98 Senators Express Concern About Russian Anti-Semitism
(August 3, 2001)
On August 3, 2001, a letter from 98 U.S. Senators expressing concern about popular anti-Semitism in the Russian Federation was sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The text follows:
August 3, 2001
Honorable Vladimir Putin
Dear President Putin:
We are writing to you, as members of the United States Senate to again express our concerns over the anti-Semitic rhetoric heard at both the national and local levels of Russian society and politics.
In years past, the U.S. Senate has been united in its condemnation of such virulent anti-Semitism, which, unfortunately, has been present during much of Russia's history. Your remarks last year publicly condemning anti-Semitism assume special significance against a backdrop of centuries of tsarist and Stalinist persecution. We strongly encourage you to continue to publicly condemn anti-Semitism whenever it manifests itself in the Russian Federation.
We also believe that it is important to back up the rhetoric of condemnation with the substance of action. Sad to say, physical violence against Jews still occurs in the Russian Federation. In Ryazan last year, youths attacked a Jewish Sunday school, threatening teachers and children and later intimidated school officials into revoking the Jewish community's use of a classroom. Rhetorical anti-Semitism also continues. In July anti-Semitism played a minor role in the gubernatorial race in Ryazan and has also played a role in gubernatorial elections in Krasnodar.
Radical extremists continue to operate openly in more than half of Russia's 89 regions. While most of these organizations are small, there is also little social or governmental opposition to them. There are at least ten ultra-nationalist groups in Russia with memberships between 100 and 5,000 members each. Anti-Semitism is a staple of most ultra-nationalist groups and is evident in the publication of the groups' periodicals. At least 37 newspapers and magazines of ultra-nationalist bent published anti-Semitic materials in 2000.
The year 2000 witnessed increasing cooperation between Russian extremists and their ideological counterparts abroad. The most notorious example of such cooperation was that of David Duke, the U.S. white supremacist, who visited Russia twice during the year. Duke's most recent anti-Semitic tract was prepared exclusively for the Russian market.
We recognize that you have made important statements in response to manifestations of anti-Semitism, and that law enforcement has in some cases been effective in investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence and crimes. More consistent and comprehensive implementation of your government's policies and of Russian laws would represent a significant improvement in this area. The United States Senate supports efforts to promote public awareness and training programs within the Russian Federation. We would welcome additional ways for the American involvement and cooperation in these efforts.
As members of the Senate we have sent you or your predecessor a similar letter for the past three years. We continue to believe it vital that you continue to demonstrate, through your emphatic disagreement with those who espouse anti-Semitism in Russia, the importance the Russian government places upon religious freedom. The United States predicates its support for democratic institutions in Russia upon unwavering opposition to anti-Semitism at any level, in any form.
We hope you share our deep concern for this issue and look forward to receiving your response.
Akaka, Daniel K.- Hawaii