I first learned of the term “Russophobia” many years ago in Robert Wistrich’s 1991 book Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred. My initial impression was essentially that Russians on the “radical right” were attempting to turn the tables on Jews by accusing them of what is effectively the inverse of anti-Semitism (i.e., Russophobia). Of course, this was little more than a mere stratagem designed to obscure their true anti-Semitic intentions. Although not at all thuggish or violent, the proponents of Russophobia, according to Wistrich, were especially dangerous since they included many prominent writers and scholars and had viable connections within the Soviet power structure of the day. Wistrich saw through it all, and so should any right-thinking gentile.
Of the people decrying Russophobia, Wistrich writes:
They are in favor of patriotism, law and order, and traditional values blended with ecological concerns to preserve the Russian cultural heritage. What they claim to hate are the destructive influences of ‘liberals’ in Soviet life, the fads and so-called ‘Russophobes’ – those émigrés, dissidents and above all Jews who are quite falsely said to denigrate Russian history and mock the backwardness of Russian culture. [Igor] Shafarevich’s tract, entitled Russophobia (1989), can be taken as the Bible of this anti-Western, anti-Socialist and antisemitic gospel, driven by intellectual paranoia and an apocalyptic vision of the spiritual crisis confronting Soviet society.
This was essentially my baseline for Russophobia for many years prior to my conversion on the Jewish Question upon reading Kevin MacDonald’s The Culture of Critique. I again encountered Shafarevich’s name when researching Solzhenitsyn and the Right. Solzhenitsyn mentions Shafarevich quite often in his memoirs—always in a positive light—and included three of Shafarevich’s essays in his 1974 From Under the Rubble collection. One of these essays was the incipient version of Shafarevich’s famous work The Socialist Phenomenon.
Shararevich (who was one of the twentieth-century’s leading mathematicians and who died in 2017 at the age of 95.) distributed his long essay “Russophobia” as samizdat in the early 1980s, and published it in the Soviet periodical Nash Sovremennik in 1989. In 2002, he published an expanded version of this essay as Three-Thousand-Year-Old Enigma, a full-length treatise on Russo-Jewish relations, similar to Solzhenitsyn’s Two Hundred Years Together—but with greater emphasis on religion. Unfortunately, no English translation of this work exists as of yet.
What’s interesting about “Russophobia,” however, is not only its thoughtful and well-argued counter-Semitism, but the shallow and dishonest responses it engendered from Jewish writers, which tarnished much of Shafarevich’s reputation in the West after the fall of the Soviet Union. From the essay’s onset, Shafarevich expresses concern for the “spiritual life” of Russia. He notes that starting in the 1970s, a flood of anti-Russian literature was being produced which he saw as “the expression of the view of an established, cohesive school.” According to these writers, Russia is inherently despotic and oppressive due to the backward nature of the Russians themselves, which manifests itself mostly through violence, servility, and “messianism.”
Shafarevich counters such slander over several pages of historical discussion, for example, on Richard Pipes’ claim that Tsar Nicholas I served as the model for not only Soviet totalitarianism but for Hitler’s Third Reich as well. Shafarevich demonstrates clearly that totalitarianism was fully developed in the West prior to Nicholas I, and so Tsarist Russia should be let off the hook for initiating “all of the 20th century’s antiliberal tendencies.” As for “Messianism,” Shafarevich deftly reminds his readers that the outlook which appoints a certain group as being “destined to determine the fate of humanity and become its savior” began not with the Russians but with the Jews thousands of years ago. And as for the claim that “the revolution in Russia was predetermined by the whole course of Russian history,” Shafarevich points out that socialism was already fully-developed in the West before gaining any kind of foothold in Russia in the nineteenth century. For evidence, he cites the lack of Russian proto-socialist authors of the stature of Thomas More or Tommaso Campanella, and how early Russian socialists such as Mikhail Bakunin and Alexander Herzen started their socialist endeavors only after they emigrated to the West. He concludes [emphasis in the original]:
Thus, many phenomena that the authors of the tendency we are examining proclaim to be typically Russian prove to be not only not typical of Russia but altogether non-Russian in origin, imported from the West: that was the payment, as it was, for Russia’s entry into the sphere of the new Western culture.
Now, by this point in the essay, the savvy reader will know where it’s going. Although Shafarevich had hardly used the J-word, the people he was skewering had names that echo into eternity—or if they don’t, they should. Grigory Pomerants, Richard Pipes, Boris Shragin, Alexander Yanov, Boris Khazanov, and others. Essentially, Shafarevich is accusing Jewish writers for being the nucleus of this Russophobia and imbuing it with Jewish nationalism. He’s not responding to these people as individuals. He’s responding to them, however politely, as Jews. And that is unacceptable to the same Jews who gleefully condemn Russians as Russians. See how that double standard works?
“Are these authors interested in the truth at all?” he asks. He later probes for ulterior motives:
And hatred for one nation is usually associated with a heightened sense of one’s belonging to another. Doesn’t this make it likely that our authors are under the influence of some sort of powerful force rooted in their national feelings?
In this passage, one can sense a precursor to the evolutionary struggles between populations as found in MacDonald’s Separations and its Discontents and The Culture of Critique.
Shafarevich borrows terms from historian Augustin Cochin, who divided the antagonists of the French Revolution into “Lesser people” and “Greater people.” The former group, an elite minority, lived in a spiritual and intellectual world at odds with the established order, as represented by the latter group. The Lesser People were bent on revolution and enforcing newfangled notions such as equality and freedom, while the Greater People insisted upon Catholicism, concepts such as honor and nobility, loyalty to the King, and taking pride in French history. These were the very things that the Lesser People considered dead weight and wished to remove, with maximum violence if necessary.
