As noted in Chapter 22, Jews began to be purged from prominent positions in the government after World War II up to the time of Stalin’s death. Thereafter, things improved for the Jews but deteriorated again. Chapter 23 has several familiar themes:
- Jews continued to be overrepresented in all areas requiring education, but less so. For example, “if in 1936 the share of Jews among students was 7.5 times higher than that in the total population, then by 1960s it was only 2.7 times higher.
- Jews continued to dominate some areas. Solzhenitsyn mentions the special role of Jews in Soviet psychiatry (e.g., Lifshitz and “his Jewish gang” at Kaluga Hospital) at a time when “healthy people” were being locked up in mental institutions. As is typical of his style, he notes a Jewish writer commenting that Russians were displacing Jews in the bureaucracy, but then points out that Russians were being displaced in the ethnic republics as well.
- Solzhenitsyn also points to the special role of Jews in economic crimes, where quite often Jews formed the “vast majority” of these accused.
- Jewish activists tended to exaggerate the plight of Jews. For example, Jews accused the government of enforcing the law on economic crimes in an anti-Jewish manner (“rampant anti-Semitism,” according to one writer). Solzhenitsyn pointing out that merely printing the names of defendants hardly counts as anti-Semitism: “to name them was equal to Jew-baiting.” The ethnic connections among defendants were typically ignored in the press.
- Jewish power in the USSR was linked to their power in the West. When Jews were being accused of economic crimes, “the entire Western media interpreted this as a brutal campaign against Jews, the humiliation and isolation of the entire people; Bertrand Russell sent a letter of protest to Khrushchev and got a personal response from the Soviet leader.” This campaign was effective because the government became reluctant to prosecute Jewish economic criminals. The Western media continued to ignore issues like the millions of deaths during forced collectivization while “official Soviet anti-Semitism” came to be seen as a critical issue. Similarly, an article on the Jews who were murdered in 1937–1938 and 1948–1952 in a Jewish newspaper in France resulted in worldwide condemnation of the USSR among leftists.
- Solzhenitsyn points to real conflicts behind anti-Jewish actions. For example, the 1956 Hungarian uprising had strong anti-Jewish overtones because of the prominent role of Jews in the Hungarian government. And when Russians sought to improve their social status, they came up against previously existing, well-entrenched Jewish elites.
- Jews retained their powerful sense of being Jewish: “Jewish identity was never subdued during the entire Soviet period. In 1966 the official mouthpiece Sovetish Heymland claimed that ‘even assimilated Russian-speaking Jews still retain their unique character, distinct from that of any other segment of the population.’ Not to mention the Jews of Odessa, Kiev, and Kharkov, who “sometimes were even snooty about their Jewishness — to the extent that they did not want to befriend a goy.”
- Jews who fancied themselves assimilated engaged in self-deception. He quotes a scientist who rejected “any nationalism” but then it dawned on him that all his friends were Jews. Even non-religious Jews defended the idea of “racial purity.” Other Jews, like Natan Sharansky, suddenly realized that they were very different from non-Jews, especially after the 1967 Six-Day War. “I suddenly realized an obvious difference between myself and non-Jews around me … a kind of a sense of the fundamental difference between my Jewish consciousness and the national consciousness of the Russians.”They then consciously realized what had only been implicit —that they had much stronger ties to the Jewish people as an international entity than to Russia and the Russians. Solzhenitsyn quotes a Jew: “The Jews felt free from obligations [to the Russians] at all sharp turns of Russian history,” and comments, “Fair enough. One can only hope for all Russian Jews to get such clarity and acknowledge this dilemma.”
- Jewish consciousness became much stronger with the Six-Day War. “Israel has ascended in their minds and Soviet Jews awoke to their spiritual and consanguineous kinship [with Israel].” However, Israel’s victory was over Egypt, an ally of the USSR, so the result was a “thundering campaign against the “Judeo-Zionist-Fascism.” Amazingly, it included the charge that “because of the consistent pursuit of the ideology of racial supremacy and apartheid, Judaism turned out to be a very convenient religion for securing world dominance.” The effect was to spur large-scale Jewish emigration to Israel and the West.
