Sunday, December 25, 2016

August 24, Saturday

This is the seventh part of my narrative from the Moscow coup of 1991. For background, see here. For the sixth part, see here.

Today was the funeral for the three people who died Tuesday night, one Russian, one Lithuanian, one Jew. Although it feels sick to say it, it may be for the best that a Jew was among the martyrs. Despite the Communists’ bouts of deadly anti-Semitism, there are those among the people who blame the Jews for all the ills Communism has wrought here.

Three years ago, a man who has since emigrated told me, “I have friends who are working for perestroika, which is very noble, but I think they’re stupid. Because it will end the same as all the other reforms in this country, only people will be worse off, and when they look for a scapegoat, who will it be? The Jews! ‘Look!’ they’ll cry, ‘all the early Bolsheviks were Jews!’ [not all, of course, but a lot were]. ‘Look what they did to Russia. They’ll pay!’ And I don’t plan to be here when that happens.”

And it has started. Moscow is still littered with monuments to the heroes of Soviet Communism (although they’ve already started taking them away), and these serve as targets for the people’s anger at their impoverished condition. Yesterday at Sverdlov’s statue there was a poster that said, “Hangman of the Russian People,” and the words were accompanied by a cartoon of a curly-haired man with glasses and a Star of David for a mouth. So to an extent my friend was right.

Sverdlov depicted as an obviously Jewish caricature,
Hangman of the Russian people”,
fake blood dripping down the pedestal of his statue.
But this morning there was a memorial service for all three victims together on Manezh Square. A sea of subdued people, so many of us that looking across the tops of heads you saw a heat mirage rising from the crowd. And flapping over their heads, so many flags!

The amplified voices of the eulogists echoed across the vast open space, a heartbeat passing between each word and its echo. A choir sang the mournful chants of the Russian Church, but also—a rabbi sang Kadish! In Hebrew! For all Moscow to hear.

The religious services were conducted in the afternoon, one Jewish, one Russian Orthodox, but in the same neighborhood, and when both services were done, all three men were buried next to each other, and all three were inducted into the pantheon of Russian heroes. Over their graves they played the Russian national anthem.

Maybe if anti-Semitism starts to spread, enough people will remember this day, and they will say to their bigoted countrymen, “Enough already!” We’ll see.

The final installment is here.

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