Shafarevich applies this duality to 1980s Soviet life by demonstrating how this Jewish school of Russophobia had the same motives and possessed the same hatred that Cochin’s Lesser People had for the Greater People. Their platforms were eeriely similar. In both cases, the Lesser People stressed individualism over nationalism, a disconnect from history, and an utter contempt for the people.
He states that Yanov pushed the idea that
humanity is quantized ONLY INTO SEPARATE INVIDUALS, and not into nations. It is not a new viewpoint. Humanity dispersed (or “quantized”) into individual units that are totally unconnected to one another—such, evidently, is Yanov’s ideal. [emphasis in the original]
As for Russian history, it is complete “savagery, coarseness and failure;” nothing but “tyranny, slavery, and senseless, bloody convulsions.” Religion, according to Pomerants “has ceased to be a trait of the people.” Pomerants also declared that love for one’s people is more dangerous then love for animals and that Russians possess “a lackeyish mixture of malice, envy and worship of authority.” Watch how he advocates for genocide:
The peasant cannot be reborn except as a character in an opera. Peasant nations are hungry nations, and nations in which the peasantry has disappeared [sic!] are nations in which hunger has disappeared.
Andrei Amalrik, a non-Jewish ally, insults the Russian thusly:
And if language is the fullest expression of the spirit of the people, then who is more Russian—the “little Negro” Pushkin and the “little Jew” Mandelshtam, or the muzhik in the beer hall who, wiping his spittle across his unshaven cheeks, bellows: “I’m a Russian!”
Khazanov declares not only that he finds Russia repulsive but that “to be a member of the Russian intelligentsia at the present time inevitably means being a Jew.” Shragin proclaims that the Russians being treated worse than all other groups in prisons was “just and logical.” Furthermore, none—not a single one—of these authors apply similar criticisms to Jews—only to Russians. The authors simply presume Jewish innocence before going out to destroy the reputation of the Russian people. Such attitudes breed revolution and terrorism, as was demonstrated in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, and culminated in the inhuman atrocities of the Bolsheviks (which, Shafarevich demonstrates, also contained a nucleus of Jews). Shafarevich recognizes that for the Greater People, this is essentially a recipe for death.
[a] people that assesses its own history IN THAT WAY cannot exist. We are dealing here with a phenomenon that vitally affects us inhabitants of this country. [emphasis in the original]
This sentence represents the essence of the current struggle of the White Dissident Right, and the core of “Russophobia.” We, as the Greater People elite, oppose the Lesser People elite—most of whom are Jews—not because we possess an a priori hatred of Jews but because we wish to survive as a people. Shafarevich demonstrates how adhering to the Lesser People’s platform will guarantee that we won’t survive as a people. Really, it’s either-or.
As expected, Jews everywhere accused Shafarevich of anti-Semitism. Walter Laqueur responded with a New Republic essay entitled “From Russia with Hate,” in which he straight-facedly asks if Shafarevich was an admirer of Hitler (despite how Shafarevich condemns the Nazis as totalitarians in “Russophobia”). Semyon Resnik nitpicked on minor factual inaccuracies regarding Shafarevich’s treatment of the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. He also accused Shafarevich of perpetuating a blood libel by describing the murder as a “ritual act”—as if this undermines the main points of Shafarevich’s essay.
In his stunningly spiteful 1990 essay entitled “Russian History and Anti-Semitism of Igor Shafarevich,” Eliezer Rabinovich sets up a straw man by accusing Shafarevich of blaming solely the Jews for the Bolshevik Revolution (something Shafarevich explicitly does not do in section eight of his essay). He dodges the question of whether Jews were prominent among the Bolsheviks by declaring such Jews as Trotsky and Zinoviev as “anti-Jewish Jews.” He then disputes much of Shafarevich’s historical exegesis and harps on Russian flaws and Russian culpability for past atrocities. Fair enough. No people is without sin, and Shafarevich claims nothing of the sort with Russia. Further, Rabinovich’s arguments do not necessarily refute Shafarevich’s. It is possible for Russophobia and anti-Semitism as the authors describe them to exist simultaneously. Yet Rabinovich states flatly that “Jewish Russophobia simply does not exist,” while Russian anti-Semitism does. Talk about presumption of innocence! How can anyone take such a self-serving zealot seriously?
Josephine Woll in her Soviet Jewish Affairs essay entitled “Russians and ‘Russophobes’” smears Shafarevich as a radical slavophile. She then, quite superficially, attempts to employ logic against him.
Shafarevich argues inductively, from results to ’causes.’ There are demonstrations and strikes. Their causes cannot be objective circumstances (in any event, Shafarevich does not consider that possibility). Therefore they must be provoked. Who could benefit from provoking them? Those who hate Russia and wish to see her weak. Who feels such hatred for Russia? Jews. QED.
Note how Woll completely ignores the evidence Shafaravich presents to support his idea that Jewish nationalism is the driving force behind Russophobia. Do the quotes he presents not evince contempt for Russia? Are most of their authors not Jewish? Aren’t these authors attacking Russia and Russians while not simultaneously attacking Israel and Jews? How can one not detect enemy action in all of this?
And this brings us back to Wistrich and his ludicrous claim that certain Jews “are quite falsely said to denigrate Russian history and mock the backwardness of Russian culture.” Falsely, is it? Did he not read “Russophobia?” In his book, Wistrich didn’t even include “Russophobia” among his source material, only Woll’s article and others like it. Did Robert Wistrich lie out ignorance or knowing? And none of these writers make credible attempts to counter Shafaravich’s evidence or disprove his conclusions. For them, it’s enough to label such conclusions as anti-Semitic. Whether such conclusions adhere to the truth, like the existence of Russophobia itself, is a less pressing matter.