Russian Orthodox Church Accused of Anti-Semitism

Investigation centers around anti-Semitic literature; Jewish advocates praise invocation of Russia's anti-hate laws.

BY: Frank Brown


MOSCOW (RNS) In an unprecedented step, a prosecutor in provincial Russia is investigating the Russian Orthodox Church for allegedly inciting ethnic hatred by selling anti-Semitic publications, a charge a church spokesman denied Friday (Jan. 11).

The investigation in Yekaterinburg, an industrial city of 1.4 million on the edge of the Ural Mountains, is being hailed by Jewish advocates as a long overdue step in using Russia's anti-hate laws against anti-Semites, even when they are part of the politically powerful Russian Orthodox Church.

Mikhail Oshtrakh, the president of Yekaterinburg's secular Jewish community, has long criticized the city's Russian Orthodox churches for selling books containing excerpts of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a 100-year-old forgery purporting to prove a Jewish conspiracy for world domination. The "Protocols" helped provide a rationale for the Nazi holocaust and Russian pogroms.

Joined last year by the leaders of 11 other Yekaterinburg ethnic minorities, Oshtrakh launched a letter-writing campaign to political leaders in Moscow calling for an investigation. Pressure from Moscow, he said, eventually forced local law enforcement to do something.

"Apparently, on some level, it got somebody's attention," Oshtrakh said Thursday, adding, however, that he is skeptical the investigation will lead to a court case or punishment for the church. "We are not certain the prosecutor will take this to the end."

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