A central message is the power of Jewish ethnocentrism. Yuri Slezkine and a host of Jewish activist organizations make much of the idea that Jewish Communists in the USSR had no Jewish identity at all, at least until WWII. (See my rebuttal here, p. 75ff.) To some extent Solzhenitsyn buys into this, since he charts an increasing sense of Jewish identity beginning with WWII and the Holocaust and culminating in the Six-Day War. But, as the example of the self-deceptive Jewish scientist shows, Jewish identity is pliable. Jews continued to associate with Jews, marry Jews, and participate in and benefit from Jewish ethnic networks during the entire period—as Solzhenitsyn shows elsewhere, e.g., in his chapter on the 1920s.
Solzhenitsyn’s example of the Jewish scientist reminded me of the self-deception of Jewish radicals described in Ch. 3 of The Culture of Critique:
Most Jewish Communists wear their Jewishness very casually but experience it deeply. It is not a religious or even an institutional Jewishness for most; nevertheless, it is rooted in a subculture of identity, style, language, and social network. . . . In fact, this second-generation Jewishness was antiethnic and yet the height of ethnicity. The emperor believed that he was clothed in transethnic, American garb, but Gentiles saw the nuances and details of his naked ethnicity…. Evidence of the importance of ethnicity in general and Jewishness in particular permeates the available record. Many Communists, for example, state that they could never have married a spouse who was not a leftist. When Jews were asked if they could have married Gentiles, many hesitated, surprised by the question, and found it difficult to answer. Upon reflection, many concluded that they had always taken marriage to someone Jewish for granted. The alternative was never really considered, particularly among Jewish men. (Paul Lyons (1982). Philadelphia Communists, 1936–1956. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 73, 74)
Jewish self-deception is a critical feature of trying to understand Jewish behavior and the topic of a chapter in Separation and Its Discontents. Jews sincerely believed that they had no ethnic identity even though it was apparent to everyone else. The general point is that Jewish ethnocentrism creates a blindness to things that are completely obvious to neutral observers.
This is apparent in contrasting how Jews see their experience in the USSR with how Solzhenitsyn sees it. Jewish intellectuals and activists see the entire Soviet trajectory through ethnocentric blinders. They see Jews as a hapless persecuted minority under the Czar, then rising to well-deserved prosperity after the Revolution. Jewish communists at least until WWII completely lost their ethnic identity, so whatever they did as an elite during the most murderous regime in European history was only due to their being loyal, idealistic communists, not because they were by far the most numerous and most powerful component of a non-Russian ethnic coalition that viewed the traditional people and culture of Russia with murderous hostility. Whatever social status they attained was solely due to Jewish merit—completely unrelated to Jewish ethnic networking and completely unrelated to the active suppression and eradication of the previously existing elites and their descendants. It was only because of the Holocaust and completely irrational anti-Jewish attitudes after WWII that Jewish communists became disenchanted with the USSR and began to identify as Jews, culminating in their embrace of Zionism, particularly after the Six-Day War.
Solzhenitsyn paints a very different picture — a picture that is not only historically accurate but also reflecting the reasonable concerns of a Russian ethnic actor who feels that his people have been done a great injustice. During the Czarist period, Jews aggressively overreacted to reasonable policies of the government designed to protect the Slavic population — the basic duty of any governmentthat pretends to represent the interests of the ethnic majority (Chapter 5). Duringthe 1920s Jews became a hostile elite—Stalin’s “Willing Executioners” —entrenched in all the high ground of Soviet society — the public face of the most brutal regime in history, and provoking a great deal of hostility among the Russian people. Then, after Jews failed to do their fair share of front line fightingduring WWII despite the fact that it was a war against the most deadly anti-Jewish force in history, Russians seeking to improve their social status came up against previously existing, well-entrenched Jewish elites. The purges of Jews that followed were certainly far less violent than the purges of the pre-revolutionary elites during the 1920s and had much to recommend them from the standpoint of ethnic fairness. Nevertheless, even after these purges, Jews remained highly overrepresented in high-status positions requiring education. Jews, however, responded negatively to being removed from their virtual ethnic monopoly on heights of power. With the rise of Israel, they also rediscovered their connections to the international Jewish community and a great many bailed out of Soviet society completely because they were more loyal to the international Jewish community and its identification with Israel than they were to Russia and Russians.
Having been around the block a few times on issues like this where there is a self-serving Jewish consensus on their own history, I realize that communication is impossible. Jewish activist intellectuals and organizations will continue to present their side of the story and do everything they can to vilify or ignore any account that departs from their orthodoxy. As an evolutionist, I am not surprised. That’s what ethnic conflict is all about — just as deadly when it is conflict among intellectuals over interpretations of history as it is in mass murders of Russians and Ukrainians carried out in the name of international socialism.