Starting in the year 1990, large numbers of Jews began leaving Russia and immigrating–primarily to Israel, but also to Europe and the US. If we focus in on the time period 1989-2006, the total number of Jewish emigres leaving Russia is believed to be about 1.6 million, and Russia’s Jewish population, as of the year 2014, made up just 0.13% of the total.
Since we now are seeing what amounts to a new Russian renaissance, with Russia charting a course independent of Washington, forging economic ties with China while emerging as one of the most important players on the world stage–much to the vexation of US officials–an intriguing question comes to mind: how much did the departure of large numbers of Russian Jews in the 1990s contribute to this national rejuvenation?
I don’t have a definitive answer for that, but what I can do is supply some figures that shed perhaps at least some light on the issue.
During the Soviet era, Jewish immigration to Israel was severely restricted by Soviet authorities. The Jewish Virtual Library has a year-by-year tally starting with 1948 and running through 2012. In the 1950s and 60s the numbers were pretty minimal. This is because those wanting to immigrate had to apply to communist authorities for exit visas, and often the visas were denied.
That began to change in the 1970s when the Soviets, responding to “growing international pressure,” as Wikipedia puts it, began loosening the restrictions somewhat and allowing more Jews to leave, but still the numbers remained modest–at least up until 1989.
It was in 1989 that former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev lifted most if not all of the remaining restrictions, opening the way for a massive wave of Jewish immigration. Going back to the table at the Jewish Virtual Library, we can see the dramatic increase. In 1988, just 2,283 Jews left the Soviet Union, but in 1989 the number jumped to 12,932. The following year, 1990, a whopping 185,227 Jews packed their suitcases and left, followed by an additional 147,839 in 1991.
The Soviet Union collapsed in December of 1991, but Jews continued to immigrate–although by this time the numbers had slacked off some: 65,093 in 1992, 66,145 in 1993, 68,079 in 1994…but the yearly totals remained in the five-digit numerical category all the way up until the year 2005, when, for the first time in 17 years, the figure dropped below 10,000–with 9,431 pulling up stakes that year and leaving.
Wikipedia places the total number for the entire time period, i.e. 1989-2006, at 1.6 million, although the figure does include non-Jewish spouses and other relatives. Also worth noting is that not all of these people immigrated to Israel. In fact, only about 61% went there; the rest ended up in the US and Europe. But in any event, Russia lost a very substantial portion of its Jewish population in these years.
The 1990s in Russia, under the puppet leader Boris Yeltsin, were of course a time of misery and economic hardship for most Russians. But things have dramatically changed since then. Here is how F. William Engdahl put it in an article published in 2015:
Something remarkable is taking place in Russia, and it’s quite different from what we might expect. Rather than feel humiliated and depressed Russia is undergoing what I would call a kind of renaissance, a rebirth as a nation. This despite or in fact because the West, led by the so-called neo-conservatives in Washington, is trying everything including war on her doorstep in Ukraine, to collapse the Russian economy, humiliate Putin and paint Russians generally as bad. In the process, Russia is discovering positive attributes about her culture, her people, her land that had long been forgotten or suppressed.
Engdahl constrasts what is taking place in Russia today with what he personally observed on visits there in the 1990s:
My first of many visits to Russia was more than twenty years ago, in May, 1994. I was invited by a Moscow economics think-tank to deliver critical remarks about the IMF. My impressions then were of a once-great people who were being humiliated to the last ounce of their life energy. Mafia gangsters sped along the wide boulevards of Moscow in sparkling new Mercedes 600 limousines with dark windows and without license plates. Lawlessness was the order of the day, from the US-backed Yeltsin Kremlin to the streets. “Harvard boys” like Jeffrey Sachs or Sweden’s Anders Aaslund or George Soros were swarming over the city figuring new ways to rape and pillage Russia under the logo “shock therapy” and “market-oriented reform” another word for “give us your crown jewels.”
The human toll of that trauma of the total collapse of life in Russia after November 1989 was staggering. I could see it in the eyes of everyday Russians on the streets of Moscow, taxi-drivers, mothers shopping, normal Russians.
According to Wikipedia there was a significant “undercurrent” of anti-Semitism in Russia in the 1990s:
During the 1990s anti-Semitism was an enduring undercurrent and source of anxiety, its presence affirmed by easily accessible anti-Semitic newspapers and other publications, street or popular anti-Semitism. The number of anti-Semitic incidents rose sharply after the 1998 Russian financial crisis, the devaluation of the ruble, and the ensuing economic hardships affecting a broad segment of the general population.
You can also go here to access an article by a Jewish writer who attempts to answer the question “Why Did Jews Leave Russia in the 1990s?” The writer discusses being “bullied many times in school” and cites other examples of hostility to Jews exhibited by native Russians, although he, like most Jewish writers, fails to give consideration to actions or social behavior by Jews as being a possible cause of the anti-Jewish sentiments.
