Russian Jews Have Long Sacrificed One Freedom for Another
In early 1917, shortly after the deposition of the last Russian Czar, the Provisional Government of the Russian Empire abolished all restrictions on the civil rights of its Jews. When the Bolsheviks took power, that short-lived political freedom vanished for all of the Empire’s citizens, including its Jews. The officially atheist Communist Party also cracked down on religious practice and institutions.
During the early years of the USSR, Soviet Jews continued to experience the (relative) legal equality first granted them by the Provisional Government. Shortly after the Holocaust, Stalin initiated what historians have called “the black years of Soviet Jewry,” when the government forced the Empire’s Jews out of prestigious professions and universities, arrested and in many cases murdered Jewish leaders, and fomented an atmosphere of anti-Jewish hysteria throughout the USSR. What does this have to do with Jews in Russia today? Like their ancestors under the Russian Provisional Government of 1917, Jews in Russia and the other nations of the former USSR are free to practice their religion without government interference.
While the relative political freedom of the Yeltsin era has steadily eroded during Putin’s (and Medvedev’s) rule, it has taken a nosedive since the escalation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Russia’s 150,000 Jews are now watching developments between their government and community leaders with baited breath, wondering if (and how) it will affect the unimpaired religious freedom they have enjoyed since the fall of communism. Thousands of Russian Jews have emigrated since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in 2014.
Read full article at Jewish Journal