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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: January 19, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
At Meeting With European Jewish Congress, Putin Calls on Jews to Return to Russia
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At a meeting with representatives of the European Jewish Congress at the Kremlin today, President Vladimir Putin responded to a report of increased antisemitism in Europe by saying that Jews should move to Russia, reported.

Vyacheslav Kantor characterized the situation of Jews as "the worst since World War II," whereupon Putin said:

"Let them come to us, to us let them come. We are ready. In the Soviet Union, they left, let them return."
Kantor said this was "in principle a new, fundamental idea" and said it would be discussed.

Putin also said:

"I have seen, I have viewed reports, that people fear even wearing the  yarmulke in public places, and try to hide their ethnicity.  Yes, there is such a problem. But I don't think, even so, it's as bad as you say -- the worst situation since the times of World War II."
Kantor objected, "It's worse than you can imagine, Vladimir Vladimirovich," and Putin demurred, "Well, perhaps." Kantor said:

"We would like to express our really high estimation of your policy, since the situation of Jews in Russia today, perhaps, is the best in Europe."

Putin also remarked to the European Jewish Congress members:

"We view your organization as one of the most representative non-governmental organizations, as a natural ally of Russia in the struggle with xenophobia, antisemitism and various manifestations of extreme views, and undoubtedly one of our direct allies in preserving the member of World War II, and the consequences of that catastrophe on a common human scale, about the Holocaust."
Putin said that while he couldn't recall the specifics, new synagogues and secular centers were being opened, and that a rabbi had invited him to one but he hadn't had time to visit; he promised to do so in the future.

He said Judaism was one of the recognized traditional Russian religions; that a Museum of Tolerance had been open, site of the Schneersohn Library, which Putin acknowledged was "a source of discord with the American Jewish community" but which he said now had opened up its access.

In fact, the issue is that the Lubavitcher community has demanded that the library, which was a collection assembled by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn before he fled Russia after being sentenced to death for "counterrevolutionary activities." He was forced to leave his books and papers in Germany after fleeing the Nazis. The Red Army captured the collection from the Germans and kept it in state military archives. Despite a court ruling in the Yeltsin era that the collection should be returned, under Putin, it has been kept in Russia.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick