Jews Remain Russia's Chosen Scapegoats

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MOSCOW: Jew-baiting would be suicidal for an American politician, but in Russia it's a campaign tool. Moscow's Communist party last week declined to censure legislator Albert Makashov, who blamed the country's problems on "zhidy" -- a slang word that translates, roughly, to "Yids". Party leader Gennady Zyuganov Tuesday continued to defend his colleagues from criticism over the remark. "Makashov's crude anti-Semitism is terrifying, both because he thinks he can get away with it -- and because it seems that he actually can," says TIME Moscow bureau chief Paul Quinn-Judge. "This wasn't simply an error on the part of the Communists -- they see it as a way of getting political mileage."

Russia's political leaders have often invoked the specter of Jewish conspiracies to deflect responsibility for their own failings. With a number of Jews prominent in government and business in the crisis-ridden post-Soviet era, politicians are reviving the tradition with an eye on the 2000 elections. "It's a sign of this country's ethical crisis," says Quinn-Judge. "And it's not only the degenerate core of the Communist party that's at fault here -- many supposedly liberal, educated people will say, 'Yes, but isn't it unfortunate that there are so many Jewish names on television...' Much of the 20th century has passed this country by."