Jews demand action after Moscow synagogue attack
By Oliver Bullough
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia must start enforcing the law to
stop a racist groundswell turning into mass bloodshed, Jewish
leaders warned on Thursday, a day after a knife attack on
worshippers in a Moscow synagogue.
Analysts said the attack, by a man who shouted “Heil
Hitler” as he wounded eight people, was connected to a racist
trend whipped up by politicians exploiting nationalism to win
“To blame this on lone mad people is dangerous, because
these mad people could explode the whole country,” Borukh
Gorin, of the Russian Federation of Jewish Organizations, said.
Rights activists point to a growing wave of violence
against foreigners and ethnic minorities.
Last month, a student from Cameroon was killed in St
Petersburg — the latest in a series of murders of Africans and
Asians in the northern city.
The murders of two Tajik gypsy girls — aged five and nine
– shocked the nation two years ago.
“Blood is flowing: the blood of Jews, the blood of
Africans. It is all red. And by the laws of social science,
other blood will flow too,” said Gorin.
Government and parliamentary officials condemned the
assault and ordered tighter security for synagogues throughout
But analysts say authorities are ignoring the threat of
racist violence and even provoking nationalist feeling for
their own ends.
The far-right resurgence has gone together with a rise in
nationalist parties and tougher talking from politicians, who
reveled in a stand-off with Ukraine last week when Russia
demanded its Western-aligned neighbor pay more for its gas.
“Officials could see how the tough rhetoric resonated in
society during the gas war with Ukraine last week,” said
Nikolai Petrov, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center think
“But it is dangerous, because these moods are easy to
arouse but can then get out of control and turn back on the
people who called them up.”
Neo-fascists hijacked a new holiday marking “national
unity” late last year. Thousands of young men made Nazi salutes
as they marched through the Russian capital.
“The ideology is simple: ‘We are the bosses and Russia is
for the Russians’,” said Valentina Uzunova, a lecturer on
racism in St Petersburg whose colleague Nikolai Girenko was
killed in a murder for which a racist group claimed
“But any nationalist movement is going to be dangerous in
such a multi-ethnic country.”
Jewish leaders accused police of having failed to heed
warnings of a surge in racism in Russia, and urged them to take
steps to prevent Wednesday’s attack from inspiring new assaults
on Jews and other minorities.
“We do not feel that Jews have it worse in Russia than
other people, we are living comfortably here but the country is
suffering and we are suffering with it,” Russia’s Chief Rabbi
Berel Lazar said.
“The inadequate nature of the police’s actions against
these groups is clear… they must not be ignored anymore,” he
“While there is indifference, while people watch and think
how there’ll be different news tomorrow, then this will