesitant to make such a general statement because affirmative actions has many aspects and is practiced differently in a variety of settings. Nevertheless, I oppose the use of quotas of any kind, either to restrict or to include a given group. On the other hand, I am very much in favor of targeting specific areas of the country and neighborhoods in a given city for educational assistance of various sorts. For example, running summer camps in mathematics in neighborhoods where mathematics and science education is generally lacking certainly does not hurt anyone and has the potential of contributing to society as a whole quite significantly.

    More later…

    • I do agree with you. Wherever there is any kind of competitive environment, quotas are unacceptable. Special attention to some group to help to overcome certain difficulties is another matter and, generally, should be non-problematic.

  3. I always wondered wondered who this guy was, Игорь Ростиславович Шафаревич

    I’m getting kicked off the computer; talk to you later!

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