A Brief History
On January 13, 1953, an article appeared in the Soviet newspaper, Pravda (which means “truth” in Russian, obviously some kind of joke…) that accused a large number of Jewish doctors in the USSR of plotting to poison top Soviet communist officials. The government immediately cracked down on these alleged conspirators, with hundreds of doctors losing their jobs, many being arrested and jailed. Other people of Jewish origin or bearing a Jewish sounding name were also ostracized. This travesty of justice was known as “The Doctors’ Plot.”
The anti-Semitic nature of the Soviet Union is puzzling, considering the country was founded on the writings of Marx and Engels, 2 Jewish political thinkers. Plus, the Soviet Union was officially an atheist country, so just because people had a family background that included Jewish members should theoretically not have mattered. Then there was World War II, fought by the Soviets mainly against Nazi Germany, one of the most virulently anti-Semitic nations in history.
Perhaps this religious bigotry is not so surprising considering the long animosity toward Jews by the people that comprised the Soviet Union’s republics. Republics such as the Ukraine had a long history of anti-Semitism, including “pogroms” where state sanctioned harassment, eviction, beating and even killing of Jews took place. In fact, many of the countries that had been part of the Russian Empire prior to the formation of the Soviet Union had experienced multiple anti-Jewish pogroms in their history, including Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Moldova as well as the Ukraine. Russians themselves also had a deep seated distrust of Jews, alternating times of toleration with times of persecution. The dictator of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, had in his main rival, Leon Trotsky, a Jewish foe, symbolizing the conflict between official tolerance of Jews and the actual anti-Semitism that remained. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, many of the Soviet people (especially Ukrainians that had been starved by the Soviets in the 1930’s) actually welcomed the Germans as liberators. In turn, these erstwhile Soviet people often agreed to work for the Germans as schutzmannschaft, a para-military auxiliary police organization that rounded up Jews and turned them over to the German SS (einsatzgruppen) for shipment to concentration camps or death.
After World War II, the persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union continued right up until the communist regime fell in 1991, with restrictions on emigration (especially to Israel or the United States) and other forms of discrimination. When dictator Josef Stalin died in 1953 shortly after the announcement of the Doctor’s Plot, the arrested people were soon released from prison and the plot was officially deemed to have no basis in truth.
Russian (and Soviet) persecution of Jews over the years has resulted in many people of Russian/Jewish origin to emigrate to the United States, many of whom have become stellar citizens and a definite asset to our population.
Question for students (and subscribers): Can you name some of these many Russian/Soviet/Jews that have achieved fame and acclaim in the US? Let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Brent, Jonathan and Vladimir Naumov. Stalin’s Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953. HarperCollins, 2003.