Cultural scientist and journalist Anna Narinskaja, herself a Russian of Jewish descent, researches the spread, within Soviet society, of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and stereotypes that built on existing Russian traditions. A rabbi, a musician, a sociologist and her father explain the hypocritical treatment Judaism was exposed to in the USSR. A policy of silence was practiced, there were black lists containing the names of Jewish students not permitted to enter technical universities, and Jews were expected to Russify their names. In the political culture of post-war Stalinist society, anti-Semitism was deeply rooted, culminating in the 1952 campaign against the supposed “doctors’ plot” of the so-called Jewish “killer doctors.” They were accused of wanting to assassinate Stalin. After the Six-Day War, anti-Israel propaganda ultimately took on ever stronger anti-Semitic tones.
One conspiracy theory comes across as more absurd than the next. For instance, that of the “Zionist ruble”, a commemorative coin to mark the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution on which some people believed to have discovered a Star of David. The popular cartoon character "Cheburashka" was also suspected of being Jewish, while five new buildings on Moscow's New Arbat, shaped like open books, were interpreted as a symbolic arrangement of the Pentateuch.
How Jewish life nevertheless carried on in the shadows, how the Moscow Synagogue became a place for matchmaking or how hundreds of Jews held public meetings in a forest clearing outside of Moscow in the 1970s, all of this is also explored by Narinskaja as she leads viewers through the film with no small amount of humour and (self-)irony.
Text: Kira Taszman
English: Peter Rickerby
- 16.06.2023 Filmtheater Union Fürstenwalde at 5:30 pm