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The Crimean Affair

Name used to refer to the closed antisemitic trial of the Jewish *Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) held in Moscow from May to July 1952. One of the pretexts may have been a memorandum presented in the summer of 1944 by members of the Committee to the Soviet leadership containing a proposal to create a Jewish Soviet republic in the *Crimea (the Tatar population of which was exiled by Stalin by May 1944) on the territory of the former German republic of the Volga. Noting the successes of the Jewish national regions in the Crimea and in the Kerson region, the authors of the memorandum based their proposal on the lack of a geographical base of a significant part of the Jewish population of the Soviet Union and on the need to grant the Jews equality in governmental-legal terms with the other nationalities of the Soviet Union. They also expressed the hope that "the Jewish masses of all countries, in particular the United States would give substantial aid" to building up such a republic. Despite the rumors that some members of the Politburo of the Central Committee ( Lazar *Kaganovich and Vyacheslav Molotov) were favorably disposed toward the idea of the "Crimean Plan," it was rejected in 1944.

The proposals of the memorandum contained nothing radically new. Projects for establishing a Jewish republic in the southern Ukraine or in the Crimea had been suggested earlier. For example, in 1923 the social leader A. Bragin had proposed that one be established on the Black Sea coast from Bessarabia to Abkhaz with its capital in Odessa, while Yuri *Larin supported, in opposition to the Birobidzhan plan, a Jewish autonomous area in the southern Crimean and Azov region centered in Kerch.

Another formal basis for initiating the case was false testimony, obtained by torture from the researchers I. Goldshtein and G. Grinberg, about the "anti-Soviet, nationalistic, and espionage activity" of the JAC secretary I. *Fefer , of the head of the Sovinformbyuro S. Lozovski, and of other members of the JAC.

After the murder by KGB agents of Solomon *Mikhoels , the chairman of the JAC, in January 1948, the arrest of JAC member David *Hofshtein in September 1948, the dissolution of the committee, and the closing of the newspaper *Eynikeit in November 1948, the liquidation of the "Emes" Publishing House in December 1948, and other centers of Jewish culture, almost all writers and artistic, social, and cultural figures with ties to Jewish life and institutions were arrested (as "bourgeois nationalists" and spies) in late 1948–early 1949. Among those arrested were D. *Bergelson , *Der Nister , B. Zuskin, L. *Kvitko , P. *Markish , I. Nisinov, I. Fefer, B. Shimeliovich (chief physician of the important Botkin Hospital in Moscow), L. *Stern , and I. Watenberg, Ch. Watenberg–Ostrovskaya, E. Teumin, and, subsequently, L. Talmi – employees of the JAC. In 1949 arrests were made of a number of Jews who were top officials in the Soviet Information Bureau (Sovinformbyuro), including Solomon Lozovski, M. *Borodin , and Yuzetovich. Since formally the Sovinformbyuro organizationally and Lozovski personally were responsible for the activity of the JAC, both groups were arrested and several years later, artificially linked in the Crimean case. Some of those arrested (Borodin, Der Nister, Nusinov, et al.) died under investigation, while another (S. Bregman, assistant minister of Goskontrol of the RSFSR) died before the trial began. At a secret trial the defendants were accused of espionage, anti-Soviet activity, and plotting the secession of the Crimea from the Soviet Union and establishing there a bourgeois Zionist republic which was supposed to become a base for American imperialism. All of the accused pleaded not guilty from the beginning with the exception of Fefer, who later retracted his testimony against others and his own admission of guilt. On July 18 the Military Board of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. sentenced all the defendants to be shot (with the exception of Lina Stern, who was sentenced to five years internal exile). On August 12, 1952, the following were executed: Luzovski, Yuzefivich, Fefer, Shimeliovich, Kvito, Markish, Bergelson, Hofshtein, Zushkin, Talmi, the Watenburgs, and Teumin.

A number of additional trials involving other Jewish cultural figures and employees of the JAC were soon thereafter linked to the charges in the Crimean Affair. The Crimean Affair was the culminating act in the total liquidation of Jewish cultural and social life in the Soviet Union. It was followed by the accusations of "cosmopolitanism," which resulted in the dismissal of thousands of Jews in senior positions in almost all walks of Soviet life. It also served as a prelude to the antisemitic Doctor's Plot (1952–53). All those condemned in the Crimean Affair were "rehabilitated" in 1955. On December 29, 1988, a Politburo commission officially declared all of the accused to have been innocent and the whole affair to have been fabricated. After the dawnfall of the Soviet regime in the 1990s, all the details of the trial was published.

Sources:G. Kostyrchenko, V plenu u krasnovo pharaona (1994).

[Mark Kipnis / The Shorter Jewish Encyclopaedia in Russian]

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