Leonid Gozman is one of the smartest people I know. He’s a big patriot of Russia in the real sense of this word. He’s also currently in a special detention centre, serving his second 15-day arrest term. Over the past few weeks, there have been more mentions of Gozman being a brave man: he was declared a “foreign agent”, yet he still came back to Russia. He was threatened with criminal charges and he got them, and yet he remained in Moscow. He was detained right in the metro, allegedly due to a technical error that had led to him being put on the wanted list, even though he hadn’t been hiding. Leonid Gozman served his first 15 days of arrest for equating Stalin and Hitler in a Facebook post, and then, the police turned to blatant bullying: upon his exit from the detention centre, he was detained once again. The reason for the second detention was that the government allegedly found signs of wrongdoing in his LiveJournal post from 2013 — the post also mentioned Stalin. The Russian Federation is doing everything it can to protect the good memory of Stalin, leaving a 72-year-old man who is not in the best of health under arrest. Potentially, they could safely continue with this practice: past wrongdoings could lead to a long-term imprisonment or at least to some made up criminal case that would allow the police to send him to a real pre-trial detention centre.
If you follow Russian news, you probably know all of this already. Gozman has been criticising Putin’s government for years. He has outplayed Russian propaganda — they used to ask him to appear on TV, so the entire audience could judge the pro-Western liberal. And then, at the drop of a hat, they stopped inviting him to their shows: there are still videos of Gozman’s speeches all over the Internet, in which he comes off as the only sensible person in the carefully constructed nuthouse of propaganda.
However, we are, quite possibly, missing an extremely important piece of the puzzle. Those who hate Gozman have rarely missed an opportunity to mention his nationality. For the ultra-right, he has always represented a Jew coming up with some evil scheme of Russia’s dismemberment. When the persecution of Gozman and others had started — without any legal basis, just out of revenge towards the free people and Vladimir Putin’s critics — the government started making eyes at the antisemites. Gozman’s arrest for criticising Stalin became the moment of real triumph for those who think that Jews should be exterminated and banished from Russia.
Perhaps, the state simply persecutes Gozman as an opposition figure, however, his arrest is seen as a symbol for the antisemites: their time has come.
The arbitrariness of the Russian government opens up the path for real state antisemitism.
When police came for the former Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeny Roizman, Russian TV propagandists didn’t shy away from discussing an old photograph of him posing with a Star of David.
Such things are in with a certain segment of their audience, so why not lit up this flame? The Russian TV gladly encourages the vilest human instincts: the special military operation, or sometimes even the Third World War, is at stake here, so the people need to unite against some domestic enemy.
Igor Strelkov. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Domkobb. Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
The ultra-right in Russia, such as retired colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, who attempted the assassination of Anatoly Chubais, or the infamous Igor Strelkov-Girkin, openly state that the “Jewish-Nazi government of Ukraine” is the current enemy of the Russian army. The state antisemitism of the Russian propaganda starts with the hatred towards Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a Jew who said “I need ammunition, not a ride.” Antisemitic caricatures and statements addressed to Zelensky can be found in abundance in Russian media.
There is an opinion that the Russian government is usually glad to kick the opposition out of the country instead of imprisoning them. However, this doesn’t seem to work anymore if you’re a Jew: at least when it comes to the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, who faces an enormous sentence. After Gozman had shown that he’s stubborn, they started getting a prison cell ready for him, too.
The details of the criminal case against Gozman and his wife also point to the triumph of state antisemitism: I’d like to remind you that their “crime” amounts to the fact that they failed to inform the Russian state of their Israeli citizenship on time.
If the Russian authorities can treat a well-known person like that in plain sight, we can only assume how “grassroots” antisemitism works in places tied to Russia’s new state ideology that makes it okay to hate people based on their nationality.
Right now, Russia keeps imprisoning Jews with serious medical conditions: Vladimir Kara-Murza needs medical help, and Gozman was arrested in front of the hospital where he was brought to in an ambulance. Why not? According to the state propaganda, these actions only reinforce Putin’s personal power, while the international media ignore Russia’s new state policy of antisemitism.
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