«Jewish Observer»
November 2001
5762 Kislev

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"Paradoxes and caprices of philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism in Russia. Essays" - a new book by Saveliy Dudakov.


The book was edited by the Russian humanitarian university as a scientific research. However, it became a bestseller because a comprehensive scientific research there is combined with almost detective investigation of facts about "Jewish penetration" in Russian life from the times of Khazar kaganat up to the end of the XX century. This is also as encyclopaedia of paradoxes and caprices of Russian philo and anti-Semitism. In his previous book, which was also a success in Russia and abroad ("History of one myth: Essays on Russian literature of the XIX-XX centuries". Moscow, 1995), S. Dudakov made a comprehensive research of the history of the public thought and literature in Russia to find out what the ground was for and how "The protocols of the Zion wise men" appear, which is considered to be the key program "document" of the XX century. The author of the book offered his "very original conception of Messianic and fiction development of anti-Semitic ideas in Russia, the natural outlook of which became "the work" of S. Nilus ("The protocols of Zion wise men") which captured the "minds and hearts" of the epoch of totalitarian states and genocide".

In his new book Dudakov has widened his approach towards the Russian literature and life as the cause for the emergence not only anti-Semitic but also philo-Semitic ideas.

Essays, that the book consists of, are biographies and fates of many people and numerous documented proofs of different attitude towards Jews by different social strata of Russian society - from highest aristocracy to the peasantry for the whole period of Russian history. Separate facts are combined to show the general development of philo and anti-Semitic ideas in Russia. In some respect the work of Saveliy Dudakov is thought to be final and complete ... The topic touched upon in the book is subject to many works (for example, "The history of anti-Semitism" by A. Polyakov). However, Dudakov may be the first one who investigated not only separate social and cultural strata but the whole range of Russian society. It turned out that along the traditional hatred to Jews blessed by the Orthodox Church ("The word on the law and favor" by Kiev Metropolitan Illarion) and pogroms (one of the first pogroms was held in Kiev in 1113) there was also a tradition of sympathetic attitude towards Jews. There were also cases, far from being single, when people changed their faith in favor of Judaism or close to it.

To some extent it was because the Jewry was "the flesh and blood" of Russian people. S. Dudakov writes that according to the ancient Russian chronicle "Story of old times" "the mother of great knight Vladimir (Kiev knight Vladimir the Red Sun - S.L.) was either a Jew or a Khazard". He was assisted in seizing power by his uncle Dobrynya Malkovich (Malka, his sister, was the mother of Vladimir) "who was named by the tale and folklore tradition as noble Dobrynya Nikitich".

"In the scientists' grounded opinion, the chronicle about the adoption of Christianity by Vladimir (the fact became the cornerstone of clerical propaganda) is not only an insertion made later on, but ..., most probably, was born under the influence of an earlier Jewish-Khazard legend on the adoption of Judaism by Khazar kagan".


S. Dudakov traces the philo-Semitism roots in the history of the Russian religious and philosophical thought in the dissident movement of "strigolnikov" at the end of the XIV century in Pskov and Novgorod, as well as in the heresy of "Judaizers" spread in the beginning of the same XV century among intellectual elite and top high strata of Moscow society. This movement was cruelly suppressed and its leaders were burnt out in December of 1504.

According to the author of the book, there is a succession line from "strigolnikovs" and "Judaizers" to the Russian "subbotniks" of the XVIII-XIX centuries, who tried to stick to Judaic rites and took Jewish names for themselves. There were other sects, which were on the boundary between Judaism and Christianity but were persecuted by the official church. There are separate essays in the book about their "teachers" and the fate of their leaders.

However, these are by-side topics that can be taken as independent objects for study. The sectarian movements had indirect relationship to Judaism, borrowing from it only separate and outward elements (Easter celebrations, painting hexagonal stars on prayer houses, etc.). They are alien to the essence of the Torah, Moses' teaching. It is vivid by not adopting by them the "extremes of Talmud".


The researcher is right when he reveals "different psychological forms of philo-Semitism". In his opinion "its highest form is a full identification with the Jewish people, that is the adoption of Judaism". This was observed with subbotniks who rejected Christianity, refused their nationality and began considering their motherland not Russia but Palestine. "They call Russia only as Assur by reading it in a Jewish way, from right to left (Russa). The subbotniks considered themselves in Russia to be prisoners, Jews were brothers for them. Praying was done in black ermolkas, they also wore tfilin and tsitsot".

Philo-Semitic forms as well as the positive attitude towards Jews are different. According to the book, Russian anti-Semitism was not borrowed from somewhere outside. It was fed up by ancient Russian traditions of Asian-like behavior and arbitrariness. It grew on the soil of the Orthodox religion because the Church never protested against Jewish pogroms, thus illegally supporting the persecution of the "cursed" people.


In the author's opinion, not only the rulers but also Russian aristocracy were infected with anti-Semitism. This is despite of the fact that after the kinship with the family of the well-known supporter of Peter the First Peter Shafirov, a Christened Jew, many famous nobleman families (Gagarins, Dolgorukovs, Sheremetjevs and others) received a solid injection of Jewish blood. A considerable part of Russian intelligentsia was also subjected to this "disease". "Transparent adherence to Jewry was demonstrated only by a few Russian intellectuals. However, in private letters and diaries, when they didn't need to hide their thoughts and the self-censorship was weakened, the anti-Semitic notes were often read." For example, even the free-thinking Russian European Alexander Gertsen (according to an article in "Jewish chronicles" he was a Jew by his mother) used to seldom publish in the "Polar Star" newspaper and in "The Bell" the sympathetic articles about the position of Jews in Poland. But in one his letter to Ogarev he burst out with philippic against "shectidesyatniks" with an unexpected jest of Judophobia using against his ideological opponents curses like "zhydinyata, utyata (ducklings), gusyata (goslings). Judophobia was coming from the top of the Russian society down to the people and got a response in it as it is shown in the works of Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Nekrasov, Leskov and others...

"Dvarim", Israel
To be continued

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