Staunton, February 17 – Ilf and Petrov’s famous remark that in Russia “there are Jews but no question about them” takes on a different meaning with each passing generation, Ilya Milshteyn says. Under Vladimir Putin, their observation has been transformed into the following: “there are anti-Semites [in society and among officials] but there is no question about them.”
The corridors of power in the Putin regime are “full” of anti-Semites, but Putin, “having been a Chekist-internationalist,” isn’t much obsessed with any one nation, the Jews or any other, but rather with his ability to use feelings about that group relative to others in ever-changing circumstances, the Moscow commentator says (graniru.org/opinion/milshtein/m.258847.html).
Whenever Putin finds there are nations which “are much worse than the Jews” in a particular circumstance, he is ready to direct hostility and phobias toward them, be they “Chechens, Balts, Poles, Ukrainians [or] Americans.” He doesn’t stay with one as classical anti-Semites do and he is quite prepared to maintain relatively good relations with Israel.
Moreover, Milshteyn continues, “Jews now are included in the elite, and oneis speaking not only about the powerful friends of Putin … or Zhirinovsky.” And “as for Jewish organizations [in Russia] they succumb from their devotion to the regime, and that is valued in the Kremlin.”
In short, he argues, “the relations of the bosses with individual comrade Jews and whole communities form a certain harmonious unity” most of the time despite efforts by some to test it. But “nevertheless, there are cases of quasi-government anti-Semitism. And this is easy to explain.”
That is because while the Jewish “question” as such doesn’t exist under Putin, “the demand” for it certainly does in certain quarters, a demand conditioned by history and one that is only contained by reactions to the occasional scandal. But the reaction has never been severe enough to prevent another official from making use of anti-Semitism on another occasion.
And that means that anti-Semitism remains a constant latent threat, one that Putin is now a died in the wool sponsor of – indeed, he will oppose it if it creates a scandal – but may very well be willing to tolerate or exploit if he concludes that it will serve his purposes and that he can get away with doing so.