At any rate, what we can glean from all this is that clearly there were those in Russia who at that time, rightly or wrongly, blamed Jews for the country’s misfortunes. The older ones probably remembered purges under Stalin, and an article in YNet refers to Genrikh Yagoda, the commander of the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, as “the greatest Jewish murderer of the 20th Century,” one responsible for the deaths of 10 million people.
But that was then. This is now. And as I say, things have turned around considerably in the country. Back to the Engdahl piece:
For me, however, the most heartening feature of this Russian renaissance is in the generation which is today in their late thirties to early forties—young, highly intelligent and having experience of both the depravity of Soviet communist bureaucracy but as well of the hollow world of US-led so-called “free market capitalism.”…What is unique in my mind about this generation is that they are the hybrid generation. The education they received in the schools and universities was still largely dominated by the classical Russian science…This for me is the heart of an emerging renaissance of the spirit among Russians that gives me more than hope for the future.
Just yesterday Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a New Year address that is worth quoting in full for what it would seem to suggest about the current state of Russian society, i.e. that there is a rather broad degree of national unity at present. Putin’s New Year address:
Citizens of Russia, friends,
The year 2016 is coming to a close. It was a challenging year, but the difficulties we faced have brought us together and allowed us to reveal enormous resources for our movement forward.
The main thing is that we believe in ourselves, in our strengths and in our country. We are working, and working successfully, and we are achieving much. I would like to thank you for the victories and achievements, for your understanding and trust, and for your true, sincere care for Russia.
We have a vast, unique and wonderful country! We are united by common concerns and common joys, by our long-standing good tradition of meeting the New Year with our families and with hope for the best.
But not everyone is at the holiday table today. Many of our citizens are away from home, ensuring Russia’s security, working at enterprises, on duty in hospitals, at operating trains and aircraft. I would like to convey my very best wishes for the New Year to all those who are now fulfilling their labor and military duties.
We are excitedly awaiting the sound of the chimes of the Moscow Kremlin, and we feel the march of time and the approaching future more clearly than ever before. We experience this only during these moments, during this wonderful and beloved holiday.
Meanwhile, New Year has its own secrets. For instance, each of us may become something of a magician on the night of the New Year. To do this we simply need to treat our parents with love and gratitude, take care of our children and families, respect our colleagues at work, nurture our friendships, defend truth and justice, be merciful and help those who are in need of support. This is the whole secret.
May our dreams, heavenly thoughts and good intentions come true. May joy and love reign in every home. May our beloved streets, cities and villages become even more beautiful.
Peace and prosperity to our common, great homeland, Russia. Happiness, health and wellbeing to each of you.
Happy New Year 2017!
I especially like his call to “defend truth and justice, be merciful and help those who are in need,” but the whole speech bespeaks unity and societal cohesiveness. Contrast that to America, where we have a country bitterly divided and a media that constantly feeds us lies…a country where Jews make up slightly less than 2% of the population yet are disproportionately represented in finance, government, Hollywood, and the media.
It would be a mistake, of course, to extrapolate from that and say that Jews are the cause of all problems in America. We have plenty of Goyim criminals as well–both inside and outside of government. But I came across a news story posted by a Detroit TV station that seems to provide a good illustration of the situation in which we presently find ourselves.
The article, about a “controversial billboard” put up in Detroit, was posted in October of 2015 and can be found here. It is accompanied by the following video:
The poor TV reporters simply cannot fathom–or at least pretend not to fathom–what the billboard means. “Is it meant to be ant-Semitic or something else entirely? wonders one.
“What exactly does the statement on this billboard mean?” asks another, referring to it as “the million dollar question.”
What we seem to have here is an epidemic of cluelessness. Or at least feigned cluelessness. This, of course, from people whose job it is to inform the public.
Moreover, the report doesn’t endeavor to explain why a billboard in an American city–advocating that America’s interests should be placed first over Israel’s–should even be regarded as “controversial” in the first place. And of course, the reporters are obligated to trot out a member of the Anti-Defamation League to explain it all away as an “old anti-Semitic canard.”
And this is why I say it’s a perfect illustration of where we find ourselves today: Jewish power is the 3,000 pound elephant in the room. It exists. Of that fact there is no doubt. But sadly, no one can talk about it.
And somehow or another Russia doesn’t seem to be beset with problems of this sort.
I will close here with the comments of Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, a US physician who was born in New York to a Jewish American mother and an Iraqi Muslim father, but who spent part of her younger years growing up in Iraq. This is actually an old video, but some of what she talks about, particularly the Yinon plan and the goal of breaking up Middle East countries into small, weaker statelets, is a plan that seems very much in effect today.
If you want to know more about the Oded Yinon plan, I did an article about it a couple of years ago. You can check it out here.