Vladimir Solovyov, the Kremlin’s top propagandist, has been forced to fire one of his hosts, Yevgeny Satanovsky. He had trashed Russia’s pro-Hamas approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and described Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, as a hopeless drunk.
In an interview with an Israeli YouTuber, Satanovsky also alleged that Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, is “a heavy-drinking skank, who doesn’t like the Jews and can’t stand Israel.” He said that antisemites permeated the Russian government and have significantly “livened up” after Hamas attacked Israel.
Meanwhile in Russia: famous Russian singer Vika Tsyganova and her husband Vadim share their antisemitic beliefs in their startling interview with journalist Yury Dud. They claim that the Jews are to blame for Putin's invasion of Ukraine. https://t.co/VwQgoswtkw— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) October 29, 2023
The host’s frank description of high-level antisemitism and corruption in the Russian regime (his best defense was that every other national elite was as crooked as the Kremlin) could not have come at a worse time for Solovyov, who is Jewish and under sustained attack from leading racists.
The heavily bearded far-right ideologist Alexander Dugin waded into the debate, telling Eurasia Daily: “The divide between the Jews who are loyal to Putin and the special military operation after the escalation in the Gaza Strip was inevitable . . . This is very serious because the Jews play an enormous part in Russian politics.”
Sergey Markov, who is frequently described as a former senior adviser to Putin, said: “This won’t be the last conflict in Solovyov’s pool. As many have noted, there is an enormous ethnic imbalance. Mainly the representatives of two diasporas [Jewish and Armenian] are discussing what the policies of great Russia should be. This is laughable and improper . . . This isn’t normal.”
Solovyov is not a man who takes insults lying down and swiftly trains the guns of his Solovyov Live channel onto both men. One of his hosts, Boris Jakemenko called for Dugin to be investigated for his fascist teachings, or perhaps detained in a medical health facility. Markov is now being mentioned by Solovyov almost daily, with a barrage of unflattering epithets and calls for the authorities to investigate him for various statements.
While this may merely look to be a succession of squabbles among Russia’s propagandists, they represent a much deeper ailment in Russian society. Satanovsky wasn’t wrong in noting that antisemitism was bubbling just beneath the surface.
Last week, the journalist Yury Dud interviewed the famous singer, Vika Tsyganova, and her husband Vadim. In their startling interview, the couple blamed the breakdown in the early negotiations between Russia and Ukraine on the ethnicity of the negotiators, claiming that Russian Jews ought never to have been sent to negotiate with a regime of Ukrainian Jews. Tsyganova intimated that they were the reason for the country’s troubles, adding, “And look at where Ukraine is now!” (As always in Russian propaganda, the Kremlin’s allegation that Ukraine is a Nazi state went unmentioned during the antisemitic attacks.)
Only recently, state TV host Dmitry Kiselyov said that "antisemitism is a cultural norm" for many Muslims and boasted that all is calm in Russia, unlike the West. https://t.co/CynFGKBFsM— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) October 30, 2023
The Tsyganovs claimed that the Jews had actually engineered Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. They shared the conspiracy theory that “the world government” provoked Russia to invade Ukraine to “cleanse” that area of people and communities. The couple alleged that Israel was running out of space and once a part of Ukraine was “mowed down” for their benefit, Israel’s 9 million citizens would move there.
Antisemitic sentiments in Russia aren’t limited to crackpots, propagandists, and government officials. They are also manifested in violence.
On October 28, hundreds reportedly gathered in the city of Khasavyurt, in the mainly Muslim region of Dagestan, outside the Flamingo and Kyiv hotels, claiming that the buildings were “full of Jews.” The mob carried Palestinian flags and demanded that hotel guests come to the windows and show themselves. When the guests did not obey, the group pummeled the walls of the hotel with rocks. Fearing further attacks, the Flamingo put up a sign that Jews from Israel are not allowed to enter the building.
The same day, a large group of individuals gathered in Cherkessk, demanding that ethnic Jews be expelled from the area. In video footage posted online, an unidentified woman asserted, “We don’t want to live next to Jews!” According to the Interior Ministry, 34 protesters were charged with participating in unauthorized rallies. The following day, unidentified arsonists set fire to a construction site of a Jewish cultural center in Nalchik. The perpetrators wrote “death to Jews” on the wall.
A co-owner of an agency renting homes and apartments in 47 building complexes, who identified herself simply as Leila, recorded a video asserting that her company does not rent to Jews. She promised to regularly check surveillance footage, to ensure that “Jews from Israel” are not sneaking into her properties.
Later, an anti-Israeli mob stormed Makhachkala International Airport in Dagestan, violently searching for Jews and Israelis who were said to be on a flight that arrived from Tel Aviv.
The disturbances have clearly rattled the Kremlin and its regional administrators, who may fear that anti-Jewish protests could swiftly turn against the government. As of October 31, 15 of the airport rioters had been charged with disorderly conduct and will be imprisoned for terms varying between three and eight days.
A representative of Russia’s Chief Rabbinate in Dagestan, Ovadia Isakov, said, “People from the [Jewish] community are afraid, they’re calling, and I don’t know what advice to give them.” Nor could he reassure the estimated 300-400 Jewish families in the region regarding a place of safety. He added: “Russia isn’t a refuge: Russia has also had pogroms. It isn’t clear where to run to.”
State TV networks, like Solovyov’s, have been instrumental in causing tensions to boil over onto the streets. Given Russia’s embrace of Hamas, the country’s media followed suit and took the terrorist group’s side in its faceoff with Israel.
Meanwhile in Russia: Vladimir Solovyov says he is facing a wave of antisemitism against his own channel, after his former host Satanovsky bashed Dmitry Medvedev, Maria Zakharova and Mikhail Bogdanov. This and more in my latest article, linked below ⤵️https://t.co/eSrWDVcKyC— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) October 25, 2023
Day after day, week after week, state television condemned “barbaric” attacks by Israel and matter-of-factly showcased meetings with Hamas officials. State TV’s hosts and experts repeatedly emphasized that in Russia, Hamas is not considered a terrorist organization and shouldn’t be referred to as such.
As for Russia’s residual Jewish population of perhaps 80,000 (it has sharply declined since 2010), they face an uncertain future caused by officially endorsed propaganda. The worst might be yet to come.
Julia Davis is a columnist for The Daily Beast and the creator of the Russian Media Monitor. She is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Screen Actors Guild, and Women In Film.
Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.